A long time ago, I started a blog series on TL called "Diamond or Bust" where I was writing about my attempt to get to diamond in Wings of Liberty. I went from bronze to top of platinum and then got a job, so that ended that venture. This time, the stakes are higher. I quit my job last February, and now my credit card is maxed, my savings are gone, and I need to make rent by Feb 1. So, I'll be writing about my adventures trying to hustle and make some green, and we'll see how it all turns out.
I just finished playing Don't Forget Our Esports Dream (which if you haven't played, you definitely should, because it is amazing), and so this series is sort of inspired by that, except I'm in California and I'm not a pro gamer. I love to write, though, so this is a nice way for me to gain perspective and think about what I'm going through, and maybe someone out there will feel like they're not so alone in the grind.
Life as a freelancer is not so much like StarCraft as it is like Hearthstone. It's wildly unpredictable, and your hopes get resurrected and dashed over and over again like you're in an emotional washing machine. I've been freelancing since about June 2018, mostly as a marketing/PR writer and editor, and of course sending out job applications left and right on the side. Even when you think you have the perfect qualifications and experience for a gig, and spend hours and hours on the application and talking to recruiters and interviewers, things can always fall through when you least expect it. I thought I was for sure going to land a job that would've been ideal for me at a company that sponsors some esports teams and needed a marketing person for that side of the business, but they let me know right before Christmas that they were going with another candidate ("but everyone loved talking to you!").
So, here I am, back in my apartment from the holidays, and I have my work cut out for me. I need to make about $2K by Feb 1 just to survive, and that doesn't even take into account the interest piling up on my credit card. Let the hustle begin.
I spent the morning reaching out via text and email to everyone I could remember offering some kind of work search support or looking for people in the past 6 months. Then I surfed Craigslist and spammed a few emails to people looking for remote copywriters and editors, but not the ones that were paying $3 per 100 words (that's for editing - writing was $1 per 100 words). I prefer to write things well, and barfing out 200 or 300 words just for enough to buy a cheap lunch was not appealing to me. My sister is a professional musician and I've done a bunch of work on her materials, so she tries to spread the word to everyone she knows, but it's not like indie musicians have a ton of bread to spend on a grammatically perfect bio. I have a freelance client already, but they're pretty inconsistent and also tend to be pretty delayed on payment, so I think my efforts are better invested on greener pastures.
I've decided recently that I need something else I can do to raise money fast, and that something for me is high school tutoring. I have a degree from a nice place, and even though it's 10 years old it still gets a reaction from especially all the other Asians around here, so I might as well make it work for me if I can't get the $200K back from the school. I also do actually like working with high school students, and the ones around here are pretty bright, so it might not be that bad of a gig. My friend told me to charge about $150/hr and target second-rate private schools in the area, so you know the parents are rich and they probably really want the kid to go somewhere fancy. So, there's a quest - figure out how to convince parents that I can help their kid write a decent paper or understand history or something.
Then I remembered that I do have something I can make money off of right away - blood plasma! I found a donation center about half an hour away and headed out.
If you've never donated blood or anything like that before, a big part of the experience is going through an endless questionnaire about your sexual history and whether you've been to the UK since 1980. Had I had sex in the past 12 months with a man who's ever had sexual contact with another man in his life? I'm pretty sure the answer is no, but I don't really grill my sexual partners on this kind of thing. I got through the donor information binder, the questionnaires, the part where they take your blood pressure and prick your finger, and felt like I was home free for the physical.
The nurse was a nice looking guy in maybe his late 20s or early 30s, and I told him about my childhood asthma, my elementary school and high school trips to Europe, and about my history of being diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and bipolar II. No, no suicidal ideation in the past 2 months, although spending Christmas with my parents was no picnic, let me tell you. Then he asked me about acupuncture, since I'd noted that I'd had acupuncture in the past year. I couldn't remember exactly when I'd had it last, but it was sometime early last January. He looked a little sad, and told me that the rules were that you had to wait a full year after getting stuck with a needle (by a non-medical professional, I guess) to make sure there weren't any diseases. I had to come back after the date I'd thrown out, which was Jan 15, and I couldn't take back the estimate even though it was probably wrong.
The news hit me hard. Really hard. The nurse could see that I was shook up about it, and apologized, but rules were rules, and I didn't protest or anything. I walked to the door of the donation center and paused for about 30 seconds before leaving, trying to collect myself. As I walked to my car, I started crying. First just little tears, and then kind of bawling, just out in public at 3pm on an unremarkable Friday. One of the people I'd texted said she was around to meet until 5, and going into the donation center I told her I'd probably be a few hours, but my little acupuncture escapade last year had cleared up my schedule. I was hungry and kind of a mess, and also swearing to myself that, ancestors be damned, I'd never get acupuncture again because of the potential to inhibit my future earning potential. My friend's really nice and a motherly type, though, so I headed over to where she was, blasting Mariah Carey's "Hero" on the car stereo while I ugly-cried as I drove.
When I think about why I broke down so completely and utterly in that moment, it wasn't really about the money. It was the feeling built up over a whole year and especially with my parents over the holidays that I wasn't good enough for anything. Not even my blood plasma, which I generate just by being alive, was wanted. It's a feeling I've been struggling with my whole life. I'm a lot better about dealing with it now, but I've also never been particularly good at being blindsided when I felt like I had a foolproof plan. It also meant I couldn't get the $75 bonus for donating 8 times in January - at most I'd be able to do 4.
RNG's a bitch.
I met with my friend Olivia at a nice shopping plaza filled with moms and kids, and she said she didn't recognize me at first because I looked so down. We went into a pizza restaurant to eat, and I was alternately crying and trying not to cry as I ate. I lose my appetite when I'm really stressed out, so I wasn't able to eat the whole meal even though I was starving. She asked if she could take my hands and pray a little, and I accepted, but when I took her hands and closed my eyes, the rush of pain and frustration almost made me retch. I talked slowly, trying to calm down, when a tall dude with a staff uniform came over to check on us and said something casual and cheeky to me. I immediately burst out crying and dropped my forehead to the table, while Olivia tried to explain to the very surprised looking store manager what was going on. He came over to my side of the table and put his hands on my shoulders while I sobbed, telling me that he understood that things were hard, and things were hard for everyone so I wasn't alone, and he had kids and stuff to take care of so he knew how I felt. He told me things were going to be OK, that I was still alive, and that was the important thing. It was actually very nice of him, although having him touch me like that was a little weird.
Olivia perked up and said that she actually had a friend who owned a bike store in the plaza where we were sitting, and that next door to the bike store was a Kumon franchise that was closed but had a sign that said they were hiring, and the bike store friend knew the people who owned it. For those who don't know, Kumon is this super Asian student tutoring place that gives you packets of math problems to do for homework and stuff. I did it when I was little, so I'm familiar with it, although they may have changed things in the past 20 years. We went over to the bike store and I turned on the charm for the owner, because I have a strong performing arts background and the show must always go on. He told a bunch of stories about how the Kumon owner's husband was a huge idiot, but then asked me to forward him a resume and promised me he'd bring it over himself to the Kumon place on Monday when they were open again.
Okay. Not a guarantee of anything, but sometimes RNG isn't that bad.
I headed home, picked up my gear, and went to the dojo. I've been practicing traditional aikido for about a year and a half, and I like it way better than taekwondo, which my mom forced me to take during high school to have a black belt on my college application. The class was only 2 people because most people weren't back from the holidays, so it was really chill and I got to focus on refining my sankyo and helping my partner instead of my failure to produce high quality blood plasma. I stayed for the class after that, and although it was an advanced class and almost everyone else was a higher rank than me (I'm fourth kyu, which is basically green belt/blue belt in karate or taekwondo), I felt like I was doing something grounding, something I was reasonably competent at, something beautiful and powerful, and also something free, since I get free classes for volunteering as an editor/writer with Aikido Journal. It's kind of amazing that I landed at the one aikido dojo in the entire world where the owner of the dojo unexpectedly inherited a prominent established digital publication and had no real idea of how to manage it editorially.
I'm exhausted, from all of the drama of the day, 2 hours of aikido, and jet lag from coming back from the east coast yesterday, but I feel like there's still hope, and I'm going to do my damnedest to find a way to make this work.
Thanks for reading.