The Storm Before the Calm


Back in the fall, I was on top of the world. I had a multiple creative projects, most of which were lucrative, and my confidence was sky high. I had a nice part-time side job that was affiliated with my comedy group, I was getting requests to produce shows, I was getting paid to produce other shows, and I had a very successful show running that was bringing in income. Fuzzy, after toiling over the end of his job for a long time and what his next steps were going to be, found essentially his dream job working for a company that he loved. He felt very at home, and finally was able to relax and enjoy his work. He was also getting pursued for part-time side work. All signs were pointing to me leaving my day job so that I could focus on getting myself out there and taking my career to the next level. It felt great.

Shortly after I left my job, my side-job had a change of location, therefore making it very challenging for us to continue operating the way that we were. Even though I tried to find a way to make it work, I was taken off of the project, therefore losing 95% of that source of income.

Shortly after THAT, the company that I had choreographed for changed the structure of all their shows moving forward, and I was taken off my gig. The show continued to run, but I lost all revenue from the ticket sales. It was hard, and a slap in the face.  I had to fight for myself a bit, and although I didn't win, it ended on good terms, which I was glad about. But still, I lost that source of income, too.

I felt a bit beaten down, but then a glimmer of hope came. We got some good news about pursuing a long-time goal of ours--getting a show on television. All signs were pointing to a go, but we always knew in the backs of our heads that it might not happen. But thing was looking like it was actually going to happen. I spent a good 3 months working over full time on logistics, writing, making connections, scouting, meetings, and everything else that comes along with producing a tv show. Not only was this going to be a dream come true, but it was going to be my "job" for the year. A source of income, AND the thing that was going to finally put me on the map. And a few weeks ago, we found out that it wasn't going to happen, at least any time soon. We were (maybe naively) convinced we were 100% going into production. Suddenly, I found myself with lots of time and wasted work (though it was truly an amazing learning experience) lost afloat--having to recalibrate my expectations for the year and how I built my daily structure. It knocked me off my game. I lost confidence. I suddenly don't know what I am doing or what I have to offer anyone. I know that there is something, and I will be back soon, but I've tried to respect my feelings and needs and let myself mourn a bit.

Two weeks ago today, we got news that Fuzzy's job was going to be sold and that the majority of the office was going to lose their jobs. The news came out of nowhere and as a total shock--it still is--with the exact future being completely uncertain. The whole staff is now scrambling to find other jobs, and we are having to deal with the disappointment of Fuzzy leaving the place that was making him so happy. The job search has to start all over again. Nevermind the high stress levels that come from the uncertainty. The next week of our lives is going to be an interesting one. Fuzzy has put some feelers out for job openings, and we are taking it one day at a time.

Sadly, our resources are running dry. We've been so blessed to have had steady employment all these years, even during the recession when NO ONE had a job. We live a cooshy lifestyle, but we've already started to think smarter and change some things so make it work. We are set up in a way that we are ok and we will be ok. But I am now feeling completely worthless--like I am not pulling my weight--and I need to start looking for a job myself. I've also lost a great deal of my confidence lately--when recently asked what it is that I do, I had to honestly reply "I don't really know right now." I've always known.  I fortunately have a number of gigs lined up for the year--paid gigs, too--but nothing that is really going to make a difference in paying the bills. I don't know if I should try to get an office job again (I've been working solo for a long time, now, and I don't know how I will fit into an office gig), I don't want to go back to box office work, I have a hard time staying up late, so bar/restaurant work might be tricky, and a lot of my creative work relies on having computer access, so having a retail job might be tricky, too. But really, I am just finding excuses. I need to just suck it up and work. I don't want to admit defeat, but I also don't want to put all the pressure on Fuzzy to be the sole breadwinner. I am trying to encourage him to take on some creative work--video editing, trying to get a commercial agent, etc. So do we try to piece together two freelance lifestyles, which will be more work and less money, but more fulfilling, or do we look for work that will pay the bills so we can pursue our art without fear?

Should I admit defeat? Am I defeated?

I always try to be the voice of advice and sage wisdom to others. I love being a sort of art coach--someone who encourages others to follow their passion & create their art. What's interesting is that I am finding that now I am the one needing the encouragement. I need the advice. Luckily, I am getting it, and from some really brilliant people.

I was talking with my brother the other day and telling him about something that I was having a really hard time with. His response was that I needed to use it, write it, make it into art. And he was dead on accurate. Why am I letting these experiences burden me and bring me down, when they are a gift? Creative fodder that is just falling to my lap. I can still work on finding the thing that makes ME and what I have to say worthy of being heard.

In chatting with Melissa the other day, I was trying to come up with new careers or jobs in my areas of interest. Brilliantly, she pinpointed that I am already working in the wedding industry--officiating weddings and choreographing dances--so why don't I pursue that route? And she was right--I am already doing it. I just need to bump it up and take it to the next level. We've already made some good strides early on in finding my "angle" and ways that I can keep doing what I love in this field. It gives me hope.

This is definitely a transition period for Fuzzy and I. A collective pulling-up of our bootstraps. A time for us to decide exactly just what it is that we want out of life and what we want to do in our years to come. It is terrifying. But it is also pretty exciting. There is no right or wrong answer.  The choices are ours to make.

It's not going to be easy. You can't just snap your fingers and have the answer. You can force your confidence back, though I suppose you can "fake it til you make it." We have a lot of work ahead of us. It's a "long row to hoe."

Ultimately, we will be ok, because no matter what, Fuzzy and I have each other, and that is the most important thing in the world. Our relationship is strong, which is truly a blessing, and we've been through so much external crap together, that this is just another bump in the road. We still know how to laugh. We know how to love. We will come out of this on the other side as better, stronger people who are following their hearts and making it work. No matter what shape it takes.

Look out, world.


Are you defeated? Well, no, but also, what defines defeat anyway? I try to remember that there are people out there who can't even come close, despite their dreams, to getting paid to do anything they want. I know you will find something you love but even if that is cut with something you don't love, you are still closer to your dream than a lot of other people. Don't forget, too, even working a full time dream is still work sometimes. I guess what I'm saying is that whatever you end up doing, because you're you, you will still be creative and inspiring and doing kooky crazy amazing stuff. And if you have to blend that in with some blah dayjob shit for a little while, that will not at all detract from the good stuff you are doing. So no, I do not think you are defeated :)

Oh my gosh, Claire. Thank you so much.

It's not like me to be so gloomy, but I am just in this cloud. But you are right. I am still doing it and I have a lot going on. I need to refocus so that that is in the foreground, and not all the stuff I am NOT doing.

Thank you for the support and encouragement. You are awesome.


Holy balls, I mean, I knew the things leading up to it but seeing it all written down like that. Shit. Yeah. Wow, you are in the thick of it.

This is scary. And you are so great for knowing how scary this is. And you know what, you don't seem gloomy - your post wasn't gloomy at all. It was really scared and strong and aware.

Breathe. I know there is an urgency here because of cash, but you have to breathe. This is you and Fuzzy, either one of you can go make money if it gets to that point.

Chicago Elevated was born out of that desperation, but it was born with an inhale and an exhale of "I got this." I had to come to the I got this, but you will too, you're already there. All the life decisions cannot be made today.

Don't cling to the past. Don't fear the future. Let your friend Hixx buy you a cheeseburger,

Gah, I don't know, I love you.

Thank you, Hixx. I love you, too. And I SO have benefited from everything you've told me in this process. I am the tree, or at least am trying to be. :)

I decided yesterday that I am going to give myself til April 16th to just exist and be. I've been keeping next week open for months--bday week--so I don't want to throw that away by stressing out. I am going to enjoy the week, then go to NY as planned, and then on April 16th, really get to work, whatever that means. The good news is that good things have happened along the way--I've been cleaning/sorting/purging, we've started to tackle projects that we've been putting off for years, etc. And you are right, we will get to the "I got this." I always think of you and John and your epic year, and maybe I'll get a "Chicago Elevated" out of it, too.

So, cheeseburger next week?

Erica, I'm so sorry you are having to go through this! I read this tonight and thought of you. It's from 2 Cor. 4:17 (Message version). 'These hard times are small potatoes to the coming good times,the lavish celebration prepared for us.' My devotion says thank Him for the troublesome situations, the peace they can produce far outweighs the trials you endure.

Hope that helps. Keep us posted.

Erin! You are so lovely. Thank you so much for sharing that verse. It's a nice reminder of the good times to come. I've been thinking a lot of "this is temporary" and "we've been a lot worse" but that is a lovely positive spin on the situation. Thank you!

I've been praying these days for patience. Patience with myself, patience when talking to mom, patience for this situation. And it is helping--I find little moments of calm here and there--but still a stuggle. I luckily have an awesome church that I go to, with beautiful music (a bluegrass band! So all the songs we sang growing up are up-tempo and with beautiful harmonies) and that has brought me peace, as well.

We'll get through it and come out the other side stronger and more enlightened, I am sure. It's just a slot right now. But with great friends like you offering this love and support--we are truly blessed!!