The gift of chilling out

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life25 Comments
I decided to take most of the week off from any real work and it feels really good.

As self-employed, small business woman, there are some real perks to my schedule. I can go to Target whenever I feel like it. I could take a nap every day if it didn’t mean I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep until roughly 3 in the morning. I do not have to be overly concerned with matters of cute clothing and impeccable makeup. I can keep the bra hanging on the hook until I head to the aforementioned Target. I can drive my teenaged son to school every weekday morning and retrieve him at day’s end. I can head down to pick up my girl from college and the only person I have to notify is me.

As a self-employed, small business woman, there are some real downsides to my schedule. If I don’t work, I don’t make money, and even if I do work, there is no guarantee that what I’m working on will make money. Thankfully, I have one steady gig throughout the year as the art director for Scrapbook & Cards Today magazine, but the rest of what I do is sort of based on speculation.

What this translates to is not being off work very often. That doesn’t mean I work 70 hours a week (though that has happened on the rare occasion), it just means that work is never completely off the plate. I did go to Slovenia a few years ago and that is the last time I remember work being completely off of said plate.
It’s just part of how I’ve made a living for the past 17+ years. I’ll always know that number because I quit my full-time corporate design job when Cole was born in 1999 and since then, I’ve worked for myself. Yes, I was employed for a few years by big companies (CK Media, publisher of the now defunct Simple Scrapbooks and Creating Keepsakes magazines), but I’ve always worked primarily from my little St. Paul office, here in my home.

Right now, I’m looking ahead to 2017 and forming some plans. What will I do to continue this 17-year streak? I call it a streak because I have never once taken for granted the surprising ability to be self-employed. Not once. I remember years ago, as a corporate graphic designer thinking, “I’m done with what I had to do… why do I have to just sit here and look busy?” Part of being my own boss means understanding when work needs to get done and planning accordingly. That means when it’s done, I don’t have to stay in this office and just look busy.
But I definitely need this week, and maybe even next week to just slow down and savor some time away from my computer. There are times, especially when launching a new class (which yep, I’m doing right now), that I catch myself saying to Dan, “God, I’m tired of me already.” That’s the price of self promotion, but it’s definitely something that makes me stop and think, “If I just had a normal job, I’d do my work and a paycheck would predictably arrive like magic!”

A few months ago I saw a local job posting that I thought would’ve been a perfect fit, so I applied. I had to whip up a resume because I had nothing on hand that could be considered up to date, and sent it off. They called me the next day and prefaced it by saying, “We don’t think you’re going to take this job when we tell you about it because you’re a bit overqualified but…”

Two things happened. One, they were right. Two, I was flattered that I still had the ability to get someone to call me. And then I remembered that getting a job would mean daily bra torture and I returned to the work at hand.
I’m sharing this today because I haven’t been writing much in this space. I haven’t been writing what I know, and they say that makes for the best blogging material: write what you know.

Well right now, I know the hustle of working to make ends meet. I know the uncertainty of the what is next. I know the change of careers in my own home and how that’s affected so much in our lives. I know the stress of not knowing how it all shakes out. And so, I write about it.

I’d like to keep writing in the new year about this part of life. This middle part. This place that I’m in now that has so many question marks. That doesn’t mean it’s all negative. Not at all. It just means it’s good to take a week or two off of work.

I think that’s my point.

Cathy ZielskeThe gift of chilling out

25 Comments on “The gift of chilling out”

  1. #1

    Relax, savor and recharge. Happy New Year Cathy. I too, am in the middle part and as I reflect, it’s the best!

  2. #2

    Enjoy your week or more of “nourishing yourself, your family, and life”!
    Cheer’s to 2017…and a fond goodbye to the memories of 2016.

  3. #3
    Lois Houston

    I, too, am looking forward to the downtime for the holidays. Mine won’t start until next week because of a big project I’m working on at work, but I am READY to disconnect and rest for a few days. I’m even loathe in some ways to go travel to see friends and family (although I will love being there when I get there, I’m sure) I just want to hibernate – hole up in my house by the fire, sip tea and read books and do crafts. Nap? Sure. Shower? Optional.
    I work from home 100% of the time and although I am not self-employed I do enjoy a lot of the same “perks” you do with some of the same drawbacks. I am lucky that my job is of the sort that as long as I get it done, no one cares when, where or how I do that. Carpool lines are great places for conference calls. Webex is a beautiful thing.
    But the downside is that, like you, I sometimes feel like I’m never truly “off work” unless I go somewhere – leave the domicile completely. And as a hermit homebody, that’s not my idea of downtime.
    I’ll take it, though. I’d much rather deal with that than the commute to/from an office everyday.
    Happy Holidays to your family. I’ve been a follower of yours for years. I love your candid realism in your posts and your ideas and inspirations for capturing life’s stories. I hope that doesn’t change anytime soon, although I’d totally understand if you took a different path one day.

    1. #3.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I definitely like the idea of telecommuting some day if the need arises. I sort of do that for my magazine job, but I would love more jobs like that. Do what I do (graphic design and writing) from home for a company who pays me consistently. Commuting would freak me out! Lol.

  4. #4

    Good for you, Cathy! You deserve that much-needed break. Enjoy your family, enjoy the season, and see you next year! You’re the best!

  5. #5

    Thanks for writing this Cathy. After many years in corporate roles, I just completed my first full year as an independent and I’m hooked. Thankfully, I’ve had some 70 hour weeks that have paid the bills followed by the “what’s next?” feeling. I’m also enjoying a little year end downtime. Planning to do some SYY next week and transport my 16-year old son to his life guarding class. I love that I can do this. While 16year olds can be monosyllabic sometimes, I’m so glad to be around for these high school years. The ability to take a roadtrip with him during the summer and just be available feels so good right now. I’m hoping I can continue to pay the bills while working independently for the rest of my career. Thanks so much for sharing your insights on your role as an independent. It’s very much appreciated. I’m not doing the same work as you but know that your insights translate across industries. All the best to you and your family for Christmas and in 2017!

  6. #6

    I love hearing your perspective on work and being self-employed. I have always worked for a company (financial services industry) and I always dream of doing my own, different, thing one day. I can almost reach out and touch the freedom that it would bring on many levels of life. Not having to answer to anyone but yourself. Making your own dang work schedule. Hustling for YOUR bottom line and no one else’s. Giving yourself a raise if you want to and not having to wait and prove yourself first (current situation). You are blessed and I know that you know that. 🙂 Maybe take more trips even if just ones close to home. Document them. Buy a vintage camper and work from it in a new location for a few days. There are lots of campgrounds that have wifi. 🙂 That is a dream of mine since I get to work from home for my company but I have small kids still. So maybe one day!!

  7. #7

    The gift is in the in between.

    I, for one, would love to read more of your thoughts along the journey.

  8. #8
    Victoria Calvin

    Girl! I was yelling “AMEN” to every word you wrote! I’m a creative entrepreneur as well (scrapbooking), just started six months ago. The work is never done. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I did the corporate and non-profit thing for years…being my own boss is so much better. So, take that break! You deserve it!

  9. #9
    Annet M

    I too really enjoyed this post. I’m in my last hours of my full-time job, hence why I can post on a blog mid-day… 😉 I have to leave this job despite loving it for years due to the horrors of new management, that have made life unbearable for the past 6 months. So I took on a new job that I am LOVING but isn’t full-time and is less $ but I’m okay with that and planning to pick up project work. So I am somewhat fearful of that home/work blur, but I am also looking forward to being my own boss and spending more time with my son, since I’ll be home when he gets off the school bus. So thanks for sharing!

  10. #10

    Lovely, real post. Thank you for sharing. I was thinking, while I read this, about Dan’s new career. With over 25 years in education I know one thing: your vacations are planned for you. Similar to what you shared about being self employed, this is good and bad. It’s great to know when the vacations are, and then it’s frustrating because you cannot take vacation when you want to. The reason I’m sharing this is that I really encourage you to try and take some time together. You will have to fit into his schedule (and he will have way more time than you!). You won’t always want time together, but it is important also. Does that make sense? I’m thrilled that you are taking a break now, with your family. This time is precious. But, you know that, right?

  11. #11

    Wonderfully said! I, too, am a self-employed, small business woman and for the past 18 years have worked in a small at-home office. It was so refreshing to read about someone else who has experienced the ups and downs of this adventure we call work. Felt like you were reading my mind. Love that I can work in my pj’s and leave to Target or pick up the kids when I want. Hate the stress of always feeling like I’m at work or have work to do and rarely ever able to take time off. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. And, after reading this, I realize that I deserve some down time and time to chill out so I think I will take some time off for the holidays!

  12. #12
    Tammy B

    Merry Christmas Cathy! Enjoy your time off with your family. I’m sure you all will appreciate the breaks you are getting over the holidays. I look forward to more posts like this (or anything else that you would like to share 😉) in the new year. Take care!

  13. #13

    I really liked remembering the part about having all your work done and having to stay, sit and look busy. For me, it was retirement that changed that but damn ‘busy work’ is exhausting.

  14. #14

    Merry Christmas Cathy – and thanks for all you do from your St Paul office. May your break be restful and refreshing.

  15. #15
    Patti L

    I love all your digital memory keeping and paper crafting adventures, but I also really just love hearing about your life. As a person who has to “look busy all day” after I am finished my work, I often think what it would be like on the other side. So it’s interesting. I guess my point is, just keep writing & I will read it. Enjoy the break!

  16. #16
    Sharon Kanniainen

    I felt peaceful just reading your post. That is until you mentioned 1999 and I remembered that was when your amazing daughter walked into my classroom for the first time. All these memories of Aidan and Cole came floodng back. They were remarkable children who I loved teaching. Now they have grown to be wonderful young adults. I am chilled out now. Thank you for the gift! Merry,Merry, love , Ms K.

  17. #17
    The OA

    So while you’re sitting around doing NOTHING would you please watch the rest of “The OA” so we can talk about it?

    1. #17.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Geez! Yes! Okay? I’m starting Episode 3 today. The only thing is that I always make a deal with myself that I can’t binge watch unless I’m on a treadmill, and lately, I’m just not as strong as I once was. Wish me luck!

  18. #18

    This middle part of my life has been interesting. My youngest is 18 and in college (he still lives at home though) and I’ve not had a serious job since before he was born. Now I have the time…now what do I do? I’ve applied for a few part time receptionist jobs and apparently I’m not qualified even for those soooo, like I said before…what do I do? Hmmmm…life, it is always full of surprises isn’t it?

  19. #21
    Jennifer Churchman

    Here’s to rest and reflection from a fellow self-employed creative. Thank you for all you do and for being one of my “sanity touchstones” throughout the years. Merry Christmas!

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