A Cautionary Tale

I’ve become a cautionary tale to two people who are very close to me.  They have each told me that they are watching what is happening to me around money. 

They say that they admire my pluck, resilience, and  seeming indefatigability at juggling and being creative in bringing in money. At the same time, they are trying hard not to land where I am, to avoid my present circumstances, which may or may not be my fate. This part of my story has become a tale, for them, of what not to do.

I quit a good job after 9 ½ years in 2007.   I was burnt out; burnt to a crisp.  I have been under-employed and, in brief spurts unemployed, ever since.  There have been interesting projects along the way that I enjoyed doing.  One lasted for 3 years.  Another is nearing the 2 year mark.

There have been many fumbles and bumbles by me; the  first and foremost of which was my not really understanding that I work for myself now and taking care of business like a hard-nosed business woman instead of like “la-la-la, we are the world” me.

I made mistakes in turning down projects that I didn’t quite feel were right that later grew into something more.  I’ve gone after things that fizzled on the vine despite having great promise at the beginning. I’ve refused to do jobs that require me to raise money because I hate fundraising even though I know how to do it, have had success at doing it, and have taught others how to do it. (This is a shame because development and grant writing jobs abound.  But it’s something that wears on my spirit and wears me out.)

There has been a lot of “hurry up and wait” which is a reality well-known to consultants, particularly in the non-profit realm.  This means that I am pushed to draw up a Scope-of-Work or other proposal and then a project is initiated months later…if at all.

Payments have rarely been received as promised (and contracted) leading to cash-flow problems and all the angst and ripple-effect impact caused as a result of the money being funny.  The hourly rate desired and deserved has rarely been achieved.  Coming from the school that “an is better than nan” (translation: “something is better than nothing”) I have worked gigs that have paid a wide range of amounts.

What I’ve learned is you shouldn’t ever, ever, ever quit a job until you have another one in hand if you need money to live on especially in this new economy, especially when you’re a seasoned worker.

If you can figure out how to keep the regular job until your first pay check clears, you should do so.

Let yourself be fired despite the bruise this might make to your ego especially when the powers that be are showing that they’re planning to eliminate your program. (The people who were fired on my last big job, all got unemployment benefits and many got severances even when they hadn’t been good workers largely because they “acted the fool” and were paid to hit the door.*)

As private a person as I might be, despite my blog, it hurts to have become a cautionary tale.  I share because that’s what I do on my blog: I share my ideas, information and experiences while not naming names.

Luckily, this tale is only one small part of who I am.  Lack of money certainly impacts everything but:

  • It doesn’t keep me from feeling good about myself and what I can and do give to the world. (I won’t let it!)
  • It doesn’t keep me from enjoying literature, film, theatre, music, and nature (there are always free, low-cost ways to saturate oneself in culture).
  • It has diminished my shopping but every now and then, I figure out a way to buy some little bit of beauty that makes me feel good (and that I need).
  • It has impacted my love. (The jury’s still out on how deeply.)
  • It hasn’t eliminated my charitable giving – I will sacrifice aforementioned beauties to make some sort of donation to a few organizations and causes that are important to me.

Even though I wouldn’t change the freedom and the fact that leaving a “good” job probably prevented me from having a stroke, I caution you – don’t do as I did.

(*i.e., threatened lawsuits, community protests, etc.)



About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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