Well, I've been doing this for a year.
This post has been hanging over my head for a few weeks, if not months. It's beyond late on my to-do list, and it's something I'm somewhat forcing myself into. Why's that? Because I'm here to celebrate my first year doing any kind of freelance work. It's thrilling and scary to think about. I've put this pressure on myself that it has to mean something and that I have to be all reflective about it - and that's not wrong. But, I also want to be somewhat nonchalant about the successes of the year. Not because they're insignificant, but because I don't want to treat my success like some kind of rarity. I worked my ass off for this. I will continue to work my ass off. None of it was a mistake - perhaps it turned out better than I hoped, but none of this was an accident.
That last statement above is actually kind of a huge thing for me to declare. When I was getting this started, I often tried to undermine my own success. In my first ever blog post I talked about what it meant to me to say "I'm just a consultant." I left out the part where I followed up with "I accidentally created my own business."
Let's think about that for a minute - "accidentally created my own business." I don't know who I thought I was kidding. I did not accidentally stop sending out job applications and cut the cord with the unemployment office last spring. I did not accidentally spend hours creating a brand, a website, accounting tools, and coming up with an invoicing system. I did not accidentally invest thousands of dollars in becoming an LLC, office equipment, and networking happy hours. I did all of that with intention. And it paid off.
Taking ownership of these activities and the intention behind them was something I only started doing in the last three months or so. It was intimidating. I was losing my out! If it wasn't an accident, then I meant to be here. If it all fails - which I am very aware of every single day - then it is all on me. As a very type A, achievement-oriented person, this thought is horrifying to me. I'm also starting to see some of the freedom in it. For example, I'm feeling more confident in myself when I walk into meetings with big ideas for proposals and estimations of my worth. It's also forced me to consider where I want to grow and how I'm going to make that happen. Which really brings us full circle to another blog post from earlier this year, where I talked about setting goals for what I want to do in my next year as a consultant, but I never actually said what those goals are.
Goal setting is a bit of a sticky area for me. I'm trying to temper how many professional goals have solid metrics for success (note: does not include reading, as that is a personal goal - the infographic will live on). Instead, I want them to be loftier ideas I'm constantly working towards. Here's a rough sketch of what I want to do during my second year:
- Continue to educate and highlight the cool work I see happening. My career began in museum education. There is something so magical about welcoming visitors into a museum and watching them forge new connections with objects, ideas, or each other. Sharing and opening these spaces to others is something I am privileged to do in my work. While it hasn't been my primary focus for many years, it is something I want to continue to incorporate into my practice. As I continue to work and explore, I want to use this blog as a space to talk more about the exciting work I'm seeing happening in the world. Expect a few more reviews of exhibitions, programs, organizations, places, whatever - things that get me thinking.
- Revel in the opportunities and invite others in. I get to visit lots of amazing institutions and organizations. It's also pretty clear that as a museum practitioner I've got unique insights into what I'm doing (ahem, wrote my M.A. thesis on this...). Also, I have a lot of fun doing this work, but I sometimes felt this fun was exclusively mine (I have flaws, okay). After grad school I became a little protective of my time in museums as a visitor. It was either alone or with "other museum people," who would "understand it on the deeper, more critical and insightful level" I imagined myself to have. Bullshit. While I do look at things from a unique perspective, so does everyone else. That's the whole damn point. So, in this upcoming year I want to open myself up to enjoying museums in new ways with new people. I want to make being a visitor a new experience again, when I'm not just leaning on my professional self, but learning from others and what they bring to the conversation.
- Start thinking big picture. Right now I'm in a phase where I will say "yes!" to most any opportunity that comes my way. Partially because I've got bills to pay, partially because it's all such great professional development. At some point, though, I want to start thinking about what kind of a contribution I want to be making and how I'm structuring myself to achieve that. I don't want to keep doing this for a few years, then turn around and say "what was it all for?" While I love so much about working for myself, I miss having an organizational vision or mission statement to ground my work in. I don't know I'll get quite that far, but I want to use this year to explore this internal motivation a little further.
So, I guess that's year one. This daunting, reflective blog has been written.