It’s Wednesday, which means tomorrow will be Thursday again, already. The weeks are galloping by, and it’s both terrifying and exhilarating, as galloping is wont to be. A couple of weeks ago, I took my daughter out to dinner to a fancy restaurant — The Wolf, a new restaurant that has just opened to replace the former Bay Wolf, a Bay Area classic that my mom used to take me to for the occasional lunch in my childhood.
It’s a big deal to go to a dinner like that. We became Mustachians some years ago — proud, card-carrying members of Mr Money Mustache’s cult of folks who plan to retire early not by winning the lottery or hitting the start-up jackpot, but by living a frugal life and saving sixty percent of one’s annual income for a decade. Of course, I’ll be 58 in ten years, so I won’t exactly be retiring early, but still. At least I’ll be able to retire if all goes well, something I was not at all sure I’d manage a short time ago.
So, my daughter and I dined at The Wolf to celebrate the surprise verbal offer I’d received from the company I’d been contracting with since the last days of November. Since then, it’s been one milestone after another. The day I received the phone call from HR confirming salary and benefits (I was shocked and elated to learn I had been given a raise before even signing on the dotted line). The day I received the physical offer by FedEx and could actually hold it in my hand, read it greedily, turn it over, sniff it. Slip it into the envelope. Take it out again. Start the ritual over.
My official first day as a permanent employee, which was Monday of this week, I walked around in a daze, relishing the feeling of relative safety that imbued my being. Relief coursed through my veins like a drug. Every day, the wolf gets pushed a little further from our doorstep, and I’m exceedingly grateful. Especially during this uncertain time of Trump, when it seems no one knows what will happen next.
I have more milestones coming up. Losing the contractor badge for an employee badge. Getting my new laptop. Getting my company cell phone (!). (It’s been so long since I worked as an employee that this will be a first.) Activating my health care benefits. Visiting the doctor without having to pay hundreds of dollars for the first time in years. Without shaking in my boots at the bills I knew would come a few weeks later. Signing up for the company’s 401k program. Signing up for the company’s employee stock purchase plan in August. Signing up for my first paid vacation in more than a decade. Enjoying a paid holiday for the first time in more than a decade.
Yesterday, I walked about marveling at the fact that I’m now being paid a pre-determined amount of money and getting work pushed to me. I don’t have to look for it, beg for it, pine for it. I don’t have to panic when a client is quiet. I don’t have to justify my bids or defend my invoices. I no longer have to tolerate being shifted by the gig economy to third party vendors that essentially rent me to my clients.
The more than a decade of freelance work served its purpose, though, and for that, I am grateful — and proud. My goal was to be home for my kids during their childhoods. To be able to drive them to and from school. To enjoy relaxed mornings and afternoons together. To be able to make them at least two hot meals a day, chaperone field trips, and attend school plays and meetings without a twinge of shame or guilt. And I did it. I was home. I held down the fort.
Now that my kids are 19 and almost 16, it’s time again to be out hustling. And hustling I am. I’m working hard and loving it. My social life has diminished enormously, and frankly, I’m grateful. I’m sick to death of online dating and won’t do it anymore. I want to meet a sweet, curious, fun man naturally — someone I’d cross paths with while going about my daily life. Maybe I never will, but I don’t have the stomach to meet random people anymore.
I want to focus on work. I want to secure our futures a little better. I’m not thinking of myself much. Rather, I want to secure my future so my kids can go boldly into their own. My son has worried for years about my financial standing. I want to lift that worry from his shoulders. I want to give my kids a head start, a little platform from which to launch, a luxury I certainly didn’t have.
I’m intensely grateful to the universe, to my new company, to my dear managers and colleagues, for the opportunity with which I’ve been presented. God has thrown me many bones over the years. I’ve dropped most of them. I’ve walked away from incredible opportunities an embarrassing number of times.
I was young and foolish. I thought everyone got chances like the ones that regularly came my way. I thought they would always come. Now that I’m nearly fifty, I know otherwise. I can see with clear eyes that opportunities like these are rare and special and will only become increasingly so.
God threw me another bone. I caught it. And I’m holding on to this one for dear life.