The past few months have been a challenging, yet very interesting time. Although I can’t complain about the opportunities I’ve been given to travel and experience new things, I have to admit that it’s been a while since my last life update. And the thing is; life hasn’t been bad at all. I’m still feeling fulfilled by the inspiration I gain every day. Inspiration from conversations with brilliant friends and kind strangers, discovering new and fascinating places, and seeing the seasons change in a gorgeous city like Amsterdam. I still love working on this blog and Globonaut, my open storytelling platform.
But I noticed I haven’t truly been getting personal on this (basically) self-titled blog. And well, I won’t deny that I’ve probably been purposefully avoiding the life updates in the last few months.
So, it’s time for some real talk about my life lately. As a freelancer but mostly just as a human.
Chaos after Graduation
I graduated in October and the last few months my mind has been full of chaos. Sometimes I feel like I’m five different versions of myself in a single body. There are so many things I want to do. I’ve always been like this, but I never felt like I had to choose before. I want to be a writer, a photographer, an academic researcher (cultural analyst, PhD?), a journalist, a teacher, a public speaker, a travel blogger, a presenter, a podcaster and the list goes on.
Some of those things I already am, others not so much. And none of those things I want to be more than any of the others. I feel passionate about all of them, but I only have 24 hours to live each day. And while I was studying and working as a freelance content creator on the side, I didn’t feel stressed about having so many dreams. I felt like I was still in the ‘learning phase’ of life. Why should I get so anxious about already defining my potential?
I started to feel the pressure to ‘be someone’. More accurately: I suddenly felt the pressure to have a ‘legitimate’ answer when somebody asked “so, what do you do?”.
What Do You Do?
Now that I’ve studied what I wanted and reached my mid-twenties, I realise I still have plenty of time. But I’m starting to feel the pressure to ‘be someone’. Or more so, I suddenly felt the pressure to have a ‘legitimate’ answer when somebody asked “so, what do you do?”. Because let’s be real: usually, people aren’t actually interested in all of the things you enjoy doing most. They’re not asking about the things you do to explore your creativity or the things you do to help or connect to the people around you. They just want to know how you make your money.
Figuring Out Freelance Life
That’s not a weird question per se. Clearly, we all need to make money. It’s not like I don’t want to make money from some of the creative things I do. It’s still my dream to build a more stable career out of doing what I love, and I already took the first steps to do so years ago.
So, after finishing my thesis, I immediately looked for vacancies and sent out pitches and open applications. I got rejected plenty of times, but also started working as a freelance web editor for a travel magazine that I had read and respected for years. In the meantime, I was doing my usual part-time freelance jobs (as well as volunteering) in content creation, photography, social media management and web development.
All of my 24 hours
So things were going relatively well for my freelance career, although I lacked focus. But most importantly, I felt like a huge part of me was slowly slipping away. I had just finished writing my thesis about why we should pay more attention to the ethics of digital labour and data collection, for which I had to use almost all of my energy in the past two years. And I don’t regret it for a second, because it was something that mattered. It was a story that I so passionately believed had to be told, still has to be told. It is a story that we are all living to a certain extent, and that certainly includes myself as an online creator.
I graduated university as a full-fledged cultural analyst. But there I was, spending all of my time writing search engine optimized travel guides for several platforms. Pushing out bite-sized articles about the coolest outdoor pools in Europe. And while those kinds of stories certainly have their own place and value, I felt like they only represented a fraction of what I find important or exciting in life. It was taking up all of my 24 hours.
When that freelance web editor job was about to become a full time position, I decided to let that opportunity go. So many people immediately started asking what I was going to do instead, but I didn’t have a satisfying answer. Right around that time, my friend Janine decided to spend a few weeks in Andalusia and invited me to tag along. I really couldn’t think of a reason not to.
It was the first ‘real’ break I took in a while. Because take it from me: going on a press trip is far from a relaxing vacation. As expected, our time in Spain was a blast. I chilled on the beach while Janine went surfing, we ate chocolate donuts, had our regular siestas in the sunshine, explored new places with new friends, hitch-hiked to see the carnaval in Cádiz, and saw a young horse take his first steps into the ocean.
Andalusia wasn’t an escape or retreat where I wanted to ‘find myself’ and unlock my one true passion. I don’t think that one true passion exists, I can’t sell you that dream. It was just a different everyday rhythm, and I thrive on change.
It wasn’t an escape or retreat where I wanted to ‘find myself’ and unlock my one true passion. I don’t think that one true passion exists and I can’t sell you that dream. I wasn’t expecting to and didn’t figure out what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. How many people actually do? It was a change of environment, a different everyday rhythm, and that’s exactly what I was looking for. I thrive on change. I grow my character.
You Can Call me a Storyteller
The past few months have helped me get to a point where I’m at peace with my answers not satisfying others. That’s not really my problem, in the end. Now, I do have a better grasp on what I need to focus on. I want to spend my time and talents in ways that I, myself, find meaningful. And yes, it will still be a challenge to build a career while doing that. That’s where I’m at right now.
All the things that I do and find important, the things I feel are worth my time, still make sense when I think of myself as a creative storyteller. All of it still works. Whether I’m taking photos, blogging, writing an essay, giving a guest lecture, creating a website, it doesn’t matter … I love telling my own stories, but I equally love helping others share their stories in so many different ways.
Still on the Road
Like Isabelle’s (@mint_blow on Instagram) story, to name a more concrete example. It’s a story about stubbornly following her own compass and creating a lifestyle in Andalusia that supports her passions. She’s an art director, a yoga teacher, a surfer and one of the kindest souls I ever met. And I am so happy that I was able to help her with her interview in the latest issue of Golden Ride magazine, this time as a photographer.
So in whichever way the next few months will unfold, I want to celebrate that I’m also taking steps that align with my passions in storytelling. That I’m spending my time and talents in a way that I, myself, find valuable.
I’ll give myself the space to grow and figure things out along the way. This blog will also keep changing little by little, but I’ll still take you with me on the ride (hope that’s OK). It’ll be my ten year blogging anniversary in March 2020, can you believe it? And if there is any way I can help you with your story, let me know. Nothing will make me happier than a career that is built on telling the stories that matter.