Planning for the unplannable

I woke up this morning and, as is my wont (and everybody else’s wont, too), had my screen in front of my face before my eyes were even really ready to focus. I clicked on my freelance dashboard, and to my surprise, saw that I had a job due in 39 minutes.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise, because I actively accepted it, and the deadlines are front and center. But like that text from a student from two weeks ago that I only found yesterday – because it had been sent in the middle of the night and middle-of-the-night-FreedomFiter is blacked out – I have no memory of taking the job.

I used to do this all the time, when I first started. Because the company is based in India, there is a ton of activity when I am sleeping. The best time to look at new postings is 3 a.m., but that’s actually the worst time to look at new postings, because it’s 3 a.m.

I made myself stop looking at my dashboard in the wee hours as I became more comfortable in the work, the stability. I’ve been with this company for about three years now, and there has never been a lack of work.

Until now. Well, sort of. There’s still plenty of work, and I’m still right on track for hitting my goal. But the number of available jobs is regularly hovering at “0,” and I find myself snatching up whatever I see as soon as I see it. This is not good, because it means I am taking jobs that take me literally 3 times as long as the ones I prefer, slashing my hourly rate and skyrocketing my stress. It’s also not good because I apparently have started sleep-accepting jobs again.

My husband asked me yesterday why I am doing this to myself. His side hustle has just started taking off, and it would be okay for me to ease up a bit. Reevaluate my goals. Continue taking the jobs I can do quickly and just leaving it at that.

And here’s my answer: nobody knows what is coming. I remember texting a colleague during spring break, she was surprised that I thought we might not come back to campus for the rest of the semester. I wondered at the time if I was crazy, but Harvard had just canceled the rest of their academic year. We didn’t go back, obviously.

And that’s fine, we’ve adapted, my students are doing well. I just uploaded the final materials for one of my classes yesterday, should finish all the rest of my remote materials next week. Nobody is happy but we are all fine.

But what happens in the fall? If we can’t come to campus? It’s hard for me to imagine students starting their college career this way. If I had seniors in high school right now and that were the option, we’d be looking at a leave of absence or a gap year.

And maybe I’m catastrophizing, but this is a catastrophe. My college can’t handle an enrollment slash. And my position isn’t tenure-track.

I guess what I’m saying here is that there’s a decent chance that I won’t have a job come fall. We will be okay if that happens – my husband is in tech and he has more security than I do, we both have side hustles – but now? When we are in a position to pay off debt? We need to be paying it off. I mean I guess that’s true during all times but it’s really truly true now.

So jumping out of bed and rushing to my computer to finish a job I didn’t know I had was not the best start of my day. And telling my kids that I can’t jump on the trampoline today and tomorrow and the next day because I have too much work today is also not awesome. But for now, it’s gotta be how it is. Considering the sacrifices other people are making, it’s fine. We’re all fine, we’ll continue to be fine, it’s going to be a rough ride but it’s fine.


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