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Taming My Anxiety To Become A Freelancer
My mom raised an anxious, anxious, anxious kid (and four others). My life motto is one that was handed to me from her attempts at raising such a tired teen: THINGS ALWAYS WORK OUT. That mantra, repeated enough times, soothed my fried nerves and became something I actually believe.

The day I was going to quit my first “real job” was the day I got fired. It was a cold Friday in late January 2019. I had a no-notice resignation email drafted to send that evening. I was ready to walk out of the dusty, cavernous warehouse of faux antique furniture where I had spent two years, fawn-like stumbling into a graphic design career. I was prepared to live on my savings and pray. Then, like magic, my boss let me go with a severance and the gift of full unemployment benefits.

With impeccable luck and good fortune, the planets seemingly giving me their blessing, I started freelancing full time. I could hardly say I was prepared. Is anyone ever prepared for major life changes? Was I prepared when I moved across the country three years ago? No apartment, no job, no friends, and yet, as the motto goes, things worked out.

When I started freelancing, I was nervous about the quality of my work. Fortunately, I had the encouragement of the Portland zine community behind me. Zines are wonderful! Zines (self-published collections of poems, comics, illustrations, photography, etc.) came to me at a time in my life when I was uncertain about my skills and abilities as an artist. I wasn’t sure that my work was good enough to show to people, let alone putting a price to the work. However, seeing the scrappy, imperfect, and wholly individual experiences of others scraped together in staple-bound printer paper booklets filled me with absolute joy. The zine community in Portland is thriving, supportive, and beautiful. I couldn’t be a freelance artist without the encouragement of my zine peers.

Zines gave me an important lesson: YOUR ART HAS VALUE BECAUSE IT EXISTS. I found value in the stories others told, unpolished and real. It gave me the courage to start putting myself out there, advertising my work to the world, knowing that if I found value in the work of others, no matter the skill level, that others would find value in my stories, too.

With the courage of zines behind me, I said yes to everything. I applied to everything. I sent pitches to publications for comics that I didn’t even think were really any good. I applied to jobs. I felt raw and vulnerable as I advertised myself online. And, after a couple months, some things stuck!

Since starting my freelancing career, I’ve taken on the role of social media manager, product designer, cartoonist, illustrator, and graphic designer. There are contracts and tax deductions and the looming cost of health insurance. There are late nights, and there are early mornings. There are also afternoons spent watching Netflix or reading books and learning how to set boundaries around such a flexible work schedule. I don’t pay my student loans. I can’t afford to. I go to comic cons and write it off as a business expense.

I don’t really know what the future holds. Every now and then the temptation of a desk job with benefits and regular paychecks calls to me. I had to unlearn and let go of a lot of anxiety in order to become a freelancer and take these chances. I’m appreciating the hustle and what this process is teaching me about myself and my skills. There will be time for a desk job in the future. For now, I work from home and make lesbian cartoons. I have a loving girlfriend and work with other comic professionals every day. I take care of my plants. I have reached back in time to my 13 year old self who only ever wanted to be an artist, and I have told her the good news. Things worked out.
Ren is a social media manager, cartoonist, designer, and freelancer based in Portland, OR. She works for Hiveworks, Autostraddle, and Worth Ecommerce. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter at @reinelaren. You can shop her work on her website or support her on Patreon!
From the Editors:
Today is the Trans Day of Remembrance. Take a moment of silence today to honor and remember all of the trans people who have been killed as a result of hate-fueled violence. Violence against trans people, especially trans women of color, is an epidemic in the US and around the world, and we vow to use our platform to continue to lift up trans voices and tell their stories as much as we can. If there's anything we can do to better advocate for trans people, our DMs and email are always open.
Art used in this issue: “Berså” by Ellen Thesleff
Desk Lunch is a community for all creative people of marginalized genders.

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