I’d half-joked for a while that this huge software project that I was on would possibly be my last, after which I would be a writer, but I didn’t expect it. On Monday, January 19th, for the first time in years, I won’t be heading off to work.
West Texas Crude
We live in Calgary, Alberta, which is the Canadian equivalent of Houston, Texas when it comes to oil companies. Back in August I started looking for my next contract. Things started to look good around the middle of September and then everything halted, and then came the first shocking drop in oil prices. Around the middle of November, things started to look up again and then WHAM the death of OPEC and oil’s gone crazy. My wife, Jen, and I decided that we’d both start hunting, because we’ve seen economic storm clouds like these before, and I doubt things are going to look all better around the middle of February which is when things would normally start to pick up again.
Fortunately my wife and I have similar earning potential. She’s now secured a position, after being home for three years, and we’re going to invest in me writing. Our close friend and nanny will still be with us, giving me schedule flexibility to do things like presentations at schools, as well as if we need me to take a contract, I can.
Once upon a time
I’ve been the stay at home dad before. I’ve mentioned I was home for 15 months with horrific abdominal scar pain. About 6 months into that, my six year old daughter asked me one day if I could please start picking her up at school right when it finished, rather than at 4:30.
I barely had enough energy to get through the day, but in those big brown eyes I saw that I needed to have more strength to be whom she needed me to be, and I became that person.
My day was pretty disciplined, and when I went too far, I paid for it, as stealing energy from tomorrow comes with heavy interest payments. Jen and I had ‘the chat’ where we came to terms with the reality (at the time) that she’d need to be the primary breadwinner. Months later, and an exploratory surgery turned “Scrape out the scar tissue”, I went back to work, and then I was hit with severe asthma, but I bounced back from that too. Now it’s been about 4 years that I’ve been working, and three where my wife’s been at home.
Psychologically, I proved to myself that I wasn’t just “able to get back to work,” I was able to surpass the previous “top of my game.”
When I last felt this nervous about a big change, I was at Microsoft with an extremely abusive boss, my dad had just had 4 eye surgeries, my wife was on mat leave with our first kid, and my close friend and mentor had just died. My boss laughed at me when I threatened to quit, “Guys like you, in your situation, shut up and take it.” Backed on to the edge of a cliff, I jumped off (quit without a job in hand) and decided to see if I could learn to fly (become an independent contractor in IT).
All of my friends had faith, they all believed I could do it no problem. The thing is (and I believe this is a German expression) the distance between theory and practice is actually further in practice than in theory. Put another way, the deal’s not done until the deal’s done.
The idea of NOT earning the primary income for my family affects me. I’m the ‘defender, provider’ personality. I am willing to work myself to the bone to provide for them. To have my wife taking that on role happily, doesn’t make me take the pressure off myself of needing to contribute, and I think that’s a good thing.
Some fear is a good thing. It can drive you. It can make you pick up your heels a bit more quickly. I’ve got fear in the belly, can I do this? I have “defender, provider” angst of needing to, and wanting to, contribute to my family through my books, and that’s a good thing.
Is it possible that finances dictate a couple of months from now that I need to take a contract for a while? Yes, but I am going to go GANGBUSTERS with the time that I have, and enjoy some extra time with the kids on the way. If I happen to make my 5 year goal in 18 months (as I have a habit of doing in other fields), and never come back to an IT project again? I’ll be standing there from the future, looking at the amazing opportunity that started in 2015.