It’s no secret that 2016 was one messy year. But seriously – a reality TV show host became the president of the US, and we lost Prince and George Michael. The entire year just sucked. For me personally, it was probably the hardest year of my life. But with hard times came loads of lessons which I’m obviously going to share with you:
The Struggle of Creating Boundaries
Early in 2016, I landed a pretty stable client that taught me a lot. This client allowed me to thrive financially and live comfortably. As the year went on this client took complete advantage of me, my accessibility and time. It started with getting emails at 11 pm asking to have things done by 9 am the next day. I then went on to deal directly with his clients. My final straw came when I started managing his team of underpaid freelancers who couldn’t deliver the quality of work clients wanted. This lead to his clients getting upset at me for sloppy work delivered by his freelancers. And this, obviously, all became my problem.
The sad part is that I allowed it to happen. I allowed it because I wanted to travel again, I could work remotely and the money was good. Even though I was working for a ridiculously low hourly rate, it all added up to a decent salary per month. Clearly, I didn’t value my own time, eight years of experience and well being. What I wasn’t seeing was the toll it was taking on my life. I was constantly stressed and kept putting my work before everything. Even when I was meant to be relaxing, I was talking about how frustrated, stressed and unhappy I was.
As time went by, I quickly realised that his expectations versus what he was paying me versus the hours I was putting into his business were unrealistic. I needed to set boundaries! This was scary, especially because, for the first three months of my working relationship with my client, there were none. I started with putting down clear working hours – 9 30 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday. A month later I asked for a pay increase.
Even though this was all given to me reluctantly, it felt good that I had control of working hours again. I was brave and had my requests met, but my victory was short lived. Two weeks after setting my new boundaries, they were disrespected. I had the hours I put in at my new rate questioned, and was still sent work at 3 58 pm to be done by 9 30 am the next day.
To cut a long story short, after nine months of being overworked and underpaid, I lifted the weight of working with this client off my shoulders. I often wonder what would have happened if I had set boundaries from the beginning of my contract. At least I learnt how to set boundaries with clients and how to spot a horrid client from a mile away!
Dealing With Role Reversal
Whether it is a supporter, caretaker or leader, every person in my life has a role. In the chaos and confusion that was 2016, a few of those roles in my life changed drastically. I had to become a supporter to my biggest supporter, and those who I’d always supported needed to support me. For most of the year, I needed to be strong for someone who has always been my strength. I had to show my weaknesses and be vulnerable to those who have only seen my strength.
Now in an overall happier place, I’ve truly found the people that are concerned about my well-being. The role reversal of 2016 allowed me to see who my true friends are. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I needed to walk away from friendships that expected me to be strong from them when all I needed was someone to lean on. It also made me realise that I have a partner who will be with me through the toughest times.
Dealing With Anxiety
After dropping two of my biggest clients, I got a serious bout of anxiety. Waking up every morning with my stomach in knots, crying for no reason and in a constant state of stressfulness was not a fun way to start my move to SE Asia.
At first, I didn’t know what was going on and all I wanted to do was sleep so I wouldn’t feel anything. But as soon as I identified what was causing all my anxiety, things became easier. With the support of my partner, meditation, yoga and getting back into my writing, I was able to overcome my anxiety and throw myself back into work. It is definitely something that needs working on, but it is an incredible feeling knowing that I’ve got this under control and my anxiety is not controlling me.
At the end of 2016, I could honestly say that even though it was a tough year, I came out at the end emotionally, spiritually and physically in a better place. In 2017, I strive to rediscover my carefree self, remain grateful and always remember to follow my gut.