Bottomless Pit

November 10, 2003

I am feeling as if I am hanging by a thread over a bottomless pit today. My contract with the State of Illinois is being "renegotiated" to a lower rate at the State's behest. I put negotiated in quotes as all indications are that the State will present a new rate and the negotiation will be whether I stay on or not.

It has been extremely difficult to be here since this initiative was announced. All of the consultants I work with are upset to different degrees, and any conversation breaks down into tying to outdo the other in descriptions of how awful and unlawful this whole mess is in their opinion. We all agree that this sucks, but none of us are getting our own emotions validated in any meaningful manner.

I feel totally out of control and helpless in the face of this situation. There aren't any other jobs in this city, or even this part of the state, that would equal half of my current income. Turning this rate reduction down would mean relocating to another city. Thinking about all that would entail leaves me next to tears. I worked so hard this summer to accept the realities of having a contract with the State, and when I was granted a new one in early October I thought I was past the worst of this situation.

Taking the reduced rate may be an option, provided it isn't so one-sided a reduction as to be impossible. I have no idea how to prepare myself for hearing the number, or making the decision. Sure, I have built a spreadsheet and I know to the penny what each percentage point costs me financially. Only I am no longer just a financially driven person. How I feel, and how I view myself is far more important that mere dollars.

Hmm, if that were completely true I'd be able to take whatever rate is offered and be happy I have a job. I guess there is still a piece of me that wants to be valued monetarily. Like it or not, income is a measure in our society. One that I have been immersed in my whole adult life. For all the growth and progress I've made in learning how to take care of me and be true to myself, I still am clinging to some significant rocks.

When we moved to Illinois for this contract I had visions of saving lots of money and being financially independent. I know now that these visions were driven by my false-personality. My truth is that I don't need a lot of money, and having the ability to earn it has brought nothing but difficulties and dangers. We are worse off in many regards than when I was an employee, with no real advantage to show for the perceived freedoms of self-employment.

As an employee I gave up control of many things, but I kept my sense of self largely intact. Now that I have learned to meet my emotional and spiritual needs outside of the work environment, my sense of self would be even stronger as an employee. Working for myself has twisted my whole approach to me around. I am not a company, even though I play one for work. I lost my hard gained sense of self amid all the flash and circumstance of being self-employed.

Either I figure out to be myself again, even though I have a professional persona that is vastly different than the real me, or I need to return to a more structured environment that relives me of the employment concerns so I can return to me.

This isn't about money, although that is the language that gets used to discuss the problem. This is about being able to stand up to the "authority" figure and say, "I am content with who I am, I don't need your validation." This is a growth opportunity for me. If I can find my through this latest bit of falseness back to my truth I will be able to move on from here without needing to repeat this lesson.

I now understand what it is I am to learn from all this falderal with contracts and rates and self-employment. External labels, whether applied by some authority figure or self-imposed, are meaningless. The. Only. Thing. That. Matters. Is. What. I. Think.

I am not a contractor, nor consultant. I am not a programmer, or project team leader. I. Am. Mark.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.