Steve: I have a few quick words before Halina shares her story and introduces herself. A few months ago, Halina wrote a guest post here at I’ve Tried That. It discussed her journey towards becoming a full-time freelance writer. It was immediately clear to me that Halina had a lot to offer and I know you guys would be eager to hear what she had to say.

I extended the invitation to Halina to write for I’ve Tried That on a regular basis and I’m proud to announce that Halina will be handling all of our Monday posts! You can click here for her author page and see all of the articles she has written so far.

I’m extremely excited to have Halina on board. She has been an absolute pleasure to work with these past few months and she has a ton of awesome ideas queued up for you guys. Show her some love in the comments below!

Take it away Halina…

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Who is Halina?

I am a scientist, runner, photographer, traveler, artist, fishing enthusiast, entrepreneur and homebrewer. I am also a writer; in fact, I’ve been writing since age 11. To me, writing is as necessary as breathing. I’ve always been writing, in one form or another, for the last quarter of a century.

A brief history of Halina

I am currently 36 years old and reside in Madison, Wisconsin. I have a B.S. in microbiology from Western Illinois University and a Ph.D. in genetics from George Washington University. I am fluent in two languages, Polish and English, and somewhat knowledgeable in French and Italian. Following my graduation, I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my postdoctoral training, after which I was hired at a biotech firm here in Madison.

The work was good and paid well. However, I wanted to do something more with my life besides just add to someone else’s bottom line. I wanted to make my own mark upon the world, a mark that didn’t involve just obtaining glowing customer and/or boss reviews. And writing’s siren song called me once more…

Moonlighting as a freelance writer

To find out if I could earn a living by freelance writing, I started producing online articles for so-called “content mills”. The full story of this time is outlined in a post entitled “Halina’s Journey to Become a Full-Time Freelance Writer”. Initially, I wrote only for content mills and earned a few dollars here and there. However, as my content grew, those mills and outside clients began noticing my work. I started receiving higher-paying assignments and writing deals.

After a while, I had to let content mill writing go because my private clients were taking up more and more of my free time. Eventually, even my regular job began interfering with the ongoing client assignments. I was also writing my own personal finance book in what spare moments I had. It was time to make a decision. However, several worries plagued me constantly: What if I couldn’t make enough money from writing to cover my bills? What if my clients bailed? What would I do about eventual Medicare coverage and Social Security?

Then, something happened.

My parents slap some sense into me

On August 11, 2010, my father died unexpectedly of heart disease complications. He was only 63 years old. By late December of that same year, I discovered that my mother, age 57, had frontotemporal dementia.

My father worked at American JebCo in Franklin Park, Illinois for over 20 years. He would’ve gone to work on the day he died except that he wasn’t feeling well. I’m sure that my father would’ve preferred spending his final years fishing and living in and traveling around the state of Wisconsin with my mother; these were the things he’d hoped for in his retirement. He never reached that retirement (although, he does now reside forever in Wisconsin, nearby to where he used to fish).

My mother worked for 25 years at John Crane, Inc. in Morton Grove, Illinois. She often worked overtime and even double shifts to make extra money. In her spare time, she dreamed of one day traveling the world and learning new languages.

At the age of 53, my mother started becoming confused and having panic attacks at work. By the time she took early retirement, she was experiencing early-onset frontotemporal dementia. Currently, she is homebound in Illinois and requires constant care.

I, like many people, assumed that I’d keep working the 9-to-5 grind until I had “enough money” and could embark upon the career I’d always wanted. Upon reaching retirement age (which for me is set at age 67), I would finally get to enjoy life and do what I’ve always wanted (i.e., write). On August 11, 2010, the realization hit me that that time may never come.

I still recall that fateful day that I sat in the hospital emergency room, looking at my father who’d passed away just hours before. I recall saying aloud “What am I waiting for?” And my decision became clear.

My life now

After my father’s death, there were too many loose ends and I held off another year and a half before finally quitting my regular job. However, by the time I said goodbye to the biotech firm that had supported me for 5+ years, I was more than ready to embark upon my new life. I’ve yet to look back.

Nowadays, I split my time between freelance writing, which is my bread and butter, adding words to my fourth fiction novel, and caring for my mother down south. I also live life; I might spend an entire day just puttering around in my vegetable garden or finding exotic species of flowers to plant in my flowerbeds. I might take a stab at making another Strawberry Wheat beer after picking strawberries by hand at a local farm. I might cruise out to the Wisconsin Dells to catch a walleye during my lunch break, fully aware that my old coworkers would never be allowed such a treat.

It has been a very fulfilling and rewarding time for me to say the least. But the best feedback I ever received on my new career status was when one of my old coworkers saw me about a month after I quit my job. She looked at me in surprise and exclaimed, “Wow, you’re smiling! You actually look happy.”

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Join the Discussion

  • tequilasunrise

    You are inspiring Ms. Halina. I like your free spirit, daring and brains. Still can get no satisfaction with genetics and microbiology eh? What’s next, rocket science or brain surgery? I know these mind bending stuff are routine to you.
    Oh yes, you like writing – it makes the imagination fly, no limits. Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Keep up the enthusiasm Madam, hope you have tons of it to get you going everyday. Maybe, just maybe.. in the future you can invent a third eye for the blind or make the deaf and the dumb speak. Good Luck. Thank you for sharing us your encouraging journey. It takes my breath away, sincerely.

  • Stacy

    Congratulations on the remarkable fortitude, courage, and hard work it took to achieve your dreams. I’m 63, and I want to be you when I grow up!

    Welcome aboard. I have no doubt that your contributions will continue to be inspiring.

  • Maureen

    Congratulations on your new life. Although you are much younger, our lives mirror in many similar ways. I too had a BS but in Business/Mkt and also spent years working the Corporate grind.

    Like yourself, a major life change, changed my focus and direction giving me the gumption to take charge of and responsibility for my life, my finances and yes, what I choose to do for a living.

    I too, take care of a parent (father) full time during the day, with dementia/alzheimer’s following the death of my mother who I also cared for during her final months (cancer).

    Although, I write for money, although not content mills, nor exclusively because I consider myself more of an artist, and writing just another vehicle for expressing my creativity.

    Like yourself, I’ve never looked back, why would we??? Every day, we are doing what we choose, from where we choose – how many women in the world don’t have that chance, even today?

  • Halina

    Thank you all for your warm welcome! If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past two years, it’s this: If you’re going to die your own death, you may as well live your own life. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do ever since. It’s been most rewarding.

    “May you live all the days of your life.” – Jonathan Swift

  • Frank

    Welcome aboard Halina. Steve, it would seem has a full plate and your beinthere will afford him some time to pursue other projects. I have enjoyed ‘I’ve tried that’, for some time and it’s wonderful to have a resthome for the truth.

  • Rhen Kohan
    Rhen Kohan

    Thank you goes to you, Steve, for the wisdom and smarts to bring Halina on board. Halina, I have read your story. It moved me. Your vigor, passion for life, and energy jumps off of the page. Thank you for selecting to write for I’ve Tried That. Steve is such a good guy and has offered up info I can trust. I look forward to your Monday posts. Welcome.

  • Rachashael M. Gates
    Rachashael M. Gates

    You have so many beautiful gifts and I know you will use them all for the good of all. Take your dreams and your gifts and run with them. There is no promise in a 4X4 cubicle office, lining someone else pocket. You are young and you are strong. I am old but I am still going for my dreams.

    So glad that you have joined Steve and I know you will do wonderful.

  • Mike

    I would love to shake your hand Halina! I love your story here and can’t wait to read on and learn more about you. You have been through so much and I imagined myself while reading your story. I would be a mess that needed healed. I love inspiration and you have added to mine! Thank you!

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