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.”