I was a public school teacher in a district that was ranked second-worst for school quality among the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. Ugly jackpots of trash, dog poop, and dead pigeons speckled the schoolyard, and not one teacher had spare time to tidy the outdoor landscape. Our immediate focus was on managing the giant class sizes that only kept growing, de-escalating fights, and subbing in other classrooms during our prep periods. Located in a transient city that offered sparse resources to public schools, my short-staffed school was vulnerable to daily chaos.
My salve came every weekend when I abandoned my bookbag in an apartment closet and hiked in nearby canyons with my dog. I photographed rock art that was carved hundreds–and sometimes thousands–of years ago by Indigenous peoples. As I followed bighorn sheep tracks to prime shade spots, I watched mountain bluebirds hide in ponderosa pine trees. My dog chased rabbits and small lizards, and we splashed in flowing water that was melting from the distant mountaintop.
Is there a way to spend more time in the natural world that reconnects me with my heartbeat? I wondered. Burnout was expected as a teacher in my school, and some educators considered it a badge of honor that showed their service and sacrifice. I expressed my work frustrations to my friend Katie who began sharing about the work-life balance she had cultivated as a freelancer on Upwork. I listened attentively, curious if this kind of work could also bring balance to my life and lead to more time outdoors.
Katie had worked as a freelance writer on Upwork since 2017. She was able to set her own work schedule, pay her bills, and spend time with her family. Plus, she was engaging in a craft that she loved to do–writing. After a number of conversations with Katie, I started to believe that I could create a similar work-life balance through freelancing on Upwork. With faith in my chest, I followed the current of The Great Resignation and resigned from my teaching position. I began freelancing on Upwork and building my reputation on the platform.
Now, a year later, I fit work around my life and not the other way around. Freelancing affords me the space and freedom to regularly experience nature in the nearby canyons and beyond. For instance, I recently took a road trip with my spouse through the American Southwest, a task that would’ve been highly difficult–if not impossible–to arrange if I was still teaching in an underresourced school. I’ve tasted the juicy fruit of a work-life balance, and the benefits from its vital nutrients are just beginning.
When did you pivot to freelancing? Share your perspective with us below.
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