A few months ago, I got ripped off. I did some freelance work for a website, and they didn’t pay me what we agreed to.
I have a hard time speaking up for myself, and it was tough to confront the person responsible. I kept saying things to myself like “it’s not that much money,” or “maybe this organization isn’t doing well financially,” but I also knew that this year I had promised myself to treat my writing as a business and not a hobby. And that means pursuing late invoices.
I wanted to work with this person, I tried to offer up alternative payment arrangements, but I was met with flat denial and selected half-truths, including, no joke, “the check is in the mail.” (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.)
After several rounds of back-and-forth, it became pretty clear to me that I am unlikely to ever receive payment in full. I felt like an idiot.
I was lamenting to my husband over a glass of wine one night, and telling him how stupid I felt. He said to me, “that sucks, but you’re not a sucker. You wrote something you are proud of. You did good work. It’s not your fault you didn’t get paid.” (He is very wise. Often, I think he should get his own Twitter account, but he is too smart for that.)
This last weekend I watched the new Netflix special, “Brene Brown: The Call to Courage.” Brown rose to fame after her Ted Talk on vulnerability went viral in 2010. Since then she has written several books about vulnerability and courage. During the special (which I highly recommend) she talks about living a courageous life. She says you will know you are living a courageous life because you will fail. And you won’t just fail once, you will fail often. Taking risks means failing regularly. But failing doesn’t mean you’re a sucker, it means you’re brave. Because it takes courage to try.
I’ve done a lot of things in the past year that have made me extremely uncomfortable: putting together a website, submitting pieces to various publications, starting new projects, quitting projects that no longer work with my long-term career vision, calling myself a writer, even though most days I just feel like an impostor. Some of these things have been successful, but many have not. I get rejected A LOT. And now, I can add being ripped off to that list.
But I know that nothing worth having comes easily. So I can lament these setbacks and know that I’m not a sucker. I am courageous.