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My Annual (and final!) ‘Emancipation Day’ Message

Twenty-eight years ago today — Feb. 29, 1996 — I walked out of my office at Billboard Books for the final time and began life as a full-time freelance writer. I’d been freelancing on the side for a little over two years and decided it was time to take the plunge. A leap of faith on Leap Day! Giving up a stable job was a bit scary, but I had to give it a try, because I wasn’t happy with my life or career up to that point and knew I needed to make changes or else I wouldn’t be able to keep facing myself in the mirror each morning.

The flip side to the flexibility I’ve enjoyed since then, of course, is a lack of security. But despite a few rocky moments along the way (like becoming the answer to a trivia question in 2019, which was no fun) and the ever-escalating costs of purchasing my own health insurance, for the most part things have worked out much better than I ever could have imagined, in large part because of the wonderful and supportive comm-uni-ty that’s formed around this website. On a near-daily basis, you folks make it clear to me that I made the right choice.

I’ll be making a similar choice in about three months, when I walk away from Uni Watch. It’s not quite the same as the radical career shift I undertook 28 years ago, but it’s another leap of faith, another attempt to adjust my life and work routines in a way that will probably take some getting used to but will, I think, make me feel healthier and happier in the long run.

So as I like to remind people each year on this date — and also remind myself — the moral of the story is this: If you want to change your life or reinvent yourself, don’t just sit around fantasizing about it. Make it happen! Even if it doesn’t work out, at least you won’t spend the rest of your life wondering what might have been.

Of course, maybe you already like your life just fine the way it is, in which case more power to you! Either way, thanks for listening, and here’s hoping we all find the path that allows us to become the best version of ourselves.

Comments (17)

    I did the same thing when I was in my late 40s, and it worked out very well for me too. But I hear ya about buying your own health insurance; man, that was tough. Quarterly taxes were also kind of a pain.

    I’m sure you will do just fine on your new venture, Paul.

    Love to read the annual message. Sad that it’s the last one.

    My paternal grandfather (who died decades before I was born), was actually born on Feb. 29, 1896. For those who are into such things, the year 1900 did not have a leap day (link.).

    That means he didn’t celebrate his actual birthday (on Feb. 29) until 1904…when he turned eight!

    I always thought that both sucked and was pretty neat.

    That makes it even more special, and I would think it made for a great story that your Grandfather loved to tell to his kids and grandchildren….
    (Cool also to think that his kids may have, eventually, became older than him… :-)

    Hear, hear. Best decision I ever made was to leave the “security” (it’s an illusion at best) of my salaried job to forge my own path. Paul, you’ve done even more – you’ve created a community and built a legacy. I like a line in Ricky Gervais’s “David Brent” movie when the character says people say to him, “How can you live with yourself, doing what you did?” (spending his savings trying to make it in a rock band) and he says to the camera, I couldn’t live with myself if I hadn’t. There are no guarantees in life and I’d rather live knowing I went for it and gave it my best than settling for less than my highest potential. Here’s to a happy and successful next chapter Paul!

    I’ve posted something similar on these posts in years past, but it feels right to share again on the last one: As someone who began reading this blog in college who has since made a career out of writing in both freelance and salaried capacities, your story of your is always an inspiration Paul.

    Forever grateful that you took this plunge.
    For what’s worth, today is my 13th half birthday.

    Best wishes on your upcoming “next leap,” Paul. I hope it works out as well as that leap back in 1996 did.

    I’m so glad you kept sharing this with us …. best of luck in all you set out to do, Paul!
    I was one of those ‘wonderers’ for many years – until last week.
    I left my steady yet unsatisfying job for something certainly more challenging but hopefully more rewarding…professionally and personally. Come what may, I’m grateful that Uni Watch and the comm-Uni-ty will be here through the transition and the journey ahead. Thanks!

    I am one of those fantasizers, too attached to semi-security to take the leap. I admire everybody who has had the guts and the personal integrity to do so. All power, luck, health and strength to you.

    Gonna miss this….but you have to do what you know is right for you.

    Lotta years… glad I clicked on Page 2.

    That was 2005 for me, never looked back and nothing could have replaced all those extra times I got with my kids and family and friends…
    Here’s to the future

    Thank you for all of your hard work, Paul. We’re sure going to miss you.

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