You all know that I work from home. You also know that I gripe about how often I get paid (or don't get paid ... like how I'm missing a check for this month (despite me doing my part of the invoicing just like I always do) but the payroll people don't care and will rectify their mistake next month).
What you don't know is that the IRS pwned my tail. Like, lock stock and barrel. Like, if I could just toil my debt off with a pick ax and a yard full of rocks, I'd totally choose to do that (because imagine how much weight I'd lose) rather than figure out how to pay my astronomical tax bill.
Things I know: I should've paid taxes throughout the year. I should've squirreled away more in savings to offset what was inevitably waiting for me at the end of the year. I should've spent my hard-earned money on something (anything) that would make it worth it, but we don't have anything to show for it (except a camper) -- no flat screen tv or home renovations or dental work for the kid (or lap band surgeries).
Things I couldn't know: How much money I'd make freelancing last year.
It's an up and down kind of career. The jobs come and they go. I blogged for the Lord for a good six months, making a pretty good amount, but every month we were unsure whether the Lord would want me the next month. One day we were working on a devotional and teen outreach and the next day the job disappeared. I've edited web content and designed entire identities and developed communication strategies. I've stepped in to cover for other writers when they go on furlough or maternity leave. I've gone from writing full articles at one pay rate to milking other articles at a much lower pay rate. I've been told more than once that my work is moving to India.
My point: I spent the entirety of 2009 believing that I was one paycheck away from homeless. That we were living hand-to-mouth. That the mountain man was the breadwinner in our family. And how could I know ahead of time that all of my beliefs were wrong? How could I know until the 1099s came rolling in and I owe the IRS more than I know how to pay back?
When the tax lady broke the news, I lost my breath. I had to get down in the floor and just lay there, trying to keep the oxygen flowing to my heart and the tears from pouring from my eyes. My life flashed before my eyes. My arms started hurting and I did a mental check of heart attack symptoms just in case I needed to dial 9-1-1. When I realized my heart would hold, I made a different mental check of all the projects we'd planned to do with our refund -- the main one being orthodontic work for Javi. I tried to figure out how I'd break the news to the mountain man without destroying our marriage.
And then I started laughing. It was all so absurd. How in the hell did I screw it up so royally? What the hell were we going to do? But floating above those heart-wracking questions was this: I made it. I am a professional freelancer. I work from home as a professional writer and designer. I am a writer who gets paid to write and a designer who gets paid to design. I may wish for the chain-gang to work off my new-found debt, but the truth is that I have it because I've been successful at something I never imagined I could actually do. I owe because I have earned.
I am still embarrassed by my mistake but I'm also proud of my accomplishment. And you'd better believe I'm paying in my estimated taxes each quarter this year.