Updated: Jul 9, 2020
| This is the 151st story of Our Life Logs |
My story began on a starry night in 1993 in Bucharest, Romania. Despite being the nation’s capital, the city was very poor. I saw beggars in the streets every day, and my own neighbors could barely manage to live from one day to another. I was more fortunate than many others, but still, my family did not live in luxury. I knew that if I could not go to college and find a good job, then I would share the same fate as those who lived around me. I had to beat poverty; I had to be different.
I was never an exemplary student, but I skated by with ease. When it came time to take my baccalaureate exam at the end of high school that would determine if I could continue into college, I unexpectedly failed. Twice. Without a chance to go to college, I felt like I was destined for a difficult life. How was I going to provide for my family? It was as if the only path to success had crumbled. Yet still, I tried to hold my head high and started my search for a job.
I tried to stay positive, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t devastated by my exam results. I kept wandering through the parks and streets of Bucharest almost every day, asking myself what I had done wrong. The faces of the beggars I saw began to look like me. It felt so unfair. How could the kids who always struggled in school score high, while I never struggled and yet failed? I couldn’t find an answer for it, and I became angry at my rotten luck.
After about three weeks of wandering, I decided there was no point in being frustrated with my situation. I couldn’t change it, but I could adapt and rise above it. I reminded myself that there were jobs out there that I could find without a college degree. I just had to be persistent. I had thought that college would help give my life meaning, so now I just needed to find something else to give my life a different meaning.
I started searching for jobs, beginning with local newspapers I bought from a nearby store. I began perusing for interesting job openings. Nothing truly caught my eye within the first few pages, but then I found something: “International company looking for an online English copywriter. We pay 0.02 cents per word. Apply now via email.” I jumped at a chance for an opportunity to work online from home. I never thought it was possible to get such jobs without a degree, let alone working remotely from the comfort of your home. But the post showed no restrictions on the qualifications except for good comprehension of English. I felt that my English was pretty good despite it being my second language, so I figured, why not?
A day after I sent the email applying for the position, they replied with a couple of tests to assess my grammar, syntax and creative abilities. If I passed the tests, they would give me 10 articles to complete each week. Could it really be that easy? I completed the tests quickly, confident that I had this job locked down. I sent the tests back and eagerly waited for the acceptance email. I meticulously checked my inbox for three days until they finally replied. With a confident smile, I opened the email, only to find their rejection, “We are sorry, but after careful analysis of your tests, we decided that your work is not up to our standards of quality…” My smile faded.
I tried to reach back to ask what I had done wrong, so that I could improve for the future, but they just wouldn’t answer anymore. The confidence I had was drained out of me. The rejection destroyed my entire momentum. I felt embarrassed and ashamed at having believed I could make it without education.
I didn’t know what to do. I went to more job interviews in the following weeks, but none of them fit my ideal schedule or salary. I wanted more for myself than just to work to survive, I wanted some hope. And then, I realized something. Why not try again? I was the only one to count my failures. If that company was looking for online copywriters, they couldn’t be the only one, right?
And thus, I began my journey into freelance exploration.
At first, the word “freelancer” seemed like something from planet Mars. I’d never met anyone who was a freelancer, so the idea of becoming one was like stepping in uncharted territory. I was terrified. But reading on other websites, forums, and blogs, I learned that you could actually make a living out of it if you worked for the right companies; it all depended on whether or not your writing style fit with the company’s voice. Maybe, just maybe, there was hope for me. And so, my search began.
In the fall of 2012, I found a website that offered freelancing opportunities, and I immediately created an account. It was the perfect set of training wheels. When I got my first task, I was over the moon! It was small, but it was something. Slowly but steadily, the snowball started rolling. I was able to get more tasks: gadget reviews, company reviews, and many other interesting things that were needed. The pay wasn’t high, but I didn’t mind. My goal was to upgrade from the Standard Level and become an Elite Level Writer on the site. I was determined to move up and make something of myself. I wanted to make enough through this job to make my parents proud.
After three months of hard work completing as many tasks as I could, I advanced to the Elite Level. Finally! I was bringing in a nice paycheck, higher than the average salary of Romanians. I was thrilled! In this moment, it didn’t matter how many times I had been rejected. In fact, because of my past, I had willed myself to pursue success. I was happy.
As I worked for the website, I took my baccalaureate exam for the third time to appease my parents, and this time, I passed with flying colors. Passing was exhilarating, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how little I cared about college anymore. I didn’t need college to be successful. It was not the only path, and quite honestly, it wasn’t the path for me. I decided to stick with what I was doing, the desire for college sliding from my mind. I knew now that I was capable of finding a decent job—of success—without higher education. Confidence, hard work, and the willingness to try—these were the assets I truly needed.
I continued working through the website for about three years before I decided that I needed to explore beyond the computer screen. In the following years, I became a real estate agent in Bucharest and eventually opened up my own agency in 2015. I learned that I had great people skills and truly benefited from the will to work hard.
I ran the agency for about a year and a half, until I decided to sell it. I felt it wasn’t profitable enough to make a sustainable living. But more importantly, I was missing my true passion–writing. Writing had given me the confidence I needed, and I wanted to share my passion with others.