Water Finds Its Level

Kole here. This one might get a little emotional and over-share-y, so just a heads up. I've been open about a lot of stuff here, and this should be no different.

Five years ago, I had been unemployed for a year. It was the summer of 2011, and I was banging my useless Electronic Media degree against the double-bolted doors of the Cincinnati television and radio market. I was living in a tiny room in a firebox house off of the University of Cincinnati's campus, a house that I shared with four other people.

I was splitting my time between a crappy job at GameStop, and a very irregular "weekends and very early mornings" position at the Radio Reading Services of Cincinnati. I filled my days by completing job applications and running two podcasts. This coming May will mark the 5 year anniversary of Duckfeed as an entity. Around this time of the year 5 years ago, I was living on cheap beer and Ibuprofen, drunkenly playing Fallout: New Vegas and listening to the backlog of a podcast I found on SA called "Dead Idea Valhalla".

At that time, all I wanted was security. I felt worthless because nobody would even give me a chance at employment. The idea of a 40 hour a week job with benefits felt like a cruel joke by that point, and it would be another 6 months before I even caught wind of a good position.

But things turned around. I started a podcast with Gary called Watch Out for Fireballs!, and we caught some good, early success. That was September. By November, the day after my second unemployed birthday, I had accepted a position as a Producer at a small video marketing firm called Epipheo.

Around this time, my family criticized me for dedicating too much time to the podcast network, because it would never be a career. But now I had a career, something to help me move to a new (old) city and afford my own place. No longer living under my parents' roof, I could settle into a rhythm where I won my own bread during the day, and excitedly went home to grow my own business by night.

That arrangement continued for quite some time. For all of the time that you've known me, I've lived like this. I've changed position and weathered numerous restructurings and reorganizations, but I've always had some level of security that let me financially back the network... until it grew enough to support itself (it took us two years to turn any kind of profit, and I only started drawing my own money out of the network a year ago).

Just this past Monday, I received some bad news. My company needed to cut some costs. My current role as a Creative Consultant, moving from team to team, writing scripts, coming up with concepts, and solving problems was no longer necessary. But, they wanted to keep me around somewhat, because my skill in creating a large amount of content on a regular schedule was valuable for some new initiatives within the company. So I was spared the axe, and given the knife instead... Dropped down to 25 hours per week, with a commensurate drop in overall pay. Through some negotiation, I was able to talk my way into benefits like vacation time... but this is still a big change in my life.

But here's the thing. I should be anxious about this. I am not. I'm sad and bummed, and my self esteem has taken a hit, but that's nothing new. Fact is: This is exactly the kind of arrangement I would have asked for if the network had grown a little bit more. Things are just happening out of order... and it's providing a lot of motivation to double down on the network.

Astute listeners will have noticed a huge swath of new Patreon goals that dropped this week. Putting two and two together will probably make you think I'm panicking and trying to shake loose change out of you all like a bully looking for lunch money. The fact of the matter is, all of those new shows have been in the works for ages. Some of them even have pilot episodes ready to launch. They're concepts we've goofed about, and been genuinely interested in creating for years.

But I dragged my feet because I didn't know, personally, when any of it would fit in my life. I was content and complacent. I didn't know how to value my time above and beyond my already more than adequate salary. But my company just kicked me ass-backward into a place where I will have two extra days per week to dedicate to network business, and into a place where I need to be hungry and motivated to grow. They've kicked me to water with a small lifeline, and now I know that I have to expand the network so that myself, Gary, and the others can pay as much attention to our content and our listeners as they deserve.

The water has been upset. Some water has been taken out, and more water is slowly trickling in, and the surface is choppy. But I know that water will find its level. I can only thank everyone reading this for their generosity. It'll never be completely comfortable asking for money, but I'm far less comfortable selling ads against our content. I don't want to lie to you about how much I like peanut butter Nom Noms, I want to be honest with you about the arrangement I've proposed: You work very hard at real jobs that create value for real people. I'm asking for a slice of that hard-earned income to cobble together my own independence.

Enough of you have done that so far that I'm not freaking out. Even a year ago, this would be a catastrophic blow. It would have disrupted the release schedule of our shows. I'm a homebody. I seek security and comfort. Your staggering support has lent me the resolve to not be staggered, but to be galvanized. I need to do more. I need to work with the team here at Duckfeed to make our shelved concepts a reality.

My attitude might change in a week, a month, or even a year. I may see the reality of this freelance, cobbled-together life and run screaming for cover. But right now, even though it's raining, I'm going for a walk.