Why I would stop freelancing tomorrow if I could.

Because I am 49. Because I have two children. Because I have a mortgage. Because I need to sleep. Because I do not live in New York or Washington.

Because networking is difficult in the middle of the prairie. Because I’m talented and I know it. Because begging to have one’s talents recognized, much less used, is demoralizing. Because doing so for the better part of a quarter of a century is even more so.

Because the media industry’s business model is now rooted in free or near-free labor. Because not paying people is reprehensible. Because expecting creatives to produce their art, edit their art, fact-check their art, promote their art, and support their art, almost entirely on their own, is not only ridiculous, it’s very bad for the product being peddled.

Because I chose to be unsure when I could have made choices. Because I chose to tend to babies when I could have chosen to work differently. Because everyone makes mistakes, occasionally never knowing which choices were mistakes. Because I’m tired.

The tiny world that is foreign policy/Middle East writing found out on Monday that Open Zion, the outlet at which I’ve hung my hat for the past year and a half, will “sunset” at the end of the year. I’ve known that this was coming but wanted to allow the powers that be to tell the world on their own terms and in their own time; alas, as is the way with news, when a bunch of people know something, that information will find its way to the public.

For reasons that have to do with the weird way I’ve lived my life (early career spent in a foreign country; mid-career spent an ocean + half a country away from the first place), choices I made about parenting and activism, and no doubt a certain gormlessness, as well as the death of print, the Great Recession, and the general difficulty that has always attended a life in the arts, my career has not gone as I might have wanted it to. Open Zion was the single most steady gig I’ve ever had with my by-line attached, and without wanting to put too fine a point on it, it’s a blog. Extrapolate out from there what you will about money made and influence wielded.

If I were 27, or possibly even 37, this would look a lot different. But I am not. I am 49. I have two kids. I have a mortgage. I need to sleep. And I do not live in New York or Washington.

Having the luxury of being home when my kids walk in from school is worth more than any of this to me, and that is part of why I am where I am. But I would do almost any job in the world if it would allow me to maintain that, and stop freelancing.

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