This week officially marks one year of unemployment, after being laid off from my marketing job. It was an awful experience I hope not many more have to experience. The experience, however, has allowed me to immerse myself in food, focus on culinary school, live in Boston for three months for my externship, and take on more freelance food writing, cooking and photography. And although I always found parallels to food in my marketing position, I never would have been able to accelerate my career as quickly as I have if I had still been working part time in a completely different industry.

With my final semester coming up, I have to seriously start thinking about life beyond freelance. I thankfully have quite a few options, with various risk and levels of pay. I can, of course, work in a restaurant, hopefully starting as a cook II or higher, or being able to quickly advance. That’s my last resort though.

What I’d really like to do is work in a test kitchen full time, developing recipes and then writing about them. To do that, I may possibly have to relocate to another state — New York, Alabama or Boston. Boston is my first choice, NY and AL are tied for “I prefer never to live there, ever.”

Or, I can continue to build my freelance business, offering cooking classes, writing for various publications, and continuing to develop my food photo skills. This option is the most and least attractive. I like the fact that I would be in charge of my schedule, and since I’ve owned my own business before, the business side of things will be a snap. The not knowing when a paycheck is coming next is the least attractive part of the deal, and why this past year has been so stressful from a financial point of view. I’ve always managed to secure enough work to pay my bills (cutting it close a few times), but it’s constant pitching and then worrying if a freelance check is late.

I have three months before graduation to decide. It sounds like a long time, but I’m sure it will sneak up on me.