Dear Former Employer,
It’s independence day, not for everyone else in the country or even the country itself, but for lil’ ol’ me. Exactly one year ago today, I walked into your suite on the seventh floor of that swanky office building like I had for nearly two years.
Before I could even nudge my PC out of hibernation or get to the kitchenette to fill my water cup, I was summoned to a conference room I rarely set foot in to have an awkward conversation with a co-worker I infrequently talked to and learned my position was being eliminated.
You let go 19 people that fateful day three weeks before Christmas, some of them just a few years shy of retirement. (Very classy, by the way.) But unbeknownst to your powers-that-be who swung the axe that chopped the block that unemployed us, your decision forced me to make one of my own. Did I want to go back into the process of looking for another job in another office with another company or did I want to sip the forbidden nectar of uncertainty and be an entrepreneur?
I chose the latter, and for the past year I’ve been a full-time freelance writer and business owner. I hit the ground running, with only the severance check you very graciously gave me and little bits in savings here and there. No less a victory in that story is that Girl Child and I have survived 12 whole months without being put out on the streets, missing a meal, living by candlelight or walking out and finding nothing but a puddle of oil where our car used to be. Big shout out to the Most High for keeping some kind of financial sustenance rolling in and a hootie hoo to my mama for instilling in me a sixth sense for bargain hunting and a gift for making a dollar holler. For years before I came under your employ, freelance writing had been my side hustle, but making a living out of it has been some whole next level type stuff. I’ve made a hundred outright mistakes and done things I wish I could do better or, at the very least, differently. The learning is in the execution, however, and I’m constantly gleaning some nugget of wisdom from both my accomplishments and my failures that I’d never really absorb if I’d just read them in a book or a blog post. I know now…
…that the fulfillment of your life’s purpose doesn’t necessarily make for a tidy checklist of milestones or unfold in neat little intervals of time
…that between losing my day job and watching the government shut down, the only real security is the kind that comes from the reassurance of control
…that fear is the natural companion of risk but it motivates in a way that sweet affirmations and catchy quotes don’t
…that even business relationships can be unhealthy and you have to make your standards clear because ultimately, the only person looking out for you is you
…that living in the moment and appreciating where you are slows down the lightning-quick passing of time
…that yoga, prayer and Chik-Fil-A fries are ideal ways to diffuse an otherwise ballistic day
…that when you’re discouraged because your career isn’t where it should be or sags in comparison to someone else’s, the universe has a way of reminding you that something you do or say may be perfectly timed to help someone who’s trying to get where you are
…that you can paralyze yourself with too much reading and research and inundated with information about doing it instead of just doing it
…that you’ll work longer and harder for sometimes less money but the value is measured differently
…that there’s no greater joy than making a living doing something that matters to you and not cramming it in, around, above and between the time constraints of a job that doesn’t.
I celebrate this anniversary because you did me a favor, anonymous taskmaster. I appreciate you hiring me when I needed a gig and giving me an opportunity to sharpen my craft and make some change in the process. But I don’t miss marathon, time-consuming meetings about Jesus-only-knows-what and being CC’ed on 350 emails just to get clearance on one idea. I don’t miss wondering how many sets of unwashed hands had touched a bagel at the breakfast bar and schlepping to work in assembly-line fashion on the train in my mandatory business casual dress clothes.
Last week, I wore a pair of slacks to church. It was the first time I’d been in them since I left your office that day last year. You know what felt good? (Not the slacks—they got snug. Occupational hazard.) It felt good doing it because I wanted to, not because I had to. Just like everything else I’ve been doing for the past 12 months. Thanks for giving me the boost I needed to actualize my aspiration.
Janelle Harris is a writer, blogger and editor, and the owner of The Write or Die Chick , a boutique editorial services agency. She’s also a single mother, a proud Washington, DC girl and a longsuffering Kanye West fan. Chat her up on Facebook or Twitter.