Unemployed. Out on a limb. Yep, that’s me.
I cashed my last paycheck 15 months ago, back in the middle of the recession. On purpose. With purpose.
I had a good job, a great one, even – with a prescription plan, dental checkups, three-day weekends, and a 401K. It was rollicking, good fun and I knocked off by 4pm, at the latest. The company’s prestige was stellar, my colleagues were exceptional, and there was opportunity for growth. The wine flowed. Have I mentioned the magnum of ’82 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, uncorked just for me?
People thought I was out of my mind, people who had lost their home, steady income, health insurance, a chunk of their retirement account, their sense of security and self-worth. Why the hell would I willingly walk away when worlds were crumbling?
Because great was not good enough.
Because when the market is down, I’m like Warren Buffett.
Because there’s no place like the right time. And it was my time.
Once, a few years earlier, the CEO, this restaurateur who built his empire from the dining room floor of a neglected neighborhood all the way up to the skyscrapers of Dubai, poked his head into my office and greeted me with a rhetorical, “Hey, Kellie! Workin’ hard?” before he turned and continued walking down the hallway.
“No,” I replied. “Not really.”
Mid-stride, he hesitated. Uh-oh. I had caught him off guard.
Now here’s the guy who signed my paychecks, and probably didn’t appreciate my cheekiness, but truly, I wasn’t working hard. Work hard is what my dad did – a veterinarian by day, a farmer at night. It’s what the lobstermen do here in Maine, hauling traps in dangerous weather. It’s what moms do everyday. It’s what he did, twenty years prior, when he opened his first place, when he took a risk on real estate next to a methadone clinic and earned the trust of each customer, one by one.
That’s what I really wanted to do, take a risk. Not support someone else’s vision, but manifest my own. And for that, I’ll bloody my knuckles, scrub the basement with a two-bristled brush, and sell my soul. For it was my soul that was banging on the bars, begging to be filled. I left those spreadsheets and time cards to be filled by someone else.
Now, pour a jigger of my former boss’s entrepreneurial sensibility over ice, add a dash or three of my tendency to disregard the financial and cultural climate, garnish the rim with a dusting of dreams… and voilà! Here I am, taking an emotional gamble and it’s the hardest damn work I’ve ever done. But did I have to launch my rocket during the recession? Couldn’t I have waited for the terra to be a bit more firma?
Nah. What better time to cliff dive than when the economy is weak and I’m feeling strong. Better odds that way. I’ll grow despite, with less resistance, as everyone’s running for cover. The vine must struggle? I’ll leave that to the viticulturists…
Not to say it hasn’t been scary.
Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of feeling vulnerable, looking stupid, being rejected.
Overcoming these? Not so easy.
How about getting Lyme disease without insurance in these Tea Party times? Or paring down, living on $12,000 a year? Then figuring out how to build a website, a platform, a freelance income, a brand new life?
THAT’S sweat equity.
Then comes the real effort. Maintaining health, cultivating creativity, releasing stubborn obstacles, and breaking habits with gripping roots of steel. It takes commitment, fortitude, perseverance… and a plan. You have to know what you want to get what you want.
First, know thyself. And that is the hardest work of all.
I give thanks every day for all I do have, especially my solid support system, for without loving friends and family (and those random kindnesses of strangers), these challenges would feel a lot more like struggles.
At the end of it all, being one of almost 14 million was NOT on my wish list, but it will undoubtedly lead me to become that one IN a million.
Just like the ’82 Bordeaux. I’m sure of it.
Besides, with markets continuing to crash and real estate still iffy, you’ve got to invest in something worthwhile, right? Might as well be yourself.