First comes the shock, right? Bam. There’s change. Not change you initiated, but change that feels like it’s been foisted on you.
I have come to learn for me that’s ultimately the best kind. Emphasis here on ultimately. It’s rarely clear immediately that this is going to turn out to be beneficial or even life-transforming. In fact it’s jarring and it angers and frustrates me.
But then … liberation with a bravado edge. A little bit of jitters. Exuberance. Anxiety. Every day those ingredients whir as if in a blender and mix a new concoction for the day. As winter (eventually) gives way to spring here in the Northeast, I am downing my daily elixir with gusto.
Because here’s what I’ve learned in the last decade or so since being laid off from a television producing job in 2002. Back then I was panicked because I had never left a job on any terms but my own. It was unthinkable to NOT work for a company that was giving me benefits. I was paralyzed at the idea of COBRA, the great unknown.
I am an independent contractor. While I made that change a long time ago, I was still carrying around some of the old mindset and it came bubbling to the surface when a long-standing, steady freelance gig came to an end. I reverted to an ‘unemployed’ mentality pretty quickly.
Then a few days into it, it hit me. I already pay my own health insurance. It’s a fixed amount. No reason to panic.
“You are not unemployed, Nancy,” a friend said. “You are an independent contractor who lost a big client.”
Of course. Duh.
But let’s take that further. While the conventional mindset is that it’s time to “find” a job, in my case that’s not true. It’s time to create income. It’s time to dig in.
Self-employment with the focus on ‘self.’ Self-generated. Self-growth. Self-motivated. Self-sustaining. Columns self-published – after all, am I not a natural columnist? Why would I depend on someone else to validate that?
That – all lined up and layered — is empowering.
I have been working a lot and it’s come with an escalating enthusiasm that feels like a new beginning. I make a point of building in small and large breaks in the midst of all the productivity. A day at a museum here, a 16-minute meditation with Oprah and Deepak there. Every day invaluable Morning Pages a la Julia Cameron. Several days a week glorious workouts at the gym. Since Hurricane Sandy, about once a week I go to Mass on a weekday at 12:10, more than anything to force myself into spiritual stillness for 30 minutes.
A few weeks ago I worked my way through a stack of old magazines before discarding them, looking for images or words to add to my evolving vision board. I wound up with so much beautiful material that I realized my existing vision board was earnest, but reflected the short-term. Excited and seeking a clean palate, I wound up creating a whole new vision on my bathroom door.
What emerged was not a concrete goal, but a recognition of a higher consciousness and a more ambitious way of looking at my life and what was before me. Shortly thereafter I started to feel as if I was being led, as if there is a breadcrumb trail laid out for me to follow. I am being nudged, whispered to, cajoled.
Updating my bios on social media sites turned into an enlightening exercise as I thought about what I wanted to convey. Each conversation with friends far and near has provided some kind of high value. For example, one talk last week made me yearn to teach again. The following day I conceived the idea for a class called “What Are You Waiting For?” that would do for enrollees what my first course in The Artist’s Way did for me back in 1999. I had this nagging feeling back then that there was something more. Turns out I was right.
We need to find our definition of living. I think I’ll be fine-tuning mine for the rest of my life and that makes me really happy.
For now, this day, this moment, I’m keeping ear to ground, eyes open, heart and soul welcoming, mind cooking like crazy.
Self-employment in all its glory.