When I was suddenly laid off a year and a half ago I naturally felt a rush of varying emotions. One was fear, which is a pretty common post-firing human sensation. Another was extreme panic, as in How the shit am I gonna pay my bills? Oh GOD. Oh NO. Oh CREDIT CARDS. I won’t have food within a month from now. I just bought that new bra too. WHY DID I DO THAT? I am 100 percent for sure officially homeless. A third feeling was anger, not towards the lovely boss lady who had to do the laying of the off, but towards the big ass company that I dedicated 40 hours a week of my life to for many years and who just casually tossed me aside as if I didn’t matter like every straight dude I’ve ever sort of liked who didn’t reply to my text message after a second date.
The fourth emotion was sadness, which was technically triggered by the fear and the panic. I wasn’t necessarily sad to go but I was sad that I wouldn’t be getting a paycheque every two weeks anymore and would have to not be lazy about finding other ways to get said paycheques. Zero money equals a thousand tears. And the last reaction I experienced was relief. Yes. Relief. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to pretend for any longer that I existed to work this job. That I genuinely wanted to be there every day and thoroughly enjoyed the exhausting tasks I was forced to complete. That I had any interest in being promoted or getting more responsibilities or becoming my boss lady. That I didn’t fantasize about quitting so regularly that sometimes I convinced myself that I had been relieved of my duties forever, only to have the cruel vibration of a phone alarm clock shake me from my sweet, ignorant, imaginative, surreal slumber.
But when the fleeting relief passed, the panic, fear, anger and sadness returned with a fiery vengeance, which resulted in a long, tiring bout of depression, which is a deep, dark hole I am still slowly crawling out of. Now that I’m a bit more settled into the freelance life (which is its own brand of non-stop horror) I can reflect back on my getting the boot those 400 days ago, and my reflection is typically That was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I realize that feeling such positivity about losing a full-time job is a massive privilege that I have. Not everyone in the world has such a luxury. They need steady income to support their families. Or the economy is brutal and they won’t be able to survive for even a short period of time being unemployed. Or job opportunities do not arrive as regularly where they live. There are so many reasons to only feel anguish upon being let go from a source of money and stability and benefits.
In my case, I do not have a family. I am a person in my (late) twenties, who only has to take care of moi (which is still a challenge), and I had been pursuing a career outside of this day profession for several years already; a career that I much preferred. This second life that I was leading on the side was the life that I actually desired. I wanted to be a comedian and a writer. It gave me purpose to get out of bed in the morning and energized my body and activated my brain. I was so passionate about words on page and jokes on stage that I was ready and willing and desperately wanting to take a giant pay cut. I mean, I’d opt for no pay cut if that was an option but it wasn’t. I knew that I wouldn’t be making near the same amount of cash and I would have to subsidize it with a part-time gig potentially, but I didn’t care. I was prepared for that risk. I was amped up about it. I was totally cool with throwing caution to the wind and jumping in headfirst.
That is, I was ready and willing and wanting after I was laid off. Before that epic change was thrust upon me, I wasn’t totally cool with part-time gigs. I wasn’t interested in doing that at all. Even though I’m very employable and I have tons of experience in several different industries. I could easily get hired as a barista or a server or a box office representative or an admin assistant and I knew this about myself. But something was standing in my way of quitting. There was a massive barrier that I simply could not surpass. My departure remained a fantasy for months upon months upon months because of this roadblock. I didn’t begin truly going after a life that I actually wanted to live until I was 29-years-old because of, wait for it¦ pride. Yup. I just felt that I was too good to go back to an hourly wage. I had an amazing job in television development at a highly respected production company. How could I potentially start making coffee for people again? How could I serve food once more? How could I sell tickets at a theatre like a teenager? How could I take a huge step back when I should be moving forward?
Past me didn’t realize at the time that quitting would have been progress; a step in the right direction, as opposed to a step in the same, fruitless, unrewarding, annoying circular direction. Continuing to work at that company wouldn’t have been advancement, it would have been static. I would have continued to punish my authentic self by resisting my creative urges. I needed to take a step back as defined by society and classism and capitalism in order to move forward down a path I genuinely wanted to walk. I needed to sacrifice my ego and start from the beginning, like a teenager, if I was ever going to throw caution to the wind and jump in headfirst. I needed to put my self-judgement and concept of success and sense of entitlement aside in order to truly delve into this new, exciting, scary, way less financially stable endeavour.
But, taking that leap is easier said than done. People have full-time jobs for a reason and that reason is reliability/steadiness/routine. These are incredibly tempting bonuses. Thus, I continued strolling in the fruitless, unrewarding direction for half a decade, until a step was taken for me. A decision was made without my involvement. I was forced to make a drastic change without any warning or discussion or thought. The plans I made came after I was asked to pack up my belongings and exit the premises. Although I felt lost and overwhelmed and unsure of what the future would hold, I knew one thing for certain: I was not going to get another full-time job that I hated.
I was going to work freelance and get part-time work and finally shut down the pride that was preventing me from establishing myself as a professional artist long ago. And yes, it is struggle. The numbers in my bank account are low. I am constantly on the hunt for opportunities. I don’t really ever feel at ease but this is the trade off. It’s a difficult existence and will remain difficult. But, it has gotten easier and will get even easier with time. Plus, the negatives are far outweighed by the giant positive that I’m a happier version of myself. The advice I can give to anyone in a similar position: take that leap and do it now. A half a decade is a long time to walk in unrewarding circles.