I like to think of the story of my life in terms of chapters. There’s Childhood, which encompasses everything up to the start of 6th grade. Then there’s Junior High, then High School, then College, and then the Alliance Theatre (my one and only professional theatre job). Then came The Lost Years – that strange, meandering gap of time between 1990 and 1993, when I went to Paralegal school and did the only really serious partying of my life (and it wasn’t all that serious, not really). In the fall of 1993 began the IRT, Down Right, and Stage Door Players years when I was working full time during the day and doing theatre pretty much the rest of the time. Then in 1995 my husband-to-be entered the picture, and 1997 began the chapter I call The First Three Years of Marriage. 2000 – 2003 was Grad School, 2004 to mid-2005 was Recovering from Grad School and Looking for a Better Job, and in August of 2005 started the CoreNet chapter. There’s some good stuff in there, but in June of 2010 it came suddenly to a close. The next chapter was Trying Desperately to be Self-Employed, subchapters of which are called ATB Meeting Design, How We Work, and Moventus. You can’t say I didn’t try.
And now I’m here, at the end of one chapter and the beginning of yet another. I don’t know what this chapter will be called, since I don’t know what’s going to happen or how it will end, but for now I’m thinking of it as the Going Back to a Regular Job. I’m hoping that early subchapters will be titled Getting Out of Debt and Going on Vacation for the First Time in Four Years. Certainly the themes of Remembering How to Get Up in the Morning, The Daily Commute, and Lunch – Bring or Go Out? are ones I’ve been exploring my first week at the new job. Also important has been Remembering What I Used to Know about Commercial Real Estate. It’s coming back to me, I’m happy to report. I figured it would, I just didn’t know how long it would take.
But before I turn the page on the last chapter of my life and start writing the new one, I wanted to look back at this incredible time and be grateful for what it has done for me. Yes, it’s been hard, and yes, ultimately it wasn’t sustainable, but I wouldn’t trade one moment of it. Not even the really bad ones. So, here, in a nutshell, is what I’ve learned:
I’m More Resilient than I Had Ever Imagined
I won’t say I’m “tough” – that implies that I’m not breakable. I’m not fragile, but I am breakable, and I did break, into a thousand sharp pieces that took a very long time to glue back together. In the process some of those pieces didn’t fit anymore, so when I came back together I was different. More able to withstand shocks. More comfortable with uncertainty. More secure in my own skin. Less needful of others’ approval. Much more patient. There were days when I thought I would never see the sun again, but I did, and I know now for a fact that no matter how dark it is today, no matter how overwhelming your grief is today, no matter how hopeless you feel today, that one day it will be better. You just have to hold on.
I am an Artist
I’ve written about this more than once, so please reference my published works for more detail if you wish, but for the first time in my life I have fully embraced the truth that in my core I am a Writer and a Theatre Person. Years ago I turned my back on the theatre to do other things. I will never do that again. I will also never not write. I am a writer. It’s who I am.
The Money Always Comes
My biggest fear in life is not having enough money to pay the bills, and I have stared into the gaping black hole of that fear over and over and over again these past years. But here I sit, in my house and not in a cardboard box under a bridge, and I think sometimes that it’s a miracle how that can be true. But it is, and I know that for reasons that have very little to do with the rational world, the money I’ve needed has always been there when I needed it. Can’t explain it, don’t want to.
If it doesn’t Make You Burn with Passion, Don’t Quit Your Day Job
I hung on to the dream of self-employment for as long as I did for a lot of reasons. Some of them were good reasons, some not so good. But the truth is I wasn’t trying to forge that career path out of a burning desire to do that kind of work. And it showed, in the end. I tried, but I know it showed. So, my loving advice to you is this: don’t try to go it alone for anything less than the pursuit of your life’s work. It’s too hard if you don’t love it with everything you’ve got.
I am Content
I’ve been a restless person my whole life. I still strive to be better at the things that are important to me – my work, my writing, the theatre, my friendships, my marriage. But for the first time since childhood I am completely content with my life as it is right now. I am overwhelmed with blessings. I have a wonderful husband who I love and who loves me. I still have both of my parents and I treasure my relationships with them. My sister is my best friend. I have a theatre family that is a constant source of joy and belonging. I have a snug home, affectionate cats, and a car that runs. And now I have a job working with some super nice people doing work I enjoy for a wage that won’t make me rich but will damn sure keep me from feeling anxious about my finances. I go to bed at night and wake up in the morning feeling grateful, and humble, and so very aware of just how good I’ve got it. I have more than enough.
The title of this blog is “Every Day is Saturday: the Joy and Heartache of Working for Myself from Home”. Given that the title no longer reflects this chapter of my life, this will be my last regular post under this title. I may start a new one; I haven’t decided yet. We’ll see.
Thank you for taking this journey with me. I have been so moved by your support and encouragement over the years. You are one of the biggest reasons why I’ve been able to see myself as a writer. I am more grateful than I can ever say.
So, I wish all the best to all of you on your own journeys. I hope you find your passion, and your contentment.
Amanda Taylor Brooks
January 31, 2016