How losing my job let me become the person I always wanted to be
I’m sitting on a crowded train. I feel lucky to have a seat. The passengers standing in the aisles sway back and forth as they try to check their phones and keep their balance at the same time. They’re a little less fortunate than me but we’re all pretty miserable, wishing we were somewhere else. The train is hot and humid from so many bodies in such close proximity. I wipe away the condensation and look out the window. It’s the same view every day: a forest that spreads out in all directions, broken only by the train tracks and the hills rising in the distance. This is the only view I’ve ever seen. The only person I’ve ever been is person I am on this train. Who would I be if I could just hike through woods, climb to the hilltop and see the things which I know must be there but which I’ve never seen before? Once I start thinking about this question, I can’t think of anything else. I pull the cord above my head and the train stops at the next station. I get off. As the noise of the train fades in the distance, I’m alone on the platform with only the silence of the forest for companionship. The train is gone and I’ll never be able to get back on it, not the same train anyway. I wonder if I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life.
This is what it felt like when I lost my job and decided to write full time. It was a long process that evolved over several years. I knew I was unhappy in my profession but I had invested so much in my education and career. I was successful and had earned the respect of my colleagues. It was hard letting go. First I cut my hours to part-time, but I still felt like my life was what happened in the three days during the week that I wasn’t in the office. Then my company announced that it was relocating out of state. It wasn’t a surprise but it was a shock. And it was exactly what I needed.
If I hadn’t been forced out of my job, I would not have had the courage to leave it and try something new. I would have wasted years staring out of the train window, wondering who I could I be if I were anywhere else. When I finally got kicked off that train, I wasn’t ready for it despite how often I had daydreamed about it. I started my own consulting business which kept me occupied for a while but I knew it wouldn’t last forever. I thought about going back to school because that’s how I’ve reinvented myself in the past. I wasn’t accepted to any of the programs I applied to. It hurt at the time but now I know that would have been the wrong path for me. Going back to school would have just put me on a different train but with all of the same problems.
As my consulting work dried up, I started to panic. I reached out to a career coach for help. I was terrified that I was wasting time and money in doing so. My coach sent me the get-to-know-you questionnaire which I dutifully filled out. They weren’t the questions I thought she was going to ask. She asked me about my dreams and ambitions in a way which forced me to be honest with myself. She made me question what I really value and how closely I was living those values.
She didn’t ask me about my skills, education or career. I assumed the omission was a mistake and included a short bio along with the questionnaire. When I asked her about it she said it was no mistake. She said that who I was in the past didn’t determine who I would become in the future. That’s when I knew I’d made the right decision to start working with her.
I’m still at the beginning of this long, painful process of becoming a writer. Maybe it works out for me and maybe it doesn’t but I will never regret trying. I am no longer at the station, standing on the platform waiting for the next train to arrive. I am exploring the forest. I am seeing what is beyond the train tracks. If I decide to get back on the train again, I will take with me everything the forest has taught me and I’ll keep the wildness in my heart.