This is my Liberation Anniversary. Sixteen years ago today, I was laid off from my last “real” job. I’ve worked for myself ever since, which is longer than the time I’ve spent working for someone else.
Looking back on the time, I had very mixed feelings then. I was unhappy at work, so unhappy that a week or so earlier I found myself hoping that I’d have a miraculous, magical job offer in my e-mail (the first spark of the idea that became Enchanted, Inc.). I was actually just working part-time — 30 hours a week — and telecommuting, which had been an ideal situation for trying to fit in my writing, but after the bosses who made that possible left and after quite a bit of turmoil in the company, my job had become a lot less fun. My new supervisor seemed to see me as a threat, shutting me out of things. Her shutting me out of a major client meeting resulted in us losing that client, which was what led to me being laid off (that client then hired me as a freelancer). I was already planning to maybe take the plunge and quit my job to freelance, but later in the year when I’d had a chance to get things like insurance lined up. Since I knew we were losing that account, I already suspected what was going on and had already pulled all my files off my office laptop so I’d have work samples. I wasn’t surprised when I got the call to bring my computer and all company property to the office, that that didn’t ease the sting of the way they went about it.
But by about noon that day, I was suddenly unemployed. I’d already planned a reading binge that weekend, starting on Friday (my 30 hours a week were flexible, which meant if I worked a full day Monday through Thursday, I could take Friday off). I’d just started reading the Harry Potter series the previous fall, and had read the first three books, the ones I’d bought in England. The fourth book was only out in hardcover at the time, and my library hold for it had finally come in. I was planning to devote the weekend to reading it. I had the soundtrack for the first movie and appropriate snacks ready to go. But since I suddenly didn’t have to work, I moved my reading marathon up a day.
It proved nicely cathartic. The events toward the end of that book made me sob hysterically, and I think I needed a good cry. I’d been so numb up to that point, so determined to look on the bright side, but there were a lot of hurt feelings from the way I’d been treated. That book also helped with the ongoing development of that idea I’d had about a magical job. I so related to what was going on with Hermione in that book because it was much like my school experience, with the guys I hung out with as friends not even thinking of me as someone they might invite to a big dance because they didn’t think of me as a girl (unfortunately, I didn’t have the star jock from another school to swoop in and ask me). That made me think that I would love to read something like these books, but about adult life, with jobs, friends, etc.
I was putting off actually dealing with thinking about what to do next. I figured I’d get through the weekend and then think. But my former clients who’d heard the news started calling me the next day, offering some freelance work (one benefit of working from home: my clients all had my home number). I’d saved up a lot of money in preparing to someday make the leap, and I decided to wait before trying to get a new job to see if I could get by as a freelancer so I could focus on my fiction writing. That was a bit risky, as I was in the middle of a huge career lull as a novelist, but I had other forms of income and several years worth of living expenses saved up, so I thought it was worth a try.
I still haven’t gone in search of a new regular job. I’m not sure I could find one right now, given that it’s been so long. I wouldn’t want to go back to what I was doing, but I don’t know what else I could do. I guess that means I’d better keep making the writing work.