Oldsters, The Writing Life

When Life Happens

Part of being a writer, especially if it’s not a full-time career, is making sure you have money coming in – in order to send it all right back out again to pay the bills. So what happens to the “Writing Life” when that all goes away?

After 14 years, I was laid off last week. My last day will be Feb. 14th (Happy V’day!). I will receive a minimal severance package as I turn in my entry badge, corporate card and make sure all my employee files are up-to-date and handed off accordingly.

With that being said, and with so many major decisions to make, I’ve decided to chronicle it all here – because this is my Writing Life, and as much as anything else – the novel I’m finishing, other story ideas I’m cultivating – how I go about finding the next chapter in my own life is something I believe is worth noting (especially when I look back after becoming a published author!).

Being a single mom and living the decent life that a $60,000/yr. salary afforded me was not a bad gig. It wasn’t always easy though; the passion I had for my job left a few years ago when they restructured for what would be the first of many times. Once my creative team was dismantled and moved out West, our team became a source of sales support and daily customer service. My creative spirit began to dry up. I remind myself of this when I start to get depressed about losing my job – I wasn’t happy, and I always had said if they started offering ‘packages’ again, I would take one. I think the hardest part is just not leaving on my own terms, and some of the decisions that would now affect the people I was responsible for.

The sweetest part so far has been my team telling me how upset they were about my leaving. The comment was thrown out there that they would not be able to work the day I told them, and that they would need grief counseling! What a clever line, and the writer in me immediately told them I would probably use that…

I digress.

Since I have to keep going in to work for the next 30 days, I am somewhat stuck in what I can do for my future. I know my immediate need is to reduce my bills as much as possible. With a teenage daughter, that is easier said than done. I do have to say though that my daughter is absolutely incredible – so flexible and able to roll with the changes, she’s always had that trait and I’ve told her how well it will serve her in the future.

My first two steps were to cut my cable and phone bills. Changing and reducing service in these two areas cut down my monthly bills by about $150. That doesn’t seem much, but when you find yourself in this situation, it actually helps.

I have a newer car, with a payment of about $500/mo. I will either need to see if I can get that payment reduced, or to my disappointment, I will have to get rid of it and trade down to something I can pay cash for. I’m not someone who needs to drive a new car; I just was happy to be driving something under warranty because I paid $9,000 cash for my last car and it turned out to have major issues that could not be resolved.

My other bills are basically just utilities and a couple of small credit cards – so those I will continue to pay. Of course, the largest bill and my biggest concern is my mortgage. I bought my house after leaving my daughter’s father, and we’ve been here for about 10 years. My biggest decision has to be whether I will stay here in town or leave and start fresh. Like many others, the value of my house is about half of what I owe. I’ve also learned that while they call it Homeowner’s Support, when you try to talk to someone about your situation, all they really care about is when you’re sending a check. I don’t blame them – I signed a contract and now it’s likely I won’t be able to fulfill it. With a spotty credit score from earlier mistakes, my living situation becomes my most dire situation to figure out. I have found errors on my credit report though, so while I’m in the ‘lame-duck’ situation of going to work every day, I will be writing the needed letters to hopefully get that straightened out. (I don’t really get the whole having to come in each day until my final exit date – my team has already started reporting to others, and the things I need to clean up can be done in a day. Also, I remember after letting people go myself, we were always glad to have them leave just in case they were the type of person who would spend their time sabotaging things.) But that is really just another corporate decision that has changed with the most recent merger so it is what it is.

So the major decision – stay in Tampa Bay or call it a day and start fresh. A huge decision and while I am used to making business decisions on a daily basis, this is much bigger. How does one really make such a choice? For me, in the old days, I would have no problem picking up and moving on if I was tired of where I was at. But having a child is another stratosphere, and their needs must always be considered. I prayed about it, I did pros and cons of each, and in the end I made the decision with my gut – literally!

Ever since I got the news, I would wake up each morning with that sick feeling. You know the one? Where something has happened in your life where you just can’t wait to be able to go to bed each night, and give yourself up to the release of sleep – but in the morning, it’s right there, the first thought you have. And that thought makes you sick. That’s how I felt when I woke up thinking I’d have to go look for another job in this town. After living here for more than 20 years, I feel like I’ve seen it all, been everywhere there is to go here. I can’t think of anywhere I would want to work and with no current romantic ties, there’s nothing really holding me here.

Once I started thinking differently – waking up and thinking about looking for a job, an apartment – all in a new city – my stomach and my head both calmed down. I actually could feel the difference. The anxiety and stress all but left me. That’s how I decided to leave. I had to take that as a sign of what I should do. We had talked about leaving several times before, but all of a sudden I felt like I had been given an opportunity. As unhappy as I was in my job, I had responsibilities, so the chances of me just leaving were nil. But once I didn’t have a choice in it and I weighed my options, I feel excited by the possibilities.

I realize I will probably make half of what I was making; and I will start all over at the bottom. I may not find the best place to live right away, but I also know I have the chance to do whatever I want to do. I know I have skills – I can write, I was a graphic artist,  I have a BA in Business Organization, I’ve managed apartment complexes and book stores…I am a valuable person.

I also can give more importance to my writing, and find a job that doesn’t suck every ounce of energy and creativity out of me to the point I have nothing left when I come home. I feel the difference happening inside of me, and it’s a good feeling. I know there may be days when I get scared, or start to doubt myself. I also know there are more days when I can be only thankful for this change – this push that will end up being the best thing that ever happened to me.

Jacksonville is looking to be the top contender for our move. Shooting for early June, once school is out. Can’t wait to go visit the city in March and see how my future looks from there! Oh, did I mention that my normal 400-500 words a day schedule has gone up immensely? Finishing up the second half of my novel, yesterday I wrote almost 4,000 words. The muse has been released – maybe she’s excited about the future too!

write on…

2 thoughts on “When Life Happens”

  1. Write through it and before you know it a novel will appear. That’s the beauty of it. At the end you will have something to call your own that doesn’t depend on a boss or salary or any of that stuff. It will be empowering. All the very best.


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