"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." -- Helen Keller
I'm living my worst nightmare. And I haven't felt this good in ages.
I've spent my life doing whatever it took to not be an unemployed single mother.
I've believed in the almighty paycheck so deeply and for so long that I can't remember not believing in it, and feeding this addiction has shaped my life. I've been a good corporate soldier and a trophy wife, and I've stayed too long in bad relationships. I've done whatever it takes to keep the income incoming.
I knew when I was 7 that I wanted to be a writer, but my parents told me that writing wouldn't provide steady, secure income. I discovered journalism, a practical trade for writers, and managed to make a decent living. Along the way I wrote a couple of books about wabi-sabi, the Japanese art of finding beauty in age and imperfection, which I found very satisfying. But I clung to the busy salaried world because my parents were right. Books aren't all that lucrative.
I divorced in 2007, walking away from my financial safety net and putting myself one paycheck from the edge. It seemed a safe enough move at the time. I was the editor-in-chief of a magazine about green homes, the hottest trend of the moment, and everyone had gobs of home equity with which to build or dream. My magazine was the company's fastest-growing title. Then it wasn't. And it didn't need a well-paid editor-in-chief. My big fat safety net became my big fat downfall.
I took a couple of jobs I wasn't suited for, hating myself a little more each day as I did whatever it took to keep the paychecks coming. I started waking before dawn in complete panic, dreading that the paychecks would end that day. Last week, they did.
Just after my ex-husband and I divorced, my then-12-year-old son told me that he felt happier and calmer than he'd ever felt. An insomniac, he had lain in bed at night listening to his father and me argue, knowing the end was near. Our divorce was his worst nightmare for many years, and he finally had the opportunity to see it realized. "It happened, and we're OK, so I don't have a biggest fear anymore," he told me. He has no problem sleeping these days.
Neither do I, although I'm still up before dawn a lot of days thinking about what to do next. For the first time in decades, no one owns my words, my image or my time. Without addiction's shackles, I can do or say anything I want. I'm realizing this isn't my worst nightmare after all. It's my wildest dream.
I've opened up the question of what I really want to do with my life, and I start each day with hope instead of dread. That 7-year-old who wanted to write books is stirring, and she's eying the fat 401k that the security junkie left behind. It's a terrible financial move, but 7-year-olds don't know much better.
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