One year ago today, I retired. And after making such a big deal about my retirement, I feel like it is only appropriate that I share with you what I’ve been up to in this last year. But before I get into that, let’s revisit that last year before I tapped out of Corporate America.
That last year was just the worst. I was in a job where I don’t like what I’m doing. I don’t care about what I’m doing at all. But because I am who I am, I’m still working my ass off at it. And after putting an end to my most recent dysfunctional relationship, pretty much my whole life was this job I hate.
After work, I’d come home and briefly look at jobs before giving up and watching TV. In those days I was watching a lot of Chopped, the cooking competition on the Food Network. And in almost every episode, along side the classically and French trained chefs, there was one renegade. One stock broker or high-paid lawyer who had left the big bucks behind to follow their passion. And I’d think, “What’s my passion?”
But I would continually come up with nothing. You have to remember: Life had put my ass through the ringer. I was all but dead inside at this point and so no, I didn’t feel passionate or excited about much. I wondered how other people knew what to do with their lives. I thought about my cousin Roland. Since he was a little kid, he knew he wanted to be a fireman. And that kid did everything necessary and now he’s a fireman. His sister was the same way. She wanted to be a lawyer and now, tada, she’s a lawyer. So I thought, “Ok, fine. Maybe that’s your passion. Whatever you wanted to do when you were a little kid. Maybe that’s your thing.” So what did I want to be when I was a kid?
Oh, that’s right. I wanted to be on Kids Incorporated. That was my big life plan. I was going to be on that show and put on some other shows and maybe guess star on Fraggle Rock. Super. I’m 30,000 years old and my passion is to be on a show that’s been off the air since the 80s. Great. This exercise has been super helpful.
Meanwhile, at the job that I hate, they just kept throwing work at me. So now, on top of the other work that I was already spending 50 hours a week on, I’d been tasked with leading and facilitating the company’s wellness program. The program was, with all due respect, kind of a joke. It was a bare bones program that basically consisted of a website that told employees how to be healthier. And there was no money in the budget to do anything beyond that. The whole program was clearly a super low priority to senior leadership. Which was frustrating because, guys, if you don’t give a shit about this, then why are you making me work on it?
Yet, at the same time, I actually liked this work. For the first time in five years, I was working on something I found even remotely interesting and engaging. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity, if only to give myself a reason to keep coming to work each morning. Being the creative problem solver that I am, I looked for ways to put on some wellness events despite that lack of funding.
That’s when I met a woman named Melissa Toler. Melissa is a life coach who’s message centers around the question, “If you weren’t so focused on losing weight, what else would you be doing with your life?” A friend had suggested I reach out to her and see if she would be willing to come speak to our employees on the subject of wellness. I sent her an email and invited her to lunch, where I would hopefully sweet talk her into doing me a favor that I couldn’t pay her for.
Over lunch, Melissa asked me about my job. And in the most professional way possible, I told her that I hated it. Naturally, she asked me what I’d rather be doing. And naturally, I told her I had no idea. The conversation flowed from there and over the course of our meal, I must have mentioned three different things I’d like to do. All of them revolving around me mentoring and helping young girls so that they wouldn’t end up like me.
“Why wouldn’t you want girls to be like you? I think you are someone girls should want to be like,” Melissa pressed.
“No, no, no. I don’t mean it quite like that. I mean, I want to help girls to not wind up as unhappy as I am.”
Melissa got real with me. “You sat here and told me you don’t know what you want to do. But you just said about three things you’d like to do. I think you do know what you want to do. You just need to give yourself the permission to want what you want and then go do that.”
Melissa gave me some great advice during that one-hour lunch, including the advice to go read The Alchemist (Fun Fact: That is another book I had started reading that book in 2007 and never finished). I left that conversation feeling inspired and motivated. That night, I dusted off my copy of The Alchemist and was ready to change my life. But you know how it goes: a week went by, regular life goes on, I put the book down and was back to my miserable ways.
A few weeks later, Melissa sent me an email. She was hosting a day-long workshop and was wondering if I’d be interested in attending. And thought to myself, you know what? I felt really motivated after talking to her that day. And I want to support this woman and her business because she helped me out. Not to mention, I’d put on some depression pounds because I’d been eating my feelings. So if this was going to help with any of that, all the more, sign me up.
So one Saturday morning in September of that year, I walked into that workshop not knowing what to expect. It was Melissa, myself, and four other woman. We started with introductions, explained what was going on in our lives beyond our weight issues, and then Melissa handed out notebooks for us to use during the day. Next, Melissa talked a little bit about what we were going to do that day. Essentially, we were going to get down to the knitty gritty of what we wanted and what we need to do to get it.
The very first exercise we did was to describe the perfect day; the perfect, all is right with the world, all of your dreams have come true, perfect kind of day. After about twenty minutes of writing, we went around the room sharing our idea of a perfect day. One woman’s perfect day was a relaxed day with her family in the south of France. Another woman’s perfect day was a day in the life after all of her hard work paid off and her business had boomed and she was living the kind of life she’d always wanted. Then it was my turn.
Listen, if you ask me to describe my perfect day, I’m going all in. My perfect day started with waking up in a fancy hotel suite with a bunch of my friends. We spend a lazy morning over brunch with a little light day-drinking and conversation. Eventually we get around to some pampering: hair, nails, makeup. Then we get all dressed up because we are going out…to the Oscars, where I win not one but two Oscars: one for Best Supporting Actress and one for Best Original Screenplay.
After I finished explaining my perfect day, the room was quiet. The other women were a little confused. Understandably so. I just got done telling them, in detail, about how I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And then I follow it up with revealing my idea of a perfect day is one where I clean up at the Oscars.
“Wait. So you want to be an actress?” they asked.
And the short answer? Yes.
Now for the long answer:
So yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing this last year: taking the bus up to New York every week for acting classes, attending writing networking events, writing scripts and giving them to anyone willing to read them, writing with like-minded friends, doing background work so I can learn about how shows are made (remind me to tell you about that time I was on the Blacklist), auditioning for independent and student films, pretty much loosing my mind.
I’ve also spent this last year talking myself in and out of this crazy-faced idea. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laid awake in my bed at 4 o’clock in the morning, wondering if I’m actually just an insane unemployed woman who needs professional help. Although, if I have lost my mind, then ignorance is bliss because I’m happier than I’ve been in a really long time.
So here we go. This is what I’m doing. I’m all in. Nervous Girl goes to Hollywood. This ought to be good.