Freedom-versary = Self-Actualization

Hello readers! Life has really gotten in my way when it comes to writing for fun in the last couple years. We all remember the dumpster fire known as 2020, when the fun amazing life I was finally enjoying ground to a swift halt and the world became one big hellscape. 2021 wasn’t any better as I began to resemble an actual agoraphobic person, followed by the recurrence of my dad’s cancer and his subsequent death in September. Let’s just say I haven’t been as inspired to write…until today.

Why today? Well, thanks to my Facebook memories, I discovered that today is exactly the day 4 years ago when I took control of my career and stopped letting others destroy my mental health for their own profit. As of today, I have been free from corporate America and self-employed for 4 years!

I can still remember that day like it was yesterday. I was 33, newly married and had just adopted my second pup, Crackers. Like most newlyweds, my husband and I wanted to spend as much time together as possible in the evenings and on weekends. We hadn’t lived together before marriage, so that was novel too. That morning began like any other. I got up way too early, randomly picked an outfit, tried to make myself look semi-awake and set out in the terrible Raleigh traffic to go to work, the dread settling in the pit of my stomach like a bowling ball.

I’ve always been intuitive, and I had a feeling something was up in the Universe that day. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. When I settled into my desk and checked my email, I got my answer. I had already been getting the feeling that this job was not a good fit for me as the expectations, hours and culture were vastly the opposite of what was advertised. I was the only employee who was married, and I had been getting a lot of flack for prioritizing my family time rather than working overtime every single night and weekend. I had a feeling this was the wrong setting for me, but I didn’t know that would end up being my last day.

Without going into great detail, let’s just say that I received several attacking emails that I deemed verbally abusive, which caused my PTSD (from being bullied and abused previously) to kick in against my will. I knew I was on a downward spiral towards a full-blown panic attack, so I went for a walk and called my husband from my car as I sobbed uncontrollably. He encouraged me to try to talk to the person who sent the emails and work it out, so I did. That was a big mistake. This person just made it worse and there I went to panic attack town, shaking and sobbing in my car as I struggled to breathe. I knew what I had to do. I said “This isn’t a good fit for me. I have to go.” as I gasped for air and tried to will myself to stop shaking.

After I sat in my car for awhile and calmed down enough to drive, it hit me that I had just quit my job with no plan. I don’t normally do things like that, but the panic attack was a wakeup call that I needed to prioritize my mental health over someone else’s pocketbook. I went back into that office for the last time to grab my belongings, left my key, and drove away with my makeup running all over my face, still taking deep breaths to get past the trauma of the panic attack.

I began updating my resume and applying for new jobs immediately, but life had something better in store for me than another crappy job where I was required to be someone’s punching bag. Within a week, I was offered a temporary contract gig working from home, so I decided to give it a shot. I had always wanted to be self-employed, but I thought that would require a lot of money to start a business with employees of my own. I hadn’t considered being an independent contractor – a one-woman business!

I fell in love with self-employment and working from home immediately, and the feeling apparently was mutual, because the company that contracted me ended up loving my work so much that they’re still my client to this day (along with a few others I’ve gained through the years). As an independent contractor, I’m in charge of when I work, where I work, and how I work. I invent my own processes, set my own hours, and nobody micromanages me. As long as I send my clients high quality deliverables in a timely manner, everybody’s happy. By adding new clients in various industries, I’ve also been able to expand upon my knowledge and learn new skills and technologies. When I began this journey, I was just looking for a paycheck from someone who would treat me like an actual human being, but what I found was, in fact, self-actualization!

Looking back now, it’s hard to believe it’s been 4 years since I’ve been anybody’s proverbial punching bag. It’s been 4 years since I’ve known the terrifying feeling of having a panic attack. I’m free, I’m happy, and I’m never going back to that dark place again for any amount of money or “benefits.” Self-actualization is the most important benefit I need now.

Happy Freedom-versary to me! This will forever be a reminder to me from myself that I deserve to be treated well. I’m grateful that my current boss understands the importance of my mental health and my family, even though I had to become my own boss in order to make that happen.

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