This was adapted from my newsletter, Annagrams, which you should sign up for, so we can send overly personal emails to each other and talk about books and writing and life and probably Bob Ross memes.
Like many people, I’m not terrific at change. And yet, each time it’s forced upon me, the wildest transformations occur. I’ve been laid off twice in three years, (thanks volatile media industry!) but, after the initial shock and ego blow faded, it was easy to see what a blessing in disguise losing those jobs turned out to be. Here are a few reasons why:
I love to travel, and it’s something I never get to do when working a 9-5 job, especially at alt-weeklies, because you basically never get any time off. (I worked Christmas Day one year!) The first time I lost my job, I took a two-month trip to India, which is something I had wanted to do for years. This time, I made it a priority to visit my family and friends, who had also been sorely neglected thanks to my restrictive work schedule (when my dad had cancer, I was only allowed to take two days off to go see him. Two days! I should have quit right then and there.), and I’m going to Bali for three weeks in September.
Traveling fills my soul to the brim, inspires me, and lets me experience the world in ways I never thought imaginable. And I could never take these trips or see the people I love within the confines of a full-time job.
I just started reading Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek ($1.99 on Kindle) and one thing that really resonated with me is his writing on the arbitrariness of the 8-hour day. Every office job in the world requires us to work the same hours? That’s weird. And if you’re anything like me, I spent A LOT of time filling those 8 hours with pointless crap (How many PR emails can I delete in an hour? How many pointless meetings can I sit through?), because I often got my real work done in far less time than that. Getting laid off forced me to look at my time and assess based on my actual priorities and workload. I still freak out sometimes, and I’m certainly not making as much money as I was, but I am so much less stressed, and have a schedule that allows me to rock climb, go on long, meandery walks, and have afternoon sex. It’s amazing. As Ferriss writes, “What you dois infinitely more important than how you do it.”
What’s actually important
Speaking of money, getting laid off forced me to cut out the things that weren’t actually important or fulfilling in my day-to-day life (like going out drinking all the time, and buying stupid shit on eBay while drunk, etc.) Downsizing a few of my ridiculous habits (except the occasional flying-across-the-world expense, obvs) made me see that what I wantedwasn’t necessarily what I needed. That’s easy to forget when you’re making decent money, especially because the more we make, the more we spend.
And, because I’m a free agent, I get to do the kind of writing that excites me—which is, lately, embarrassing sex stories from my youth—instead of writing to fill a quota or to make my boss happy.
Life surprises you. Sometimes a slap in the face turns out to be the motivation you need to start the life you’ve always wanted.
Other shit you may have missed
Being vulnerable is the only way to be seen (Lots of Brene Brown in this advice). How to handle that quarter-life crisis. I made an Amazon author page. I feel fancy. And I just found a thing I wrote about fisting as a 22 year old. Choice quote: “The vagina is like a Macbook Air—there’s so much more to it than high speed graphics and a multi-touch trackpad!”
Also, I interviewed this rock star currently on Warp Tour forUkulele magazine and at the very end of our talk, I said, “Keep on uking!” like an embarrassing sitcom dad.
Elsewhere on the web
The fabulous Mac McClelland is running a personal essay workshop and you should probably sign up. She played a big hand in my own book getting picked up and is generally amazing at everything. Chloe Caldwell on picking authors’ brains and the “secret” to writing and publishing. Walking makes us more creative. Gratitude is the best predictor of well-being. What Flannery O’Connor prayed for. A statistical breakdown of what Bob Ross actually painted (Hint: lots of happy little trees).