I remember when I lost my first job. It was due to downsizing. I was frightened, but at the same time I was relieved. I was a good executive assistant, but it wasn’t my passion. It was a job to pay bills and keep a roof over my head in NYC, and baby, that ain’t cheap. I was offered a one month severance package, which included salary for a month, and health care till the end of the year. Don’t get excited. It was December.
Once that was done, I could apply and receive an unemployment check to cover some expenses until I found a new job. I heard somewhere, I think it was from Oprah actually, that one should celebrate when something financially and potentially life decimating happens. I remember Oprah telling the story of some blonde lady who popped open a bottle of expensive champagne to celebrate the loss of her husband’s job, and several months later they got rich or something. I don’t really remember the exact details, but the general idea of that story stayed with me.
I decided to try it, and I sipped on sparkling apple cider.( I know, I know. It’s not champagne, but it’s still celebratory. I just lost my job, cut me some slack people. I’m being responsible here.)
I decided losing my job wasn’t a curse, but an opportunity to follow my heart and try freelancing as a music producer, writer, and photographer; three things I love, and damn it, I know I’m pretty good at. It was time for me to try to actually make a living at it.
I made the mistake of telling my sister, thinking I could confide in her and gain some moral support, but instead, she unleashed a world of judgment on me I didn’t expect. She said, “unemployment is like welfare.” Her point of view was that I should rush out and get another executive assistant job right away.
I was shocked. “What the fuck did she just say to me?”
We argued. I said, “No, unemployment is not like welfare. I’ve paid into this money. I’ve been working since I was 15. I’ve earned this.”
I felt strongly that I had earned the right to choose a different direction for my career. “I’m not married and I don’t have children. If I don’t do it now I may never do it, and I just couldn’t live with that.”
I choose to pause. I just knew this was my fork in the road. One of many to come.
Her judgment wasn’t a new thing. I just didn’t expect it from her. She’s my little sister. Not that she ever looked up to me in the way some little sisters look up to their big sisters. We have a more “Marsha vs Jan Brady” thing going on. (Yea, It’s on Hulu! Enjoy)
But it hurt to have her looking down on me and talking down to …me. She was still in college and had not yet stepped into the real world. The real world of working a corporate job designed to eat tiny bits of your soul until you die of boredom; also known as dying of “natural causes.”
Her judgmental points of view weren’t really even her own. It’s a running theme in my family. You are only valued if you have a job. Being a freelancer doesn’t count. Building your own creative business doesn’t count.
As the black sheep of the family, I took the path less traveled. I stumbled along the way, but I’m not sorry I chose for me. I watched my aunt, who gave everything as an assistant at Lehman Brothers, lose everything. If she hadn’t still lived in my grandparents’ fully paid for house, she would have been homeless. She was luckier than most. Looking at that, I knew, even if I did take the road paved – the “so called” safe and secure road, even if I did everything that my family thought I should do, I could still end up with next to nothing. There are no guarantees in life!
Now, I’m still the girl that wasted all her potential in their eyes.
Never mind that my rent is twice their mortgages and I pay it, and all my bills, on time.
Never mind that I have published articles on super legit media outlets.
Never mind that I have music production credits published in billboard magazine.
Never mind I’ve interviewed Moby, met and hugged Will Smith and Kanye West, been hand fed by top chefs like Tyler Florence and Elizabeth Faulkner.
Never mind that I’ve been interviewed on TV and featured in the NY Times about something I created.
Nothing I do matters. I don’t matter, because I don’t have an “actual job” with an office I go to daily.
When someone loses their job, they are met with sympathy, well wishes, prayers for blessings, and encouraging comments. When I’ve suffered a setback, I receive the “well you chose this life” attitude. No empathy whatsoever.
I’m not bitching. I’m merely pointing out the hypocrisy.
I used to try to get them to see a different point of view. I would remind them that companies like Amazon are built every day, by people like me who step out of the box and create something new, and then grow that into companies that then hire people like them, and how that is actually a good thing for our society. I ask them, “What about the Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerbergs, and Steve Jobs of the world?” They answer, “That’s them. That’s not you!”
My answer, “How the fuck would you know?” Steve Jobs was not “the Steve Jobs” in the minds of those who saw him sleeping illegally on his friends dorm sofa. I admire the fuck out of Steve Jobs, who lived his life on his own terms. And its a good thing too. He died so young, at just 56 years old. Steve did not die with his dreams still inside him. Neither will I.
I’ve learned to live with my family’s judgment, though it isn’t always easy to be an outsider in the one place you are supposed to feel safe and loved in the world. But I don’t regret my choices, because I wouldn’t trade my life for theirs.
I thrive off this sense of adventure and creativity. It is what makes me feel alive. It would be amazing if there weren’t people who really thought their way of life was the only way to live, but hey that’s life right? They have the freedom to judge and I have the freedom to not give a shit as I sip on my champagne that I can now afford… occasionally.
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Jessi Jordan is a dog lover, cat lover, cheeseburger & pizza lover, optimistic multi-potentialite originally from New York City spending her LA days as a Freelance Writer/Photographer/Content Creator waiting to hear from Adele that she is ready to duet with her. She is constantly trying to cure her obsession with run-on sentences.
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