And Then There Was Change

Photos 319I was informed of my layoff yesterday.

Wednesday will be my last day, until enough work returns, or the company is forced into harder decisions.

Kudos to the bosses, we’ve had an inkling this might happen. I’ve been grilling them weekly to see if changes were happening, but there has been no news, which was bad news. But what can you do?

Unlike any time in the past, I used this foreknowledge to spend a little money investing in my writing — ink cartridges and a new cabinet so my desk is now 3 inches lower — a long story, but long story short is, I was getting migraines from writing/working, and hope it’s no longer the case.

Normally, something big like a layoff  comes down, I panic and tell myself I can’t justify that spending, and I operate from a place of fear. This time, I just came up with a cheaper bare-minimum plan, and told myself it’s not optional — it’s about investing in myself.

Migraines don’t make good writing. And I’m too much a “writer” to not be good about it.

Now that I have some time to write in between the requisite job-searching, it’s obviously a priority.

I’m hoping I get called back to my job in a couple months or even by the fall. I know it’ll be tight and hard living, but I’ve been through this before and impressed the shit out of myself, so maybe it’s time to prove we only get better as we age.

There’s a difference now from back then — I now recognize I’ve suffered from mental illness, and live with difficult ADHD. I can, and do, learn new jobs, but I need to find the right fit for me, not just any job. I need the right kind of employers, work environment, and schedule.

Knowing this means I’m empowered, not a victim, by those challenges. I’m better off than most people; I know what I really need for success.

I’d rather return to my company, who’ve become like family over the years, who I trust and can approach about nearly anything, and who place the same value on life-over-work as all the employees do. Our schedules have been flexible, they accommodate the little things that pop up and would be better done with a shorter workday or a day off.

I’ve never made much. I’ve made $18 an hour while my friends have all being going on to bigger, better, amazing things, and I’ve been scraping by.

But in the time I’ve scraped by, with my work allowing me to flex my days and hours on a weekly basis, I’ve managed to:

  • overcome years of intensive rehab after almost dying a couple times
  • fought (and I think overcome) once-frequent forays into dark depressions and other mental illnesses
  • gotten through a number of tight layoffs with nearly no help from anyone despite my challenges and lack of savings
  • not only beat but beat into a bloody goddamned stump my writer’s block
  • rediscovered myself
  • gained 40, then lost 70 pounds
  • conquered many fears
  • discovered my inner athlete
  • and done a million other things, while never making the money to have others help me accomplish it easier

Scraping by the last three years let me improve myself more than most people accomplish in a decade or more, and almost all done by myself.

I have constantly been trying to heal or get over something — be it a physical or mental issue — and my work, my pseudo-family, has pretty much been there and made it possible, as possible as they could and still make an income, through it all.

Knowing myself now, in my post-head-injury, post-depression, post-unhappy life, I KNOW I can’t just work for anyone. I know I can’t just waltz into any company and “make the best” of it. It will tear me to shreds. Mental illness is a real issue; me working in a negative, high-stress job with evil people is like making someone with lung cancer work in a restaurant that has smoking. You can TRY, but what’s the fucking point? It’s got “FAILURE” and “CATASTROPHE” stamped all over it.

Like when I worked at a place for 6 months in during 2007, with The Dragon Lady and her art school, ruling by terror and venom, poisoning me with her negative depression on a daily basis from seven feet away with no wall. Oh, lord. Never, ever again.

I spiralled close to suicidal working under her. I gained 20 pounds in 6 months. Then I quit, went back to my old film job, and they gave me a non-judgmental, supportive, flexible environment in which I’ve made the most progress of my life, changing EVERYTHING with no trainers, no financial advisers, no real therapists — just a supportive workplace that let me make myself a priority.

I’ve changed me, inside and out. I’ve so much more empathy and enthusiasm for life and others now. I’m such a better person. I’m not gonna die young — not from my health, anyhow. And work played a big part in giving me the control to make that happen.

And now the future of the company that gave me such a fantastic environment that encouraged my change & growth is in danger. It breaks my heart.

All because of stupid government and bad tax policies. What a tragedy.

None of us employees wants to work for other people, the bosses don’t want to work with new people. None of us is in it for the money, not even my bosses. All of us live lives of sacrifice and budgeting because the job lets us put our art, creativity, and private lives first. We don’t make a lot but we’re under no illusions what kind of people we work for, and that’s why we’ve stayed.

But the government doesn’t want us to stay anymore. They won’t match film industry tax credits from other provinces, and now some asshole in Ontario or California is doing my job, since domestic film production is down by 40%, and 50% of the workforce has been laid off.

So here I am. Four days left.

And a book to write.

And a newly-adjusted desk to write it at.

Looks like I know what I’m doing.

Unlike most people, when I write this book, it won’t be gathering dust. I won’t be sitting around micro-panicking over every word. There’ll come a time when I’m Ready.

I have NOTHING to lose from publication. NOTHING. Anyone I stand the chance of pissing off in my book has probably already been pissed off at me and either knows that’s part of knowing me and my unflinching-but-always-trustworthy honesty, OR they’re already not talking to me and there’s no skin off my ass if I maintain the status quo.

I’m a WRITER. Through and through. My friends know this. Anything’s on the table for me, but they also trust me to toe a line. We’re good.

More importantly than the trust I have for my friends? I write about all my failings and weaknesses and dreams and thoughts all the time. It’s not like I have to dig that much deeper. If I’ve already told you some of the embarrassing bad things in my life, then why not just keep that ball rolling?

So, the writing? Not too stressed about that part. Organizing? Ooh, yes, trickier. Some of the get-an-agent-get-a-deal stuff scares the shit out of me, I admit it.

But you know what? I’m at that point where languishing in obscurity scares me more.

I deserve better than this. I owe it to myself. I’m tough enough to take it, too.

I have nothing to lose — except my home. But I’ll figure it out, I’ll get by. Times like these, having no savings, living in one of the world’s most expensive cities, yeah, things get daunting.

It’s uncertainty. My job might be back in 6 weeks, I don’t know. I could spend the whole year writing and looking for a job that fits me, I don’t know.

Where will I be in 6 weeks? 6 months? Where’s life taking me?

I don’t know.

And there’s not a lot I can do about it.

Except adjust my desk and get to work. That’s one area I know I can make a difference in, accomplish something in. That’s one area I know. That’s a start.

_________________

SO, HEY:
If you know of any agents for memoirs, let me know — this process entirely daunts me, but I think my work is worthy. If you have an “in” for publishing and think you can help, I’m all ears. Drop me a line, scribecalledsteff (at) gmail (dot) com.

I’m working until next Wednesday, with paperwork to deal with for employment insurance next Thursday, but after that, I’ll be all over emails, etcetera. The book is in full-on “go” mode, and I hope to have three chapters done by early June, with a workable outline for pitches. So, please, spread the word with serious publishing contacts that there’s a little ball of awesome right over here that’s looking to explode onto the scene. Thanks!

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