October 13, 2009
Funny, that number 13.
Some places skip the designation on doors and elevators to keep the fear associated with the superstitious digits at bay. My unlucky run-in with the number has an entire day associated with it.
A life I had known was taken from me.
I opened the door to find everyone sitting in silence. Their faces, once vibrant with color, now showed more pallor and panic.
They knew. I knew. It was time.
I looked over at him. I heard his breath draw in – still strong, steady, succinct – delivering the last words I would ever hear him say: “ . . . the economy . . . and as a result, we’re laying you off.”
October 13, 2009. Something in my little heart died. I was no longer a creative writer at an ad agency.
Just like that, the world became heavy.
Boxes were made heavy as I filled nearly four years of brainstorming ideas and taglines into them. My words and concepts were now suffocating inside musty cardboard, smothered by salt packs, staplers and lavender hand lotion.
Thoughts were heavy: “I’ll drive across the country tomorrow . . . I’m driving to the unemployment office now . . . I’m afraid to drive for fear of an accident and dealing with insurance costs . . . I’m driving myself crazy . . .” The barrage of mixed emotions left me feeling fully menopausal at 35.
Even the air felt heavy as a few others received the same news after me that day, October 13, 2009.
Suddenly, I felt undefined. After all, “what do you do for a living?” is often the first thing people ask. What you “do” conveys personality, ambition, ability. Heck, it even appears first in an obituary, coming even before the list of beloved family members left behind.
However, in heaviness comes hope. Prior to leaving, I looked at my office door. Two months before, I taped a picture of a tiny dog mustering up a bold expression, the words “BE BRAVE” alongside. I did not cry. Instead, someone got my scented candle, another inherited my plant. With that, I left on my journey to “be brave.”
Blueberry Muffins & Gary Wright
I once wrote something about the company saying, “if you’re here just for a paycheck, then it’s time for a reality check.”
We worked hard and played hard. In between early morning work arrivals and last-minute ad campaign frenzies were made up stories of the semi-fictitious Jean, her love of blueberry muffins and her passion for the Greek singer Yanni.
There were unique nicknames, unique knickknacks and indoor badminton where Gary Wright’s Dream Weaver served as the game’s unusual soundtrack.
Oh sure, like anyplace else, it had its moments. There was my five second “well then you write the damn copy!” outburst, (I proudly say, the only one I had there). The ever-present ebb and flow of egos and eccentricity that we all had – all of those idiosyncrasies – made it refreshingly real, allowing me to be . . . and to be me.
Sigh. But that was then. As of this writing, it is now November 13 (a Friday, no less), exactly one month later.
Reality is, one is not defined by a name on a business card. There’s a ton of options out there. It’s time I explore them. Time to lighten up and “BE BRAVE.”
The world sits before me. Just like those half unpacked boxes. And somehow, neither feels so heavy anymore.
Jennifer Lilley, 35, is ready for the adventure to begin. She lives in Freehold, NJ.