My Most Fabulous Year

In mid-December 2003, for the first time in 20+ years of working full time, I decided to quit my job – with no notice! The employer had bounced my last two paychecks so I didn’t feel they deserved the courtesy of a week or two weeks’ notice. I had taken off sick on the Friday we were to receive a paycheck. I figured IF we received a check at all, it’d still be there Monday when I returned. If not, I didn’t want to waste a day there, wondering and hearing lies about when we might get paid. Before the end of the day Friday, I checked in with another employee to see if they got their paychecks. They had, so mine would indeed be there Monday. But by Monday, I had decided I didn’t want to work there anymore with all the uncertainty about getting paid. So by the time I went to work, I had already mapped out my plan: I would go in early, pack up all my personal belongings, retrieve my paycheck and insist on leaving immediately to cash it at the local bank. Then, I simply would not return to the job. And I did exactly that! Once I was home, I called back and told them I would not be returning; that I was resigning. I sent a confirming email to my boss. And that was that. I felt so FREE! I had taken a stand, stood up for myself, and let my employer know that I would NOT be taken advantage of. To further enforce my stand and my message to them, I spent a month or two writing letters and emails to various government and financial agencies reporting the employer’s underhanded and possibly illegal financial activities. And I received confirmation from them they the matter was being investigated!

Quitting that job gave me the freedom to engage in quite a few interesting activities that I would have missed if I’d been working full time. I had already been volunteering on weekends at the local art museum as a Greeter/Facilitator/Event Usher. When my weekdays became free, I was able to attend several more lectures and soirees and member events – for FREE! How fascinating it was to see and hear Bill Kurtis moderating a discussion between Frank Geary and his colleagues about their architectural contributions to Millennium Park. How educational it was to see and hear the artists who conceived the “Bean” sculpture, the Crown Fountain/Reflecting pool, and the wonderful “Gardens of Light and Dark”.

Another adventure that I was now free to pursue began in February. I became a volunteer for the “John Kerry for President” campaign. That experience led to: attending his first Chicago fundraising dinner with all the city’s rich movers and shakers, meeting and shaking hands with former president Bill Clinton at yet another high-priced fundraising event, and being a member of the motorcade that escorted VP hopeful John Edwards from the airport to his hotel in the city and back to the airport the next day. Not only that, I got to meet and shake hands with Mr. Edwards and have my photo taken with him! (Perhaps I would have been famous if he and Kerry and won the election!)

Shortly after I started as a Kerry volunteer, I had the opportunity to be a background extra for a movie being shot at the Millennium Park ice rink. So there I was for two days on the set with Nicholas Cage – and his two stand-ins! I even got to chat with one of them! The movie is scheduled for release in Spring 2005. I can hardly wait to see if I can catch a glimpse of myself on the silver screen!

As my employment hiatus continued into the summer of 2004, I came across a couple of medical studies that provided 1) a couple hundred dollars each and 2) free medical care! One of the paying studies involved smoking (one of my vices)! They actually paid me to come to their facility to smoke once every four weeks for a month! I thought: is this a great country or WHAT?!?!? They’re paying me to do something I already do! As for the free medical care, talk about a win-win situation! One was for high blood pressure. The other was for osteo-arthritis. I got a thorough screening for both. I figured if I qualify (by having a health problem in either of these areas) they would pay me for participating AND I would receive medication and/or therapy for the condition. If I didn’t qualify, at least I’d know I was in good shape!

In late July, I was hired (by a colleague of a friend) for a part-time job at the City Colleges of Chicago. The woman I worked for is a fabulous woman in her own right. Unfortunately, the funding for my position ran out in December. But this woman is still working diligently to help me find another position within or outside of the City Colleges.

In September, I was hired for an additional part-time job that will go down in my “herstory” as the most FUN job I ever had! I was hired as a Segway Tour guide. I learned to master the skill of riding the thing and to teach others to ride it, before taking them on a riding tour along our magnificent lakefront! As a life-long Chicagoan, I never get tired of bragging and boasting about the city and its treasures. And what a fabulous way for me to do it – riding one of the coolest forms of transportation on the planet! Even after the season ended due to cold weather, I got to “perform” on a Segway at two high-brow charity events – events that I could not afford to attend even if I had a full-time job and paycheck!

Though I have now been unemployed for just over 2 months, I continue to pursue other adventures in self-fulfillment. The freedom from full-time employment has allowed me to explore my love of creative writing. I was also inspired by winning a contest in December for an essay I wrote about high-rise living. The prize was $500 dollars! Coincidentally, I was notified of this windfall just a few days after my job at City Colleges was terminated, and only a few weeks before Christmas!

My most recent adventure is another volunteer job – audio recording of textbooks for the blind and dyslexic. I just started the training by listening to a recording of a geography/history textbook. I can already see that this job will be quite an educational experience for me (learning/relearning subjects from my forgotten high school and college days), learning how to make digital recordings, learning how to accurately describe a painting or a map or a chart, for someone who cannot see.

Though quitting my job without notice (and without another job to go to) was a hard decision to make, I have had absolutely no regrets. It was a very empowering experience
that has opened doors to adventures that I would never have had, and to others that are just beginning!

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