Becoming a Free Woman in 2013.
I walked out of the movie theater with what felt like a dumbbell in my stomach, thinking of the people who had fought and died over the right to be free. To put an end to slavery, so that future generations would never again be forced to work jobs they didn’t choose, or to work for people who owned them.
I thought about my current job, and how much I hated it. I was underpaid. I wasn’t allowed to think for myself. My boss was a powerful man, and I was a young woman who let him push me around and treat me with disrespect.
I didn’t like what I did, or who I did it for. It was keeping me from my true potential. And with that, I was barely making a living. Despite all of this, I was terrified to quit. How would I support myself without this miserable job? And so I stayed. Week after week. Month after month.
There was no strong-arm keeping me there. No threat of being chased down and killed if I left my job. The only “master” forcing me to stay was myself.
What Abe Lincoln (with the help of Daniel Day Lewis) reminded me was that, not only was it completely legal for me to quit my job, but people had given their lives to make it this way.
I’m no history buff. I don’t remember what year the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, or who signed it. But what I do remember—and will probably never forget—is how watching that movie awoke something in my soul.
I was suddenly aware of my own participation in prolonging a system that our ancestors had deemed unjust, and fought to stop. By staying at a job out of fear—and by giving my power away to a man I perceived to be above me, I was enslaving myself.
What would my forefathers and foremothers think of me? What was I doing working a job that made me feel like crap? What was I doing working for someone who didn’t respect me?
I realized that, in addition to being my right as a citizen, it was also my obligation as a conscious woman to claim my own freedom. Because no one was going to do it for me. So I cried, and I struggled, and I tried to rationalize my way out of what I now knew I had to do. But it didn’t work. And so I quit my job.
In February of 2013, I became a free woman. I began working for myself; investing my time, energy and creativity into my own business.
I have not made a lot of money. But rather than barely making a living at a job I hate, I am making a living doing something I love! I am building my life and my career. I am learning how to run a business. I let my fear fuel me; propel me forward into uncharted territory.
I own everything I’ve created in the past 10 months. I make my own schedule and answer my own phone. No one is in charge of me but me.
I have deep gratitude for those who died so that future generations could be free. We are those future generations! So let us remember what our ancestors fought for, and let us not enslave ourselves in our fears.
Whether you need to go watch Lincoln, as I did, or simply close your eyes and reflect for a moment, ask yourself if there is something in your life that you are a slave to.
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed on New Year’s Day in 1863. That’s 151 years ago this New Year’s. Why not celebrate by letting 2014 be the year you claim your freedom?
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Editor: Catherine Monkman