- Posted March 21, 2014 by
Aliso Viejo, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
The Price of Fear
While on holiday in London, I bumped into an acquaintance - I’ll call her Sheila, who is a friend of my former neighbour—Christine, not her real name—whom I had not seen for years before I immigrated to the United States from England. She was all smiles as she approached me with outstretched arms.
“Oh my God! I was asking Christine for you the other day. For some reason I had a mental block and couldn’t remember your name. I said, you know, the rich one with the fancy house and flash car...” she gushed, in, I am sure, one breath.
If my hands were not laden with shopping, I would have gasped and covered my mouth. She could not have been referring to me. I looked around in confusion, as I certainly did not fit the description she portrayed.
Rich, was in my life, yes. I had two, young, beautiful children, family, friends, acquaintances and even a cat, all who loved me – my life was abundant with the richness of love. But the rich that Sheila made inference to seemed to be of the monetary kind and it was not yet in my life back then.
Those years, back then, exploded into my consciousness. Yes, by definition, I owned a house that I was hanging onto by barely paying the interest that was a hefty liability – fancy! I guess that is open to interpretation. Flash car! It was a second-hand Ford Escort GTI for god sakes, with a dent at the front side that I could not afford to fix, and it wasn’t even a soft top.
In addition, there were the usual shopping, utility and credit card bills I was juggling to pay.
Furthermore, I had recently severed a long-term relationship. In the blink of an eye, I was left to run a household—that started with two salaries—on a school grant as I was at university. I also became a single parent. Not long after, I, thankfully, graduated.
At that time, rich was a distant dream and financial fear was my enemy.
I never did like being held hostage by 9 to 5 jobs, so armed with my degree I felt I could conquer the world. Instead of rejoining corporate England, I sought freelance work as a writer and researcher. I do believe I spent more time running after clients for payment; lack of money was a constant as I continued to juggle.
One day, I went to collect a cheque for a research job I did for a client. He had been fobbing me off for months and as I was down to... well, zero pounds, only to be told that he was out of the country and would not return for another two weeks.
I stood staring down the barrel of reality for a while then remembered walking back to my car with a sinking feeling thinking, I have no money in my bank account. My credit cards are exhausted. I don’t even have enough for my kid’s school dinner and I have no one to turn to. Everyone I knew was struggling financially, too.
It is noteworthy to say here, that I ran as I heaved from a fear that rose from the pit of my stomach and before I knew it, exercised projectile vomiting. I was clearly unpracticed, as I didn’t get anywhere close to the receptacle I aimed for.
It took me over an hour to get home because of the rush hour traffic. I peered at the slowly changing traffic lights through clouds of condensing exhausts, and the intermittent swish-swish of wipers.
The house that was my home was dimly lit and the passage light was on. The weather was cold. The scattered yellow and reddish-brown, slippery mulch of fallen leaves that littered the pavement and the entrance to my door was not an unusual sight. It was the middle of the autumn season.
I paused and looked at the house. I had fallen in love with its Tudor style features the first time I saw it. For a moment, I felt like a stranger standing before the concrete structure. I may well have to sell it, I thought, except, it couldn’t be sold, where would my children and I go?
I took a deep breath and opened the door. The softly, lit warmth of the interior walls was a welcome contrast to the darkness I felt inside my being. I went to my room, grateful for the solitude. I needed time to comprehend the situation I was in and most importantly, find a way out of my financial rut.
That night, I couldn’t sleep, for in my abstraction of day-to-day living, I had not looked beyond my wages to save for a rainy day and it was downright pouring at that moment.
I wrote a list of my debts. I then drew a circle and used arrows to note sources that I could contact to borrow some funds, including the bank; I already had a loan with them. The chart looked like spiders elongated tentacles. After mulling over it for a while, I realized that no financial institution would give me a loan without proof of fulltime employment.
I wanted to heave again; instead, I drew a line from one end of the paper to the other and wrote, ‘never again’. I made a pact with myself that night that I was never going to be in a position where I did not have money-- ever again.
A few months later, I was in the US on a 3-month contract working as a recruiter, a role that was new to me and held little interest. It was the longest time I would be away from my home and my children. The money was rubbish, and so too was my bipolar boss, but I wasn’t getting anywhere with freelance work on my home turf. I had to look for new opportunities.
Career wise, my priority was to become a fulltime fiction writer. The problem was that it would not bring in a fixed income.
I returned to London after my recruiting stint and over the following years, I took anything that would put food in my children’s mouth. I freelanced in the writing arena and commenced writing a novel that I put on ice every so often due to work and family commitments.
Out-of-the blue, the publisher for a sports journal offered me the position of editor. Shortly after, I got the opportunity to move to the US and decided to go. Some of my friends and family were thrilled for me; others couldn’t believe I was giving up a good job and my home to go to a foreign country without any support mechanism.
I had to do it. A good job wasn’t enough. I had bigger plans and I didn’t feel they would materialize in England. So I sold my home and used some of the equity to pay off my debts then immigrated to California, where I continued to work as an editor. Within two months of my arrival, the publication folded owing me thousands of pounds in wages.
De je vue - I didn’t heave this time. I was winded. I felt as if a boxer had jabbed me in my solar plexus. There I was, an alien, in an alien country without a job and little money. I had to roll with the punches, to coin an overused cliché. I placated myself that my once-again-unemployment status was simply an intermission.
I defrosted my manuscript and indulged in a literary workout while I sought employment. I devoured any book I could find relative to writing, went to creative workshops and took any free courses on and off line.
I was ahead of the game in comparison to many novice writers whom I encountered and soon I was asked to copyedit people’s manuscripts. Before I knew it, I was also coaching on the mechanics of writing. I thoroughly enjoyed helping people in our shared passion--and they paid me. I could turn this into a business I thought.
By happen stance, I was invited to go into a joint-partnership in the recruiting field with a friend—he liked my savvy go-getter attitude, he told me. First, I didn’t enjoy my recruiting experience years back and second, I had no money to invest in a business venture.
However, I was in the land of opportunity and an opportunity presented itself. I did some research and found that recruiting was actually big business. I knew my strengths and talents. I knew if I put my mind to it, I could make a financial success of the company. I knew I could build it to the point , whereby, I could afford to put it in the hands of someone else that would allow me to follow my calling—writing.
My friend-turn-business partner agreed to finance the project and my investment was sweat! I would start up the company from the bottom up with the shares split sixty/forty.
I signed on the dotted line and enjoyed my new position initially because I wrote all the copy for the web site and the marketing materials. Within a year, I grew bored. I wasn’t ‘feeling’ being a co-owner even with a grand title of executive director. But, I was on a consistent salary, versus sporadic editing and coaching after a long spate of being officially unemployed and penny pinching.
After much deliberation, I realized that I was being unfair to my business partner, who is a great person, by not giving the business my all.
Furthermore, I was being unfair to me. I was hindering my personal wants and desires by sabotaging my writing career, so I relinquished my partnership.
I did the unthinkable and took the biggest financial risk of my life. I borrowed thousands of dollars on a line of credit to start my own editing and coaching business.
It took a couple of years, in fact, a few, to ramp up; but my life has since crested. I’ve published a novel, am currently writing the sequel and have co-authored several books with some of the best of the best entrepreneurs, including Donald Trump, business magnate, investor, television personality and author, Jack Canfield, co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, which features this essay.
Have I reached the zenith of my financial achievements? No, but with this new regeneration, my finances are more streamlined than when I last saw Sheila.
At this point, my attention returned to her squeals as she enveloped me in her arms
“Oh, hi,” I managed, though I couldn’t return the hug. “Sheila, right,” I said and imploded with laughter.
My, I thought, how had the trajectory of my life curved since we last met?