The woman who remade me jumped.
Figuratively, of course. This woman is very metaphoric.
She traveled to San Diego, California and visited the flower fields alone. She hadn’t been alone in a while. The colors poured all over the dirt at her feet and brought her reprove. What are you doing with your life? The poppies asked softly, bobbing in the breeze like people peering across a crowd. I don’t know. She answered with her insides. But you are so, so beautiful. She wanted to screech. She wanted to fall into the bed of flowers, stretching for a mile, and let the color take over her life.
After the flower fields, she traveled to the Sunset Cliffs in her tiny rental Hyundai. She parked at the top of them. It was Easter Sunday; families stood in their pristine green yards hunting for eggs. Everything blossomed here. Homes were so focused on the ocean, they pointed toward the water like loyal hunting dogs. Here, we found what you need. They told the land. Just look out my window.
She wandered to the edge of the cliffs, through the yellow flowers and chestnut path. She hadn’t been on a trip alone in years and the world felt so different without confrontation. A cliff beside her read “THE WAY TO FOREVER (SOMETIMES)” in chalk with an arrow pointing to the bottom of the cliff. It hurt to read. But, it was true. As much as she knew about life for it to be true.
She used her jean jacket as a blanket and sat on the side of the cliff. Giant birds flew like fighter jets above her head, slowly coasting in the shape of an arrow. She touched the earth on her side. It was hard and dusty, warm beneath the sun. She made a point to touch the dirt like she would touch a human body. The closeness brought tears to her eyes.
She had been very soft lately, unlike the earth beneath her palms. She took the quick weekend trip to get a little grasp on life; take advantage of the softness inside her. She wanted to spend more time writing. She didn’t want to worry about money. Every paycheck felt tight, paying off student debt and a wedding. She woke up every day at 6:30am and went to work until 6pm. She made mediocre coffee at home to save money and sat in meetings with her laptop open. She was lucky. Work was complacent. But she made the money. She was comfortable. Nothing felt right, but nothing felt wrong.
“Complacency can be a real bender,” the world replied.
On a Thursday afternoon at 11am exactly one week after returning from San Diego, she walked into a status meeting with her boss. He was sitting with a woman she didn’t recognize, holding file folders. They were eliminating her position. Here’s the woman that will go over your severance package. We know you won’t remember much of what’s covered here, so take notes—write down her phone number. This has nothing to do with the work you’ve done here. This has nothing to do with your performance.
Then she was driving home in the middle of the afternoon, a time of day she didn’t know home. The light felt weird in her apartment. It hit her front door instead of the far wall. And she cried. She cried for all the effort she put into her work. She cried because she was equal parts embarrassed and angry and sad and scared. Nothing she was supposed to feel, she felt. This isn’t about you. But it is. You’re such a valuable asset to any company. But she wasn’t. Take this time to really understand what you want to do with your life. But, how? Her Passion Planner™ didn’t set her up for this!!
She was not okay. People asked her, “How are you doing?” And she’d say, “I’m good. I’m thinking positively.” But she was lying. She was not okay. She gave herself a few days to lose a little control. I will give myself until Monday, she thought. The cliff in San Diego seemed so far away. Normally, she could climb out of a little hardship. She was strong; a forceful and confident human. But this, this was like being stuck inside an ocean current. She slept and drank. The daunting task of searching for a job and life’s meaning all at once left her sitting with no bra on her couch, eating wheat toast terrified to exist.
Monday eventually came. She emailed everyone she knew. She went to Aldi at 2pm and watched a woman put an entire cart of groceries into her trunk one by one, no bags. She googled “how to file for unemployment in Minnesota” and read LinkedIn jobs. She went home to her parents. She found out companies in Minnesota are no longer responsible for paying out PTO. She cried about that, screaming “I don’t know what to do,” into her snotty wrists. She wanted to write. But her brain felt like pieces shattered on the floor; she knew letting things happen and writing about them later was a best practice. Let them simmer, let them live.
But that was just the problem. She had known nothing but corporate walls and marketing, headlines that read “Google Search Console reports back on track” and 8am-5pm her entire career. She had known nothing but a paycheck every two weeks and status meetings and TGIFs and getting PTO approved by her boss. But she also knew this. It’s not what she wanted to do forever. She was finally being pushed, tested.
In her journal a year ago, she had written down a few of her goals. In one next to a “1 year” timeframe, she wrote: “HAVE A CAREER THAT IS WRITING BASED ONLY” in all caps. Could this be it? Could this be the window of time she was given to make her dreams come true? Startled by this plump discovery of desire, ideas bubbled up inside of her. The current of emotions that had recently been suffocating her was softening and she felt herself float to the surface. She knew what she needed to do. It was written right on the page for her.
And she was terrified. Right down to her femur bone.
She was making something—molding a future that had been crouched on her heart for years. No matter how scary the journey was to get there, the path was widening somehow. She was remaking herself.
She wrote down companies she wanted to work for, researched freelance and brainstormed names to secure a personal LLC. She reached out to people that loved her and connected her with the right humans and being productive made her feel strong. She was still scared, of course. Every day she worked on her couch, she was scared. The thought of not having a steady income made her feel like a failure. But the thought of plunging into the depths of doing what she loved provided such a light in her chest it threatened to bust it right open. She was making something—molding a future that had been crouched on her heart for years. No matter how scary the journey was to get there, the path was widening somehow. She was remaking herself. She was finding herself. Maya Angelou wrote it best: “‘Can’t do it’ is like ‘I don’t care.’ Neither of them have a home.”
The woman who remade me looked in the mirror after all that had happened. She was me. I am her. I am the woman who changed everything.
Remember the cliff? The way to forever (sometimes) is to jump.
Brittany Chaffee is an avid storyteller, professional empath, and author. On the daily, she gets paid to strategize and create content for brands. Off work hours, it’s all about a well-lit place, warm bread, and good company. She lives in St.Paul with her baby brother cats, Rami and Monkey. Follow her on Instagram, read more about her latest book, Borderline, and (most importantly) go hug your mother.
BY Brittany Chaffee - May 22, 2019
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.