what this change manager knows about change…

This time last year I was on a countdown.

  • After a year in the waiting, my last day in the partition job was scheduled for 16/12.
  • To put a full stop under it all we were flying out to Bali for Christmas on 19/12.
  • My retrenchment was to be official 21/12.

Leading up to these key dates had been other dates- like any good Project and Change Manager, I lived by the calendar.

The redundancy was my choice and I welcomed the change that was coming. I welcomed the opportunities for reinvention that the change would bring.

I hadn’t, however, banked on the emotion involved.

We were a small and close-knit arm of a larger Mothership, and had all been working together for at least 12 years. As each person left, there was a little sadness.

For a number of reasons that I won’t get into here, the previous 5 years had been, for me, an emotional rollercoaster. It was those goodbyes I had trouble with.

Yet, if it wasn’t for the ride I willingly jumped on back then, I wouldn’t have gotten into astrology and I wouldn’t have started writing seriously. The pain was mixed with gratitude.

After nearly 25 years of working full time (give or take the best part of a year for maternity leave when Miss 14 was born), I was looking forward to a career change.

I had it all planned out.

I’d calculated that, after paying down some debt, what was left of the redundancy payment, with some minor living adjustments, would finance me to stay at home for about 9 months.

I was taking the whole of the school holidays off. Then, on February 1, I’d planned for my new life to begin.

I’d done an online freelance writing course at Sydney Writers Centre (which I absolutely recommend) last year. The theory was that income from freelance writing would bolster my resources sufficiently while I undertook the arduous task of getting my real dream underway- to be a published author.

I’d written the first couple of drafts of a chick lit book and had plans for more.

I’d written the first half of an astrology book that I had plans to finish.

I was under no illusions what would be required to get these projects to completion and out into the world. What I didn’t forecast was how I would respond to the change…

After years of being defined by my job title and what I earned, all of a sudden I was, in my view…nothing- an old, fat, boring, laughing stock with knees that creak.

I was working, but with nothing real to show for my efforts- except a bunch of words in a manuscript that I’d convinced myself no publisher was ever likely to be interested in, what did any of it mean?

I had a few very good friends who supported what I was trying to build, but I felt as if the rest of my acquaintance and my birth family were laughing at me- as if I was calling myself a writer so that I didn’t have to admit to being (gasp) unemployed or (double gasp) a stay at home mum. After all, it wasn’t like I had a real job.

I was constantly asked ‘have you found anything yet?’ The inference was that I was actively looking for work, but had been unsuccessful. But I wasn’t looking- nor did I have any intention to look for work. As such, I didn’t qualify as being unemployed.

With one very independent 14 year old, I also didn’t qualify as a SAHM- although I relished the extra time I now had with her.

The thing is, I’d always identified myself by the roles I was paid for. So if I was no longer being paid by anyone, surely that meant I was now worthless?

I loved my new found freedom, but without an income, without a title and without real daily outcomes, I felt that there were great gaps in myself that needed filling.

I’ve always been a “gap eater”- you know, eating to fill the holes. In the first 6 months of this year I put on 6 kilos, and my daily gym habit had dwindled to a few lacklustre times a week. My health and joints were suffering.

Worse than that, the words weren’t coming. I had so many ideas, but no idea how to manifest them- where to start, what to prioritise. So I was achieving very little.

Then I went back to Bali for a week.

By the time I came back I felt more settled- and ready to accept a new routine and a different set of outcomes.

I recognized that making money from writing would take time. It would also mean that I would need to use all my business skills and project management nous. Whilst I’d always known this, part of my quest for freedom was a rebellion against everything that looked, smelt or sounded like my previous corporate existence. Rather than fight my past, I needed to find a new way of embracing it.

The words started to flow again and I was having more good days in the office than bad. I had a work routine that I was sticking to.

The other thing I realized in Bali was that some compromise would be required on the money front.

Whilst my husband was happy to support me, I didn’t feel comfortable with that. Aside from my inherent independence and control freakishness, I knew that the time was rapidly approaching whereby cuts in lifestyle spending would be required.

I didn’t feel right about my dream impacting the family in that way.

So in late September I accepted the offer of a part time consulting role…and immediately felt as if I’d sold out. Mr T was concerned- apparently I was a “nicer” person when not working for someone else. Miss 14 liked having me to come home to- but both understood why I felt that I had to make the compromise.

Again the words dried up, frustration crept in, time at the gym was swapped to maximize blank screen staring, and gap eating re-commenced.

A couple of months in I think I’m settling back into something approaching balance- between what I do and what I’m paid for.

The gaps are still there, but, for now, I’ve stopped eating to fill them. And, thanks to the discipline of nanowrimo, I have nearly 50,000 words written on a new manuscript.

My book is closer to being publishable- I’m looking for a good editor to help me get it there. The training habit isn’t in place- but I’m working on that balance too.

A year down the track, a slightly different track to what I envisaged, I’m making progress.

And I write the words “writer” beside the occupation field on my customs declaration.



3 comments on “what this change manager knows about change…”
  1. I think you may be my lost twin. I can relate to all of this. I often bring up finding a part-time “job” but Mr M always steers me away from it (bless him). I can say now, that I don’t need to seek a job because my writing is paying me now (not nearly enough but it’s a start). I think many writers will relate to this post…Now, enough internet reading/commenting. I’ve got over 3000 words to write to get back on track!!

  2. Debbish says:

    As you know I can really relate to this – well the early part of this – at the moment. I think what I’m going to do is try to find some way of earning an income sooner rather than later. I think if I have some part time work from early next year I can better settle into this new life. Hopefully it can be more about the writing. At the moment I’m still struggling to know what to do…

    1. jo says:

      that’s the hard part. The knowing what to do. I was so sure, and in a way I still am, but the consulting income suits me better than the freelance writing supplemental income- mainly because my first love is books & pitching can be demoralising when you’re trying to be creative.

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