“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” – Bernice Johnson Reagon
In October of 2004, I was in a staff meeting at one of my favorite jobs. I was the Children’s Church Director at a large church in Dallas. I was feeling pretty good. I had a job I loved, it was about a week before my birthday and I had no complaints about my life. As the meeting went on, the Senior Minister handed me a birthday card signed by all the staff members. I didn’t think to question why they were giving me the card early, my birthday was still a week away. Well, later I found out why. A few hours after the meeting, the minister called me into her office and fired me. Her exact words were, ‘I’d like you to resign.’ I was speechless! I had never been fired from a job in my life.
I went back to my office and sent an email to the Children’s Church parents telling them I’d been fired and started packing my stuff. It’s hard to type an email and pack while sobbing uncontrollably, let me tell you. I didn’t understand what was happening or why. I was hurt, angry, disappointed, afraid and just an emotional mess. I finally gathered all my things and left in what must have looked like the most pitiful ‘unemployment march’ in history. lol I can laugh now. It wasn’t funny worth a damn when it was happening, though.
Over the next couple of weeks, I cried and cursed a lot. A lot. I questioned God, cursed the church, cursed the minister and all the staff, cursed myself (‘I must have done something wrong’) and just cursed in general. If I had a dollar for all the expletives I uttered during that time, I could probably take a couple of you reading this out for a nice dinner at Outback Steakhouse. lol
Thankfully, I had someone in my corner. My aunt proved to be a great sounding board and ultimately, an inspiration. She had just begun to tap into her creative side by painting. One day during my rant to her about ‘the unfairness of it all’, the idea came that I should start playing around with paint, too. While I had always fashioned myself a writer and poet, painting had never come up as a possibility for me. I figured it couldn’t hurt, though. I went to my local craft store, bought a little acrylic paint starter kit and the rest is history! Since then, I’ve painted hundreds of pieces, done commissioned work, had several shows and even exhibited at a local cultural center, city hall and a local museum. I’ve branched out into photography and who knows what else is on the horizon.
Being fired from that job was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I know that when I’m comfortable somewhere, it takes nothing short of a stick of dynamite to move me. I could have been very very comfortable in that job and remained there for years and years to come. I probably wouldn’t have ever tapped into my creativity outside of writing. I probably wouldn’t have met the amazing people I met at subsequent jobs or acquired the skills that I have.
In short, everything happens for a reason. I know it can be a challenge to see that in the moment, believe me, I know. When life’s challenges come up, curse if you must, but leave a little space for ‘what if?’ ‘What if this is being moved out of the way for something better?’ ‘What if I’ve learned all I can from this relationship?’ ‘What if it was time to get out of my comfort zone?’ ‘What if I’m really going to be okay?’
Look for the silver lining, kids. It’s there. I promise.