…and that dream was to roam the world, free, a vagabond. I wanted for my spirit to be free to do whatever my heart desired. That dream was stifled. As a child our atrocious education system taught me to be a robot. My creativity was smothered. I was taught to color within the lines when all I wanted to do was fill the page with all the colors in the box. I was taught to read books that were appropriate for my age when I really wanted to read Archie comics, National Geographic, the encyclopedia and the back of cereal boxes. I loved those choose your own adventure books because it gave me the illusion of choice. Sadly, the worst thing I was taught was to conform; get married, have a house with a white picket fence, a good paying job, pay taxes, do my part to contribute to society. I felt suffocated at an really early age. I remember playing on the playground surrounded by a chain link fence and feeling trapped…both in the yard and in my head. I couldn’t be who I wanted to be because that would be against the rules. I wouldn’t be accepted. I used to think something was wrong with me. Then I went to live with my mother.
My mother was a free spirit. She did and said what she wanted, when she wanted without a care in the world to what people thought. She would tell me that I should just be me because that’s enough, that I didn’t need approval. She taught me to feel comfortable with my body. She would walk around the house naked and say that if you don’t love your body then nobody else will. I remember her telling me that my mind was powerful and that I could accomplish anything I wanted because I was so intelligent. She encouraged me to dream. That scared me because it was contrary to everything I was taught up until then. Was she right? How could she be? She wasn’t there for me during my formidable years so why should I trust her? But I did because what she said felt right so I started to dream again.
When I got to high school I began to go against the grain. I’ve always been very intelligent but I did barely enough to pass. I didn’t care about my record. It meant nothing to me. It wouldn’t give me the freedom I so craved. The only test I remember ever studying for was the SAT and only because I was told I had to, yet I passed pretty much all my tests…except those in math class. I completely gave up on math in the 9th grade. I cheated my way through high school math. I purposefully sat next to the math nerds so I could copy some of the right answers. Of course I knew to get enough wrong so that I was suspected of cheating. That’s one thing I learned in HS, resourcefulness.
My family is full of hard worker bees. My maternal grandparents would tell me that I needed to get a good job with a pension so I can retire and move to Puerto Rico. That was their goal. That was their dream. I didn’t want to dissapoint them so I started college and when the opportunity presented itself, I got a job in corporate America at the ripe old age of 19.
At first I was excited to have a real job, a real paycheck. Having my own money was NICE! I was able to do anything I wanted. I was learning and meeting different people, which I loved. I was a 411 operator (directory assistance). For those too young to know what that is I’ll explain a bit. Before we had Google you had to call an operator to get a phone number or an address. “Directory assistance how may I help you?” That was me. I’m not going to lie, I loved that job. It was quick, easy and the hours were awesome. I worked late nights at first, 4pm-11pm and then split shifts, 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours later in the evening with a 2-3 hour break in between. I worked close to home so sometimes I would go home and nap or eat. Soon management realized I was smart and started pulling me off the phone to help with projects. I would work with them on Human Resources type stuff. And so began my HR career.
Once I had been working I sort of gave up on school. I already had a job with a pension and a steady paycheck. That was the goal right? But I couldn’t leave school for long. My nerdiness would push me to go back every so often. I actually loved college. It allowed me to think a little more freely and encouraged individuality more than my public school education ever did. Over the years I’ve been to 3 different schools. I’m going on my fourth…and hopefully final school.
I was fortunate to progress in my HR career without a degree. I moved every few years to a new position. I would get bored easily and the part of me that constantly fought complacency would awaken and I would look for something new. I was at the phone company for about 6 years when I was fired for misusing their corporate card. I was in my early 20’s and stupid but honestly, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I don’t think I would have ever left otherwise. I had enough money to take the summer off and take a break since I had been working for six years straight. I figured I deserved a break. But my grandparents voices were loud in my head and paranoia kicked in. I started looking for a job and was working within 2 weeks.
During a prep course for my HR certification exam, the instructor said that she had been in HR about 25 years (I believe) and her rule was to never stay at a job long enough to be vested (company vesting is usually anywhere from 3-5 years.) To keep moving in order to keep learning. That resonated with me so I adopted that strategy. Aside from the phone company, my longest tenure at any company was 4 years (but I did leave that job and go back.) I learned everything I could and then would leave. I was always low balled on my salary because I didn’t have my degree but I did a better job than people with advanced degrees. I ALWAYS wound up covering my bosses asses. They took credit for my work and then when it came time for increases and bonuses they would say that I was late too much or took too much time off so they couldn’t give me as much as they wanted. There were people that did half the work I did and got paid almost twice as much because they were on time every day and would kill themselves to get to work no matter the weather, family crisis, or sickness. They were rewarded for reliability. I got it. Being on time and going to work every day is the responsible and adult thing to do. <yawn>
Fast forward to 2014. I had a job that I LOVED…or so I thought. I genuinely enjoyed going to work every day. I had the most amazing coworkers. Well most of them were amazing…some not so much but they didn’t bother me so we were cool. My work was challenging. I got to do communications, which allowed me to write and since I had always wanted to be a writer I figured my dream came true! Umm no. If you have ever read corporate communications you know it’s not exactly thought provoking material. You don’t read the stuff you get at work??? NO WAY! I so wish there was a sarcasm font.
If you’ve been following my blog then you know that in November of 2014 I had a nervous breakdown. After 2 hospital stays and intensive outpatient treatment I now understand that I never loved my job. I was a slave.
Before I go on, I want to first say I don’t mean to offend anyone. I’m in no way comparing my experiences to the atrocities endured by Black people during slave times. My comparison is to the psychological aspect of slavery. Feelings of powerlessness over the fact I felt like I could not follow my heart because I would be persecuted. Feelings of servility because I was constantly just being told what to do and expected to execute without question for the most part. The internalized degradation from busting my ass, having other people take the credit and then being told I wasn’t good enough (in different words of course) because I wasn’t on time.
Within the year before my breakdown I began to perform poorly. I felt my mind rejecting my work and I didn’t understand why. I would stare at my computer screen feeling completely blank. I would procrastinate on almost every assignment. I continued to come to work late and would stay home often…depressed and blaming it on everything else but the fact that I felt like a caged animal. I got by, for the most part, because my boss saw something great in me. She saw potential and would tell me that I could do better and she believed in me. I didn’t believe in myself though. I still felt like I wasn’t good enough. And then I broke. My brain said WAKE THE FUCK UP JACKIE! YOU NEED TO DEAL WITH YOUR SHIT! So I did.
Fast forward to March 2, 2015. I quit my job. I’m leaving my apartment and basically dropping my measly belongings at my darling brothers house and I’m going to travel for a few months. My first stop is Puerto Rico to calm my grandparents nerves. I told them most of the truth of what was happening but I want to assure them I will be ok. More than ok….GREAT. I bought a one way ticket. From there I will go where the wind takes me, visiting my family across the country, feeding my spirit. I will follow my heart and never ignore it again.
I’m finally free. I have never been happier before in my life. I feel like I was born again and I am who I was meant to be. No more lies, no more pretending, no more surpressing who I really am. I will do whatever the fuck I want, whenever the fuck I want without apologies. I REFUSE TO CONFORM. I don’t want a stupid house with a white picket fence. Why? So I can be a slave to a mortgage??? I don’t need to be married unless it’s to make a promise in the eyes of God. I don’t want a full time job. I don’t want a pension. I don’t want healthcare. I don’t want any of it. All I want is to be free…and I want a dog, or 10.
Once I’m done traveling I plan on going back to school to get my degree because stupid people need a paper to prove what, I don’t know. Some of the most inept people I have met had advanced degrees and couldn’t keep up with me in a conversation. They got by on the color of their skin but that’s the subject for another post. I want to be a therapist and a counselor. I want to liberate people, especially kids. I want to teach them that they can break the shackles and live out their dreams. I want to convince them that they are enough because society is doing a fucked up job. I never wanted to have kids. I now realize it’s because all the kids of the world are my kids and I want to help as many as I can. I’m going to do that by being me. Just me Jackie.
Follow my travels on Instagram @JackieLeRock. It’s going to be a fun ride!