Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How I Woke Up

I've been creative all of my life but didn't try to make a living at it until 2006 when I just couldn't swallow the corporate pill anymore and decided I'd rather starve to death with a Smile than be unhappy with life. Quitting my job at the factory was about the hardest part, it was hard to imagine that I would be able to make a living without getting that paycheck. I remember that feeling when I got the envelope with the check hoping that somehow maybe I'd gotten a raise no one told me about and I'd open it up and it had the same amount of money on there it did last time and I tried my best to make the best of it.

The last place I worked made Hydraulic pumps and motors and the specific place I worked in the factory was called the Cut Cell. The cell part kind of screamed at me and burned my soul a bit, and the fact that we were making these motors to power big machines that did what? I didn't know. I mean some of the motors went to huge lawn mowers like the ones they mow ditches with. Some went to John Deere tractors. Some went to other countries and the ones they told us about went for construction of developing countries. Then I started to think about how the company sold to the highest bidder and it was all about a greasy buck. I let the thought of me building machines of war enter my being and I kind of lost all heart in what I was doing by supporting a multi billion dollar corporation.

I started to listen to what the workers were talking about in the break room, and noticed they never said anything of any importance. I started asking myself if this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I looked at the people who had worked there for a lot of years there were a large percentage that were divorced. They spent at least 60 hours a week working there, building machines, and paying off their debts. There was a sort of family air to it which the company greatly supported, all of us working together and having little company parties on the side. At the time I had just bought a mobile home and was redoing the entire thing, floors, walls, insulation, windows the whole bit everyday after work I'd go directly to the trailer and begin working, and about that time the company really started pushing me for overtime.

We'd sit in our little Wednesday meeting and they'd ask who could work the weekend. The others in the cut cell would all sign up and I'd tell them I had drywall and insulation to hang carpet to kick walls to spackle and paint etc. I bought myself my weekends for quite awhile with these little demands until the trailer was finished.

I decided I'd really like to learn upholstery and I had a beautiful Victorian couch that I'd found in the dumpster a few years back that was totally trashed. I bought 10 yards of crush blue velvet and rearranged my excuses for not working overtime for that. For some reason that wasn't a worthy excuse for them and when everybody was signing up for overtime the boss specifically asked me if I was going to work overtime... It got deathly quiet and all eyes were on me. I snapped. I said "Sure I'll work if you give me Monday and Tuesday off", I told him how I had a life outside of the factory and reminded him about how we'd been standing around all week waiting for the factory to order parts that would show up conveniently just in time for us all to work the weekend. My boss told me that that wasn't possible, turned bright red and just about crawled under the table.

That was my last day. At lunch everyday I'd been sitting in my car and took to writing quotes all over the ceiling. My favorite was, “What a Beautiful thing life is, what a waste to spend it working." I'd finally taken it to heart and after work that day I went to talk with my mom and told her that I felt that I couldn't quit working because I felt that I had to make everyone(AKA her) happy. The last thing she said to me as I was getting into my car was, "Go ahead and quit, you're resourceful and you'll be ok." At that moment the chains fell off and I was free. I started heading west Colorado bound to clear my head. I got to the Nebraska border and realized that if I was really going to do this I had to go back and officially burn my bridge.

I got to the factory about 2:00 in the morning, 2 hours before people started showing up for my shift. I put my safety glasses on and went inside. I got on the computer and cashed in the 4 days of vacation I figured they'd hold on to if I didn't. I left my key on the desk and put my safety glasses in the visitors’ box on my way out. I stopped by the river on my way home where I used to play when I was a kid, took off my steel toed work boots and flung them as far as I could into the river.

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