Career 23 July 2018
I have a confession: I've never really enjoyed working for other people.
Why? Well, for starters, I'm selfish. If there's a final bite of shared dessert on the plate, I'll eat it. If I go even one day without hitting the gym, I'm resentful. Once the coffee is made, I pour myself a cup of coffee before I offer it to my husband. I hoard time the way others hoard possessions. I'm selfish with my thoughts. I like to be alone. Sometimes, I stick my daughter in front of a cartoon just so I can hear myself think.
Because here's the thing: How I control my time determines how I live my life. I want to spend it providing for my family, sure. But I also want to make sure I'm doing what I really want to be doing—the type of work that has me bounding out of bed excited, not exhausted.
And for me, that kind of passion has never been found in an office. As I hurtled through college, collecting a writing degree, a valedictorian stamp, a publishing deal, and a ton of freelance projects, I realized I didn't want to work for anyone else.
But I also wasn't interested in starting a business either. So, what's out there for those who don't necessarily want to die in a 9 to 5 under the thumb of a boss, but also don't have the desire to open a brick-and-mortar store, worry about growing a company to such monstrous proportions that you need teams, insurance, office space, and employees?
Enter the life of the solopreneur.
Entrepreneurial in spirit, the solopreneur focuses on his or her art, makes money from it, but doesn't necessarily depend on others to grow her business. You can collaborate with people. You can work on other people's projects. But when it comes to your own craft or business, it's all about Y-O-U. You are the brand. You are the product.
While I dabbled in content management and editorial roles, penning four published nonfiction books, blogging, becoming a trainer, co-owning a gym, etc., I realized that all I'd ever wanted to do was to write books. Not nonfiction books, novels.
Because I am someone who loves urgency, I finally felt the push. I was ready to take every skill I'd collected from my odd jobs and pour them into doing the very thing I'd always wanted to do. I finally got clear. Not about what I wanted, but by answering one simple question: If I could do anything in the world every single day, what would excite me the most? We all have those “activities" we succumb to where time stalls, you feel that you are living on purpose, and you literally can't wait to tell whoever is within earshot about what you're working on. Because it's not really happiness we're after, it's excitement. And writing novels, despite the solitude it requires and all the work it takes, is the most excitement I've ever felt.
You have to find your own excitement, whether that's in the office, on a yoga mat, helping other people, or traveling the world. And when you find it? Act on it immediately. (Trust me, there's never the perfect time. The perfect time is the moment you decide to take the risk.)
When I finally thought of the right idea last year, I immediately quit the two extra jobs I was working and decided to use the last two months of a corporate contract to write an entire novel.
Because I believed in myself and gave myself the space to create, I wrote it in just four weeks.
I then secured a literary agent. The book was sent out to editors, got into a bidding war, went to book auction, and landed me a two-book deal with St. Martin's Press, one of the largest publishing houses in the country.
I did my due diligence. And then I got it done.
Now, the real work begins. Finding the right publicity team. Repositioning myself as a novelist and not a Jill of all trades, which, let's face it, as kick ass women today, we have all become.
Because I am still a mother. I am still a wife. I am still a director of content for a branding agency. I am still a ghostwriter for clients' blogs. I am still open for opportunities, but at the end of the day, my new path is about focusing on doing one thing really well. It's about putting all of my energy into being a novelist and not getting distracted with all of the other sideline projects, money woes, and opportunities that are dangling within reach.
Being a solopreneur is about keeping your focus. What is the real goal you are trying to reach? Define it. What happens when you reach your own personal pinnacle of success? What happens if you don't?
What comes next?
In an age where community is key, there is magic to being a solopreneur. This doesn't mean you're a selfish byiatch. It doesn't mean you can't someday help others generate jobs or even join forces with a pro you admire and respect. It just means you are focused on your own initiatives, your own goals, and not the minutiae of everything that goes into keeping a corporation alive.
Is that selfish? Or is that the stuff dreams are made of? I'm forging my own way to find out.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.