When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them. ~Andy Warhol
Max was ready to change. That had long been clear. Even before he moved to Akron, which made his daily commute twice as long as it had been, he wanted to work elsewhere. Like many major decisions, at first all he knew was he wanted something different, something that let him do the parts of his work that he loved and allowed him to do the other parts of his life he also loved. The process of figuring out just what that would look like took time.
He looked for jobs in Akron, sporadically applying to available positions he found interesting, like in-house counsel for Sterling Jewelers and Akron Public Schools. After a year of casual searching, Max became serious and set up appointments to meet with partners at numerous Akron law firms. Roughly 18 months after declaring he wanted to work in Akron, Max suggested hanging up his own shingle and becoming a solo practitioner. The first time he said it, he acted like he was joking. A few weeks later he said it again, and then with increasing frequency until it was no longer a suggestion but a moment of self-clarity: “I am not just eager to open my own practice, it excites me! This is what I need to do.”
Being miserable at work is not contained by the hours on the time clock. Your misery hops in your satchel and sits in the passenger seat on the drive home, it waltzes into your house beaming displeasure when you do the things you enjoy with the people you love because your job misery owns you, never lets you forget you should be working at home instead of relaxing, constantly reminding you that soon you must leave and take your misery back to your place of employment where you will be held prisoner for yet another day.
I was open to anything.
In August of 2015, Max left his corporate law firm and went to work for Max W. Thomas, LLC. Since then, even when things are at their most difficult, he has never said, “I hate my job.” When he left his misery in an office tower in downtown Cleveland for good, an unfamiliar contentment replaced the space it had occupied.
But let’s get real: Many days have felt like the last scene in Thelma and Louise. Our household income plummeted, we have lived largely on Max’s retirement savings, which means he’s had enormous tax bills. We have navigated insurance without an employer providing coverage, which for us is not as simple as finding an affordable plan for catastrophic care when our child with special needs is a frequent user of health care. A few months after Max left his corporate job, my blood pressure shot up to 168/110 and my doctor prescribed lisinopril. A year later, she doubled my dosage as my numbers had soared yet again.
A doozy of a year for many people. For me it meant helping Max in his legal practice (I may be an unofficial paralegal before I die), continuing to proofread for the clients I have had now for several years, ramping up my hours at World Market from 10 to 24. And then there are the kids. We do not make enough money to hire a nanny, so we juggle and deeply rely on our Google calendar to make sure we are all where we need to be when we need to be there.
Something had to give and it was my writing. There just wasn’t time to write even as life was handing me great new material. Instead, I revisited previously written pieces, editing and submitting them to various publications. This fall, Max suggested we work to pull together my book on Down syndrome and e-publish it because it takes less time to edit existing essays than start from scratch.
The struggle is real, yet we know we are on the right path. After a few months of getting his office organized—he could easily teach a continuing legal education course on starting up a solo practice and how to find the right equipment and services at nominal cost—his practice picked up and has steadily increased most months.
The fact that I could not write even a few sentences in my daily journal was frustrating and, honestly, a full-time career in retail would for me be a tag-you’re-it job in terms of misery. But I always believed it to be a temporary state of affairs. And so it was.
Serendipity or providence, whatever the case may be, I was approached this fall by the Akron Beacon Journal to write a column on parenting. My first column will appear this Sunday, January 29, in the Lifestyle section. For readers who do not live in Akron, the column will also be posted on Ohio.com and I will share it on Whoopsie Piggle’s Facebook page. They will be different than the essays here because I am limited to approximately 750 words. But the content will be what you expect from Whoopsie Piggle.
Beyond the topsy-turvy of starting a business, there has been much to write about this past year and I hope to make up for lost time in my column. I plan to write additional essays on this site that go beyond the scope of my column (What a surreal election and new president, huh?).
Having an audience for Whoopsie Piggle has kept me writing for the better part of four years, with 2016 being the glaring exception. The feedback I have gotten from so many of you, both online and in-person, means more than you can probably imagine (though I hope my former professor, Tom Dukes, knows how much his support has meant to me). I invite you to read my column and, please, share it with others.
Thank you and see you in the funny pages!
Meanwhile, here are some highlights from 2016: