Episode II: Inspiration Strikes Back

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In, when inspiration strikes I talked about a place of feeling hopeless and how inspiration can come from the strangest places. This is the second half of the story involving Netflix in 2012; now it’s 2018 and Amazon Prime is in the mix. I learned some valuable lessons about what some folks call hustle and others call persistence or luck. Let this be for all those looking for inspirations to be held to a higher standard of accountability. To keep going and materializing the things that scare us at times. And in the end, I hope we can all live up to our potential if we try more. Live boldly, make the moves no one has the guts to take and practice gratitude in all that we do!

The previous story left off in 2014 all the little meetings and connections, from the Michigan Chronical to the Detroit China Business Association to becoming a planning commissioner in Harper Woods. These things took time to happen but they happened a whole lot faster because I wasn’t sitting around waiting for things to fall into place. I never saw myself as that kind of person; one who waits to be told, I’d rather be told to wait.

This kind of momentum was exciting! When one realizes they have the power to directly control what happens in their lives. If we want to increase our potential we must see our lives and capabilites diffrently. Discrediting ourselves before we have actually put forth the effort to try will never bring us anything we want to achieve in life. What eles did I want to do or achieve? Thanks to this mindset, 2018 was looking good for me. I had a great job with benefits, an amazing boyfriend and I was taking a leap and running for elected office. By the end of the year, I ended up losing all those things, the political offices, the man and the job.

I broke up with him. The first time I tried to it didn’t stick. I liked him too much. I wasn’t sure if the second time would work because at that point I loved him too much. This dude had become my best friend. Afterwards, I cried non stop and I could not climb out of the depressed fog of anguish. It was soul-crushing pain, grey, solitary and unrelenting. Why? I never really fell for guys this hard in the past. But this one was somehow different and now I was trying to extinguish the flames of a soul tie that was self-imposed. Maya Angelou once said that when someone tells you who they are, believe them. He told me early on what he wanted for his life and it didn’t align with what I wanted at all. In the past, that would have been all I needed to hear to walk away and save both our time and energy. But this guy made me weak, I didnt think how I normally thought. All that dopamine. I tried to change him. Even now as I write this I may not have realised that was what I was doing at the time.

I never understood people who were sad over breakups until it happened to me. It was hard to be normal again. But that was what I would have to do. I existed as one entity before I met him and I would continue to exist alone without him. I had to get back to the things that made me who I am. Things that I had kind of forgotten about or chose not to do because I had changed when I was in a relationship. Just because we didn’t act all traditional couple-y (we were far too hipster for that) didn’t mean I wasn’t becoming absorbed by the relationship. Unknowingly I lost “me” and became a “we”.

Not only had I lost myself in the relationship, but I had also strayed from things that were my true calling in life. At work I was lying to myself saying “sometimes you have to make sacrifices to survive”. I was making the most money I had made in my life thus far. But I was working for Quicken Loans, it had nothing to do with International Relations or Political Science. I was a mortgage banker, something I had known nothing about prior to becoming one. I mean I knew what a mortgage was, my parents had one, but I couldn’t tell you any more than that. What the significance of adjustable or fixed interest rates, appraisals, property values, and refinancing? I kept mixing up equity and escrow, weren’t they the same thing? I was a renter up until then, these things meant nothing to me. Shoot, even most homeowners don’t know what the Truth in Lending Act did.

I had finished graduate school and I needed to start earning. Why not do some small easy job that had nothing to do with any of my training, education, skill set or passions just to pay the bills until something better came along? You see in March of 2018 the path I had been building for myself crumbled. All of the international travel, all of the learning foreign languages analyzing political movements in different foreign countries was done so that I could work as an analyst with the nation’s premier intelligence agency. I joined organizations that groomed candidates for what would be a life working in diplomacy. I went to lectures, put extra hours learning less commonly taught languages. I had an offer for the same job working in Washington DC before I left for China in 2011. When I informed them that I had accepted a full scholarship to study in China they said the job would be waiting for me when I returned in 2012.

A government shutdown and hiring freeze happened in the interim and the job did not materialize. I eventually applied again and was flown out to DC to interview, it was nerve-wracking but I got the job! Two months later I got a letter. Thinking it would contain more information about when I should report for work and what I should expect for training. I anxiously opened it. The offer was rescinded. Funny thing about working for the nation’s top spy organization, when you aren’t selected, they don’t tell you why; its a secret. I was sad and defeated so I started looking for work in Michigan instead of preparing for a move to Washington as I had been doing. Quicken Loans had been a huge part of Detroit’s revitalization. Years back when I interned with the DCBA I remember touring all the buildings downtown that now belonged to Dan Gilbert the founder of Quicken Loans. It would be cool to work there, I remember thinking.

I settled for something and here I was becoming a mortgage banker. My friends remarked that it was odd that I was straying from everything that they knew to be Ernestine in essence, I sold my soul they said. I tried really hard to push through failure at work, I loved the fun envornment, making money, having savings and health, dental and vision care. But if I had been honest I would have realized I was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. I move into a few roles at the company but nothing fit and no matter how hard I would try there seemed to be a cap on what I could produce, I would stay late and ask for help. At one point I started asking people in senior leadership positions for coffee so I could learn how not to fail at life. I gained a lot of wisdom from these folks but it didn’t stop me from being bad what I was doing at Quicken. I started to feel like I was a non-essetial person in a non-essential role. It was hard to get out of bed when you felt like this much of a failure. My boyfriend would remind me that this was normal, everybody hated their jobs. Everybody feels unfulfilled at work and not everyone worked in the field they went to college for.

Maybe I listened to too many motivational speakers and read too many self help books, I could do so much more with my life. I refused to buy into this “everyone is miserable in life” narrative and just suck it up. I force fed myself this philosphy of being dead inside for a while. I said I would do this work I was bad at and create a $10,000 scholarship for my Linglobal students to study foreign languages abroad. But I was working so much I never had time to keep up our language and culture classes. Linglobal was becoming a pipe dream. In the beginning I like my coworkers we had fun, went out and became like family, but I moved to a diffrent department where I didnt get along with anyone. I was awkward and felt like I coundt relate or have conversations with people. Not only was I failing to produce the way that I needed in the corporate world, I was late to work quite a bit.

With all this being said, I don’t know why it was really such a surprise when my boss walked me into a room sat me down and told me I was fired. I’m an emotional person but I didn’t get emotional, I had never been fired and I wasn’t happy. However, I calmly handed over my badge. Shook the hands of my now former employers and walked out into the sunshine of an unusually warm November day. I looked around at the bustling of downtown Detroit, people ice skating in Campus Martius, shopping in Cadillac Square. I felt a serene feeling of being at peace wash over me. It was freedom, I was free. I had wanted to quit a long time ago. I realized my dreams were too big for Quicken Loans.

I wanted to be a guiding light for my community. Meaning why not lean into facilitating programs and ways to show a way or maximizing one’s utility? Why couldn’t the citizens of my community be more than what they had been for the past 15 years? We were a city in decline as a lot of American cities were, the era of shopping malls is over, online shopping saw to that. Why not run for office? I wanted to be on the school board, the education I received had made me who I was and my linglobal program was in the schools on and off. It was time to be a voice for pushing boundaries and not always following a consensus but following a community conscious. I aimed to question every decision the board made to be sure it is in the best interest of the children, the child’s sense of well-being and the interest of the community of Harper Woods, and not just the financial bottom line of the school district.

I campaigned and networked with politicians, talked to people who had lived in the community for years but I had never known. I lost that election by 127 votes. But I learned so much more on how to succeed next time. I wasn’t completely sad, I saw it as a victory in trying. It was a huge surprise when I found out the day before the school board election that there was a city council vacancy! I went for it!

When I didn’t get it, I think that was when I decided to cry about everything. I cried about losing the school board election, about getting fired, about my relationship ending and I cried because I was embarrassed I even ran at all. Who did I think I was? I may be an adult but I didn’t feel like one. I felt like a loser. What right did I have to make decisions for a city of 14,000 people? It was stupid to try. I was drowning in a sea of sadness and I couldn’t find my way out. I had no income, I didn’t save while I was working and I felt worthless. To make matters worse, my car decided to develop a problem with its starter. Now I was without a car. Just like in 2012, I had hit rock bottom.

I turned to binge-watching Amazon Prime, I didn’t know they had movies. I thought Prime was just for expidited shipping. They had TV shows; a lot of my old favorites. It was nice to escape it all. Fantasy land was better than broke, busted, loser reality. I rewatched Downton Abbey, it was pleasant to be a part of a simpler time, to indulge in tea, balls, and the antics of the Dowager Lady Grantham. I felt Lady Edith’s pain acutely when she thought she would be alone forever. The servant’s yearning to do more with their lives and keep up with changing times echoed my feelings that my life didn’t match up with what I was capable of. My sister Gloria tried to talk me out of my depressed binge-watching, she bought me a financial planner to make better financial decisions when I was in a better place with my money and reassured me that day would come and to ask for my worth when it did.

I was still in a funk, I started watching a show on Amazon Prime my ex thought I would love The Marvelous Mrs. Masiel, it didn’t seem that appealing at first, but I liked Midge the main character. She had substance and she was “weird”, used humor to deflect a bad situation, she resonated with me. She was bold and didn’t wait to be told or ask permission. She didnt sulk when her relationship ended, she made the best of it. What an apt analogy for life. Midge had a plan and was persistant with getting to her goal, come hell or high water. Just like that I was inspired again.

Oprah said when the universe sends you signs to help you along the way of walking in your truth. At first is a whisper then it’s like a thump upside the head if you don’t get the message, then it’s like a brick and if you don’t take action a brick wall crashes down over you. 2012 was perhaps the whisper, I listened, took action but perhaps I had no road map. An FBI agent once told me (another story for another time) that not everything that comes to you is meant for you. The misery should have been my indicator that I had gotten off the path. No matter how hard I tried I could make Quicken Loans fit. Running for office and my relationship were learning experiences. Nothing ventured nothing gained. I know how I would do better next time. Not only do we need an escape from reality for inspiration we need it for a reminder not to stray from the path, the map for the road of life is there for a reason, detours happen sometimes but inspiration is how we refuel.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Fascinating to hear your story! Thank you. From one language-blogger-working-in-the-corporate-world-trying-to-use-languages-more to another, I feel your tension. How do you make this all work? How do you keep the languages going when everyone around you sees it as “your” thing, and not as “everyone’s” thing? How do you show its value to everyone rather than just your personal eccentricity?

    I look forward to hearing more what’s happening next!

    BTW I heard you in the BBC Doc. Congrats!

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