Category: Living Outside the Lines (Page 2 of 4)

Solopreneurship is resistance

Some background into the way I run my life, how I think, and why, especially in this cultural-political climate, my reasoning won’t change: I have made the pursuit of continual personal evolution my lifestyle–explore what is in me, and evolve toward the highest version of my being, and keep learning from the world around me. I need freedom to do that. I need to manage my time and resources well. I leverage microbusiness as a way to create the schedule and opportunities I want.

My DIY lifestyle is expansive: create-my-occupation, create-my-interaction, create-my-space in the world.

I’m self-employed, and I’ve been self-employed for most of my professional life. I have a solopreneur ecosystem, that is, a single-person entrepreneur. I am in the business of creating income streams for myself.  I have an established niche as an independent creative writer and energy healer, and I also do corporate writing and editing work. This combination is a juxtaposition of sorts, I know, but I feel that it works for what I need out of this life. I stay outside some lines—economic, educational, status—and inside others—the New Age subculture—and the cocktail is just right. I wouldn’t have my lifestyle any other way. My goals wouldn’t be met in any other way.

A few months ago, after I sent a bill to a corporate editorial client, I had a conversation with a person from the company and it went something like this:

“The venture capitalists want you to bill differently. They are using a different business model that you must fit.”
“Excuse me?” I firmly said, “But that’s not how I work.” This corporation doesn’t get to tell me how I run my business.

And it was at that moment that my business of one received a smack-down of vailidity, an action that I feel was incited by the actions of the current president. Corporations can do whatever they want to the people. At that moment, the president became “45.” If I am just a number to him and his corporations-turned-people eaters, then he was just a number to me, too. I knew, as soon as the election results were posted back in November 2016, the reckless, narcissistic business man named Donald Trump and his havoc-economics would significantly impact my financial status. What I didn’t know was how—until, slightly over one year into his presidency, this client raised concerns about my bill and essentially about being able to pay me because my way of working didn’t fit the corporation’s operating model. If I did things their way (which included being openly available but not being compensated for that open availability), I could continue to work for them.

I stopped working for the client immediately after the phone call. I told them I do not accept their rules and ways of doing things. So there went that contract, and it was an intense experience to watch the income stream disappear, but it was the right thing to do.

I’d like to bring up a few parameters of independent contractor solopreneurship. Solopreneurship is having a million and one different ways of making money as a single person. A solopreneur can be a microbusiness of one, and profits usually look more like a two-figure salary than anything in the millions (like a small business). It’s a fiscally risky way to live as a business of one. I am in the business of communication—I’m a writer and editor for hire with a roster of clients for whom I render work at will. I sign agreements that say my working contract can be terminated at any time. I’m not eligible for employer-based health insurance plans for companies because I am not regularly employed. United States legislation around independent contractors state that we work on our own schedule and own physical set-up—the situation gets blurry when a company says that we must be onsite at certain time over a duration of time (that starts to be permalancing and a whole other discussion). What that also means is that when projects suddenly change direction, or there’s a budget cut, or something somewhere happens, we are the first to be let go. We aren’t eligible for unemployment because we aren’t leaving permanent jobs. And, we pay self-employment tax on top of everything else.

We operate with a bunch of risk.

But we receive–when played well–complete validation of who we are through the work that we do.

I’m able to pursue fringe interests and offer energy work because I have financial and time flexibility. The trade-off (for me) is valid.

So when I think back to that conversation earlier in the year, how a new level of non-morality in big business has been greenlit (thanks, 45), I recognize how solopreneurship is my act of resistance to the creepy, crawly values of the current administration and the outdated patriarchal structures. I won’t step in line for a permanent, traditional, “safe” position for fear or want of a steady paycheck, or health insurance, or company culture. I won’t do what Big Corporation tells me to do. I will always choose the way of the individual, and take those professional risks.

May the resistance be DIY!

Pilgrimage to Ellis Island and beyond

I have had intermittent dreams that I’m on a boat—my awareness is on a boat—somewhere near the East River or Hudson River. I am flying over the bridges around Manhattan. I am hovering in the air around around Jersey City, distinct because of the oil tanks, piers, green land, and industrial structures built right onto the water. I lived in Jersey City for a few years, and I always attributed these dreams to the processing of fragments of memory and visual impressions during my residency. But when I recently went to Ellis Island (located just south of Manhattan, where the East River and Hudson River merge/diverge), I realized that those dreams might not entirely be what I thought they were. I shelved the impressions in the back of my mind, but later, when I had some free time during a recent trip to New York City, and I decided it was time to understand my impressions. I turned it into an intentional trip, lineage research, a pilgrimage to Ellis Island.

Strange physical sensations began as soon as the cruise-ferry left Battery Park in Manhattan. Somewhere between South Ferry and Liberty Island, the concrete and glass, modern city-scape dimmed. The sounds of French and Asian languages, British English and New Yawker slang got quieter. The cell phones and digital cameras and headphones appeared sci fi-ish, garish and way too “new.”

And then the muted sensation experience passed.

It came back when I entered the hall of the main building of Ellis Island—the main hallway of the gingerbread-house look-alike building. The singular color of the brown, and the piping of white through details in the stone held my vision. When I went inside, the cavernous lobby and ascerbic white, honey-comb tile and hundreds of people walking around in incongruous lines, held my being. I felt—imagined people who were laden with luggage and heavy sea legs and other physical effect of the Transatlantic journey. I felt the hairs on my arms stand up, as I thought, “I have been here before.”

I intuited a call to go to the hallway on my left, a passage that led into the modern stations of computers and chairs, places to access passenger lists and genealogy records. I focused on my matriarchal lineage, so I researched the names “Guzior” and “Dudovich.” I was shocked to see that 20 people had passed through these halls between 1880 and 1950—people who had those surnames.

I was real-time texting my mom throughout the search process. While I didn’t find exact names of my family members, I found similar and partial names. My mom noted the possibilities of misspellings and mis-literations. After all, part of my matriarchal side has gnarly family names, like “Trzeciakiewicz”—a jumble of letters that is pretty easy to mix up. There were several people named “Yadwiga”—and I have several Hedwigs on my mom’s side—the Americanized equivalent of Polish names.

I left the research hall in more of a mental fuzz than I had arrived. There were some connections being made in the process, more validation, and less literal answers. My mom mentioned that my maternal grandfather’s mom was a mail order bride. I had never understood what that meant, but just as I thought that, I walked into a room of the Ellis Island museum that contained pictures and manifestos from ships that carried hundreds of picture brides—women who were requested and sent for in the old country to marry men in America who wanted a similar culture.

I was shocked. Every hair (that wasn’t already standing) on my body stood up. The room around me spun. I felt like I had understood why the experience was so inside me—Ellis Island was a sort of homecoming for my physical body. The experience of time shifted completely. The pieces felt alive inside of me in my waking state—I was partly in my dreams, partly in the space of hyperawareness in the present moment. I believe the memories of those who lived lives as part of my physical family—those I am related to through blood—are part of the cellular make-up of my body, hence in-body, and it’s as if they were the source of the memories and visual fragments. But I also knew that all the blanks in the story of my family and my matriarchal lineage were blanks because of trauma; of issues; of things that you didn’t talk about because culturally, there was no space. I felt called to acknowledge these unknown, known people.

I held the list of names that I had scribbled in my hand, and I went outside. I walked around the outer building, saying the names, saying that whatever business unresolved could be released, saying thank you for coming to America, saying thank you. I wondered out loud about the experience of being American –of having to arrive in a country where, despite pockets of a native ethnicity or culture (usually based on church), the secular cultural space took over.

Becoming American was the process of forgetting. I was at Ellis Island to remember.

When I felt like it was time to leave Ellis Island, I took the ferry to Liberty State Park, New Jersey, rather than back to Battery Park in New York. I walked the Jersey City waterfront all the way downtown, to Jersey Avenue, and I paused right where the street bisects Newark Avenue. Now, it’s a part-pedestrian zone that is lined with artisanal beer bars and baby shops.

I turned around and looked backward in the direction that I had just walked from. I thought back to when I too lived in this neighborhood. My chochi (aunt) had called me one day and asked if I knew where an address on Jersey Avenue was, and if it was close to my apartment where I was living on 2nd Street. It was indeed very close—only three blocks—and I asked why. She had found my dzadi’s (grandfather’s) driver’s license, dated to the 1940s, when he lived in Jersey City. I had incidentally and unknowingly moved back to where my family had, in part, been. From where I stood, lookingdown Jersey Avenue, to where dzadi had lived, knowing behind me was the way to the apartment that I had occupied.

Is that a metaphor or what?!

I had never felt as connected to my Polish-American heritage as I did that day. My body responded to it. The angst in my physical form responded to this (somehow) familiar place, and I allowed the acknowledgement as well as release of memories on the cellular level.

I’ve dubbed Ellis Island is the Akashic records hall of the late nineteenth, early twentieth century immigrant experience. What was not in my mind consciousness was in my body consciousness. And I felt that having the experience—and release—that I did helped me to evolve deeper into myself.

What does it mean to me to evolve on a spiritual level? What happens if I “evolve”? What will I find beyond the linear concept of time? It means that ordinary experiences have hella deep reverb for me, and I have to spend a lot of time making my own meanings for things. It means my perspective is enhanced by my ability to accept that somehow, these lives are in me, and intertwined, and that this one life has connections to so many others. I’m not sure of the why or how, but this experience gave me something powerful for the now.

Consider your women

I’ve been thinking about my lineage, and specifically my matrilineality—the women I come from. If the healing process, both cultural and personal, is about getting curious, then I’m stumped in wonder. I’ve had some thoughts that don’t quite fit into a neatly trimmed post, and it doesn’t feel right to not bring up these thoughts because I never know when something will resonate and be meaningful for another person. It feels a little uncomfortable to present this blog as is, but in the spirit of not perpetuating the idea getting well, figuring things about ourselves out is straightforward and easy, I’m being transparent here about the processes of my personal evolution.

My mother’s side and what I embody through the hers. First, some context: I was born in a Polish American family. I’m fourth gen Polish American, so really just American. Catholicism was birthright. I don’t think I could have escaped baptism or communion, but Sunday mass got to be optional when I threw enough of a fit, or when someone didn’t want to go, or someone didn’t care enough to go. Church wasn’t a meaningful thing for me then; it was just a thing. And: I have always held the notions that religion and God were different and that religion didn’t necessarily have to do with my connection to God. I have always held a connection to “something else,” something I now call a divine presence, and yet, I still grew up unable to put the feeling of connection into practice, even with church in the periphery.

I didn’t understand the journey to strength took weakness, and vice versa.

I started to consider my matrilineality through the lens of spirituality, and when that, focused on my maternal grandmother. She was a devout Roman Catholic, and she always had prayer books always by her side. I’m named after her.

Recently, as I spent some time post meditation and journaling, I went through a few boxes of pictures. I came across some of the prayer books packed away in boxes with pictures. When I hold these prayer books, I feel connected to her. It’s a reassuring connection and feels nourishing, despite the fact that she’s been dead for thirty years, and that I have only fleeting memories of her while I was toddler. (Curly gray hair, and the way that she peeled apples for me are what stuck.)

There are other things in those photo boxes.  One of these relics is a great old photo of Anastasia, a snapshot of her standing on a country road that is flanked with wooden telephone poles dotted with glass receivers, looking like the wind is going through her hair, looking like she’s going somewhere. It was the 1940s. I wonder where it was taken, but I can safely assume it was the New Jersey-Pennsylvania area. No one is really sure.

I wonder who she was with. Second-gen Polish American women at that time didn’t do stuff like that on their own. I used to think that all the women of her generation were more fearful than anything in their life; this is because the domestic space of a Polish American working-class family in the countryside was fraught with God-bearing-down-on-you-always fear, and insularity, and anger, the kind that snuffs you out rather than propels you.

I’m named after a woman who was afraid to drive. I’m bothered by this part of the namesake inheritance, and I am, because part of wondering means I have to accept the embodiment of her anxiety. What do I do with the narrative of a woman whose prayer cycles defined her?  A woman whose association with the God was part of daily life because the religion was forced and full of fear?

Anastasia’s favorite movie was “Rebecca,” a film made by Hitchcock and based on a 1940s novel. The protagonist, the namesake, doesn’t appear. Her lack of appearance, and my namesake’s lack of appearance, and influence, haunt me in ways that I’m not sure even I understand yet. The weight of absence creates significant presence.

I came back to church in my mid-thirties because I wanted to belong to something. I wanted to put my connection into practice. I was at the end of a path of spirituality that narrowly involved seeking enlightenment. I wanted service. My spirituality drove me to seek community, and the faith-based community I found in a local Christian church felt right to me. But I felt uncomfortable fully stepping up on the path when I realized that there was a gaping absence in my story about belonging to church and having moved away from church, a practice, at a young age.

I wonder how it comes to be that I feel liberated enough to seek a connection to God in a church, despite an equal need to resolve the really shitty things that the organized church has supported. I’m curious about the ways in which I carry the matrilineality, in this #metoo moment, in this rising goddess hashtag femi—errything. I’m curious about all of these converging influences. I am drawn to question the disconnection between my maternal line and my own connection to the Christian church. How can I in-body this disconnection? How can I embody my belief, spiritual evolution, and duty to my sisters who are smashing the patriarchy? I’m not sure, yet. Somehow, the weight of the absence of an answer to this question is calling my presence.. Somehow, connecting to the spirit of women who needed ritual out of weakness, and not strength, feels like I’m arriving on the other side of that weakness by coming back to rituals and association that gave them strength. I feel like I’m emerging as a more powerful, solid version of myself when I put light and not darkness into the matrilineality that I embody.

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