On Misery and Possibility

by Akiea Gross

You’ve seen the film with Kathy Bates right? Where she holds her favorite author prisoner under the guise of caring for him. She feeds him, but she beats him. She praises him, but only when he does exactly what she wants—only when she has all of the control.

Now, does any of this shit sound familiar?
Can you relate to this circumstance at all?

If you’re over there, and the first thing that comes to your mind is your job—you’re not alone. Many of our jobs are set up this way, like 'Misery', and like James Caan’s character, the imprisoned author, we put up with it—until we don’t. And what happens when we don’t?

Are we reprimanded?
Laid off?

You can safely bet that it’s probably all of the above.
But what if it doesn’t have to be?
What if, before all of these circumstances came into play, you decided to take back your life by making your own choices?
What if YOU decided that you were going to be the one in control?

It sounds easy enough right? But we all know that it’s not. So many factors come into play.

The money.
The benefits.
The security.
The money.
The benefits.
The security.

Now you and I both know there are many other factors, so I encourage you to make a list of all the reasons you should stay at your job. Context is important in these situations—we must always consider the contexts in which we live, which is specifically why I haven’t named any other factors for you. That’s for you to do, because you know your own life, and all of your truths are valid. So write them down.

And then when you’re done with that list (I know it was painful), make a list of all of the things you could or would be doing if you didn’t have this job. Basically a, Why I Remain Here list and a What Could I Be Doing If I Got The Fuck Outta There list.

Make them both. Then read them aloud. Then add some more, and read them again.

How do you feel?
Are you feeling conflicted?
Are you feeling a little stressed?

Well, that makes sense, because that’s normal. We’ve been conditioned to question our questions; conditioned to believe that considering escape is more terrifying than it is worth it. But is it?

Is fear ever worth it?

Now, while this piece is meant to be encouraging, it’s not a post meant to force you to quit your job at this very moment. No. I mean, go for it if you’re feeling spontaneous or if you’ve already contemplated for some time, but also remember that decisions like these take time. And time, in all of its construct-y ways, likes to convince us that it’s running out—literally every second seems like damn near our last. But seriously, take your time.

The decision to leave your job isn’t, and shouldn’t be, anyone else’s. And it’s damn sure, not an easy one. It requires a healthy mix of thought, contemplation, deliberation, creativity, innovation, possibility, belief in yourself and a heaping scoop of courage. Can’t forget the courage.

And see, the thing is, we have been conditioned over this construct of time, to believe that a stable life is a successful life—a healthy life, a worry-free, a “ninja we made it!” kinda life.

But it’s not all unicorns and rainbows is it? It comes with some serious Kathy Bates conditions. Work this many hours! Do this many things! Reach this deadline! Don’t wear that! Don’t do that! Be here early! Stay here late! Do as I say! Don’t have a life! Don’t take days off! Or else!

But why is it that jobs seem so punitive?
More don’ts than do’s. More restrictions than permissions.

Why is it that we work FOR people and not WITH them?

Why are we so restricted on time, when time doesn’t even really exist?

Why can’t we be our own bosses?
Wear our own wardrobes?
Devise our own condition-less conditions?

Why do we feel we have to sit and suffer in misery just to make ends meet twice a month?
Why are we getting paid twice a month to do work that requires us working EVERY DAY?

It’s illogical. Isn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I used to think a 50-hour week and a bi-weekly paycheck were my saving grace. I didn’t have to check my bank account to make sure my bills were paid. I never thought twice about seeing a doctor if I needed to because my benefits were that good. Those were my privileges, and you could consider it a privilege to be able to give that up. But also consider this:

I have $150,000 in student loans, a savings that’s depleted, $3500 worth of bills per month, people and animals in my life that I need to take care of, depression, ADHD and anxiety that I live with and no way of knowing where my next paycheck is coming from, which, you guessed it—only feeds my anxiety.

But you know what I do have? Possibility.



I finally have joy.

And I never had that before. Sure, I’ve had tastes of it, but I haven’t experienced it perpetually. And I’m not sure if it will stay this way, because hey, it’s only been a month since I left.

But I do know that it took me ten years of misery to decide that I’d finally had enough. That despite my current life situation, I could no longer give years to systems and people that made me miserable. The choice to leave, though it is often a privilege for those who are financially sound, is a sacrifice for folks like us, who aren’t.

A sacrifice.
And you need to think for yourself, is it worth it?
Look at your lists. Consider your possibilities.
It might not be the right time, but is it ever?
It might not be the right moment, but someday, it could be. 

Just consider what life could be, rather than what it is.
Allow yourself to dream, if only for a moment, and realize the potential that you hold.
I did that for 10 years with my students.
Now I figure, it’s time to do that for myself.

Entrepreneurship is difficult. It’s not stable. It’s not consistent. It’s not guaranteed, like your paycheck might feel for now. But it is possible.
And as Black and Brown folks (especially) in the world, we need to see and understand that entrepreneurship is too, OUR possibility. 

We are not just workers, we are LEADERS.
And we have ALWAYS been.
We deserve our dreams. We deserve our possibilities.
We are the past, the present and the future.
And anything we believe, and believe for ourselves, is possible.

So if you do decide to take the leap, like I have after many, many years of contemplation, do so with pride. Do so with belief. Do so with endless possibilities in mind.

Because you will doubt yourself. You will breakdown and cry. You will question why you left a steady paycheck for the unknown—you might even take another position because the fear of losing this consistency is just too much to bear.

But if you do choose to leave, you will be choosing yourself. You will be choosing possibility. You’ll be choosing joy. And you will be free. And despite this country’s past and current histories and what this world has conditioned us to think, freedom is not something you can put a price on.
Freedom is the ultimate possibility.

And these conditions? These are just fear tactics to keep us in place. To keep this capitalist, hierarchical machine running, with us on hamster wheels keeping it all afloat. This system IS misery. But we all deserve our chance to escape.
And misery?
Let it be your catalyst.

So just think about it fam. If this piece did nothing else for you but make you consider the possibility, then we’ve made a little progress. A simple, yet, profound shift in mindset is happening for you right now. And the more you think of what’s possible, the more you’ll believe you deserve to be free.

I got lucky—I have friends who are entrepreneurial creatives, and a partner who is an artist, who have believed in my magic every step of the way.
Get you some friends like that.
Build your tribe.

Make sure you surround yourself with people who believe in your magic, who know what’s possible, and who always hold you accountable. You’re going to need them, because this path is wrought with doubters—including the people who probably helped raise you.

So create your own family.
Curate your life with intention.
Paint your path with purpose.
And dream with infinite possibility.

But don’t stress yourself fam.
You know what’s right for you.
Just know that even though it might feel otherwise, you’re not alone on this path.
I got you.
We got you.
Dream on.

Pursue your passions.
Receive the abundance that the universe has specifically for you.
And welcome your joy.

Here’s to sleepless nights and jam-packed days—but on our own conditions.
On our own time.
Building our own legacies.
And without misery.
The possibilities are endless.