Listen to this while you’re reading: Mama’s Got A Brand New Bag
It’s weird how often something you didn’t expect turns out to be the best thing that could ever have happened to a person.
On October 27 I was laid off from my job as an animal shelter behaviorist. I’d been doing that work in different places for nearly 13 years, and it was wearing me down. I wasn’t happy, but was hoping to reach full retirement age before hitting the road. I had been hearing hints of trouble to come, like a question about when I would be moving out of my office. (My response, “Am I moving out of my office?”) Comments about my age. There were the crashing waves of compassion fatigue that go hand-in-hand with animal welfare work, too, but those were nothing new.
I got the call on my day off, and was awakened from a sound sleep. You would think I’d have an emotional outburst of one sort or another, but I didn’t. I didn’t cry, I wasn’t angry. The thing is, I wasn’t surprised. It was Covid Times, it was 2020, and it was many other things I won’t get into here, but the lay off wasn’t a surprise. I have Major Depressive Disorder, so this very well could have sent me under my lead blanket, but it didn’t. Instead, day after day, I felt better. I was concerned, but not worried, about financial things. The low-grade depression that I carried most of my career began to lift. I applied for unemployment and insurance subsidies. I drank tea in the morning and I didn’t go to work.
Before I was laid off, my grad school friend, Katrina, asked if she could buy my Mardi Gras Bourbon Orleans painting for her sister. All of us studied Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas, and we all lived in New Orleans for a time before we knew each other. (Well, they knew each other.) I was delighted, but I was having trouble with the paint not drying. It took months before I felt it could safely be packed up to ship. By then I had been laid off my job.
Then this thing happened. I have always been an artist, even when I was doing other things for money. I started doing a lot of painting and posting things on Facebook.
But then the coolest thing happened. People started asking me to paint things for them. Lots of dogs. Some grandkids.
Even some foxes.
I’ve been painting since November, pretty much non-stop. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do with my life. It took me long enough.