I quit my job a year ago - right before the rest of the country started to worry about keeping theirs.
I’m not a trust fund baby.
I didn’t hit the lottery or inherit a windfall from a rich uncle.
I just, well, I made a deal with…my husband. And then I jumped.
Good bye fancy title. Good bye corner office. Good bye fat paycheck.
As it turned out, quitting my job meant quitting much, much more. Out went dining at over-priced, delicious restaurants, the cleaning service, $20 lipstick, $200 jeans, trips to Napa, weekly manicures and pedicures – the list went on and on. Yes, it was a very good job. (And a very good life that I appreciated for the most part, but something was missing…I’ll save that for another day, another post.) Once the bills were paid and philanthropic and retirement goals met, the rest was mine to, ahem, squander.
Six months and a life coach later, I renewed negotiations with my husband for a six month extension to my sabbatical. He agreed, but only if I agreed to make further cutbacks in spending. What choice did I have? I forfeited the right to complain about monetary sacrifices the day I resigned. Alas, it was the dawn of drugstore makeup - Wet and Wild – and adventures in home waxing. Yet, these didn’t mark my low point. In some ways, scaling back was easier than I expected. I didn’t need expensive suits and shoes anymore. Making a gourmet dinner for friends at home was relatively inexpensive but also more intimate. I didn’t even mind house cleaning – it had a certain Zen aspect to it. I rediscovered the public library. I learned every free day for every museum in the city. Besides, I wasn’t the only one watching my pennies; the entire country had slid into a recession. And I had the one thing I never had before, the one thing my money couldn’t buy – time.
Stop the Chariots of Fire music now.
Yes, oh yes, there were days I missed having a disposable income – like the day of my first DIY bikini wax. (Lesson learned: carefully read the instructions before you begin.) $70 haircuts at my posh salon were out and, of everything I gave up, those were the hardest. The breakup with Amy, my hairdresser of 12 years, was tough - I had known her longer than my husband.
So it may come as no surprise that I hit rock bottom on a Tuesday at the local salon. Getting an appointment the same day I called to schedule one should have been my first clue that my journey was taking a bad turn. Amy’s sweet smelling salon, brimming with perky, trendy twenty somethings , required a three week notice for an appointment. The Main Street Salon was trying for minimalism (I think.) but looked more like a sterile barbershop than a salon and smelled faintly of Irish Spring soap.
Sitting quietly in a chair with a straight man named Junior running his fingers through my split ends, my eyes welled up with tears. Damn my naïve optimism! I imagined Junior would be a fabulous, fashionable, flaming gay man who would confidently assume responsibility for my fashion sense at least from the shoulders up. No such luck. When it was over, and by over I mean when Junior was finished cutting my wet hair (hence, no complimentary blow dry and style), he offered me a mirror so I could see the back. I shook my head no and walked towards the counter to pay my bill. I think I thanked him, but I can’t be sure.
I shuffled home feeling as though I had been violated somehow. The cut was $16, but I left a chunk of my dignity in that chair. As my hair air dried, I resisted the urge to look in the mirror. Why compound the agony.
I had nearly distracted myself from continually replaying the horror of the day’s event in my head when my husband came home from work and did something unprecedented – he said, “Wow, your hair looks great. What did you do?”
He didn’t even know about my ‘salon’ visit. I ran to him and hugged him hard sparing him the abridged version of my drama. Then I raced to the powder room mirror for a look. It wasn’t 'great', but it was better than some of my $70 haircuts. Dignity restored, I sashayed back to the kitchen, head and new hairdo held high. My fantastic husband was sifting through his mail. I twirled a strand of my fresh cut locks through my fingers and quietly watched him – in that moment I knew I would marry him all over again.