This month is ten years since I quit my job at Pfizer.
Technically, I didn’t quit. My position was eliminated as part of a broader HR restructuring. My husband’s job was eliminated, too. I signed a release and waiver, and I was given a severance package that provided some coverage while I transitioned to a new role. That new role was a full-time blogger and speaker at Punk Rock HR LLC, which seemed full of endless possibility back in 2007.
My entrepreneurial journey seemed strong.
In the early days of unemployment, we slept late and went to the gym. My husband cooked elaborate meals, and we saw a lot of movies. We enjoyed one another’s company because we knew it would be temporary. We spent a lot of our free time volunteering at the local animal rescue. I looked for rescue dogs, something we’d talked about since I moved in with my husband. And I blogged a lot.
Then a whole bunch of stupid things happened.
First, we moved from Michigan to North Carolina for my husband’s new job but couldn’t sell our home in Kalamazoo. When we finally sold it, we took a big financial hit. Then my father-in-law passed away. My mom had chronic health problems. Then my husband lost his job in North Carolina. Twice. The late aughts and early teens were full of ridiculously boring obstacles and hurdles. We never had children of our own, we stopped fostering kittens and being involved in the animal rescue community, and we never adopted a dog.
I can’t say how my husband felt during the past ten years, but I suffered from intermittent low-level depression and anxiety. Yes, I enjoyed my career as a blogger and speaker. But even I took a job at a marketing agency for a little while just to relieve the financial pressure and to get out of the house so my husband could have time for himself to find a new job.
Thankfully, this story isn’t too depressing.
There’s nothing but good news to report in 2017. My husband works for an excellent company, and we emerged from the recession relatively unscathed. Our cats are happy, and we adopted our black cat, Roxy, back in late 2014. But, while our story has a relatively happy ending, I can see how career and economic upheaval during the early and pivotal years of a relationship can lead to tough conversations in the later years of marriage.
Right now, we’re in the middle of asking ourselves a lot of questions. Who are we as individuals and as a Ruettimann-team? What do we want from our careers? How do we view retirement? How do we continue to be interesting people with a purpose as we get older? How much time do we want to spend together and apart? Who takes care of us when we get older? Is it possible to be financially secure and start a new company like GlitchPath?
I’m not ready for the next financial or emotional recession.
Everybody changes, but I am an entirely different person than the woman who left her job at Pfizer. From my appearance to my outlook on life, it’s all a switcheroo. I’m a successful writer and speaker by some accounts, but I’m also a nascent entrepreneur who never thought she’d be worried about indemnifying her husband’s retirement plans against risk.
And I’m also a middle-aged woman who knows that the economy could flip in a heartbeat. I refuse to go back to a place of emotional and marital disarray and confusion. How do I keep it all together — my company, my marriage, and my sanity?
I’m not sure. I’ll keep writing about all of this if you continue reading. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over ten years, it’s that my entrepreneurial journey cannot exist separately from the journey and evolution of my marriage. I have a husband and a mortgage. I don’t have the luxury of being a young CEO who can burn the candle at both ends and bet on future earnings. It’s just us.
The good news is that I feel informed and prepped for all the things that might go wrong. I’ve spent the past ten years finding moments of success in a landscape of failure. No matter what happens with my career or my life, I know that I’ll endure.
It would just be great to get a goddamn dog.