When I was forty-one, I was laid off from my corporate job at Hewlett-Packard. It was the cushy kind of job with benefits—health care and retirement—a nine to five’er, with a false sense of security. But back in the day, 2002, my lay-off came with a nine-month severance. And it so happened that I was heading to Maui for a “manifest your destiny” workshop with a gaggle of girlfriends.
Maui was never a place I’d intended on visiting. I’m not a beach person. Not an ocean beach person that is. I prefer the inland kind, specifically, Lake Michigan. But there I was free of responsibilities for the first time in my life. Money in my pocket. For two weeks we participated in the workshop, which included breath work to heal old wounds, breath sessions in the lava pools, swims with dolphins, languishing nude on Baby Beach. It was nothing like the one spring break I took in college when I went to Florida. It was more freeing than that. The Maui wind that feels like silk, the time that never varies more than an hour, the wind rustling palm leaves, white sandy beaches with waves banging up on shore. Maui has a way of enticing lost souls to her shores, and she grabbed ahold of me and my dream to become a writer. To write a memoir about searching for and finding my birthmother. I thought I could write it in six months, pitch it to an agent at the Maui Writers Conference over Labor Day, then return home to my apartment in Palo Alto and await publication, and find a real job if that didn’t pan out.
But I didn’t go home to Palo Alto after Labor Day. The island begged me to stay. I wasn’t married, had no kids, what did it matter? Later I would look back upon my time on Maui, working for a best-selling author, meeting the likes of Dr. Wayne Dyer. In my heart I knew I was a Maui-short-timer, knew that eventually the internal voice I’d initially heard beckoning me to stay would tell me it was okay to leave. When I returned to the Mainland, I drove up and down I-5 in my silver Subaru Imprezza from Oregon to San Diego and back again in search of home.
When I was laid-off in 2002, Facebook and Twitter were just a dream, cell-phones barely had cameras. Daily life hadn’t yet reached breath-taking speed. From the time of my return in 2004, it took until 2008 to land “the real job”. And I realized after I was offered director of marketing for a hospice, and had spent time back in daily-non-profit grind, that were I to launch a walk-about today, things might not turn out so well. But maybe I should cut myself some slack. That if I were that person today, I’d still have hutzpah, tenacity, and the smarts to last me, but maybe not the nine-month severance.