The Downside of Down Time

Chanel

Rushing to Maybe...logoIn the cool–sometimes cruel–world of entrepreneurship, there’s a (sometimes dangerous) thing called down time.

“The hours when I’m not planning or building or otherwise thinking about my new business are few and far between. I’m working just as hard, maybe even harder, than I did when working for someone else,” says new Entrepreneur/Author Chanel Reynolds.

However today, Chanel took the time to read an interesting article tweeted by celebrity Star Jones (The American lawyer chick who is “FREE, BLACK and GROWN”). The article struck a nerve and catapulted Chanel into some well-deserved down time.

Post Day-Changing Tweet

Re-Tweeting the article to her network of followers wasn’t enough. She wanted validation. So, partly to welcome company to her unforgettable past and partly to warn her best friends (and former co-workers) that their clandestine bathroom meetings were not signs of paranoia, Chanel emailed the article to the personal accounts of Linda, Roxie and Angel… certainly, they would appreciate the journalist’s assessment that it’s difficult for a Black woman to thrive in the top ranks of corporate America’s ladder.

Roxie and Angel replied instantly, agreeing that the writer described their reality accurately. Still, that did not erase the pangs of confidence-shattering unfairness that haunted the spaces between Chanel’s thoughts from time to time.

“I was laid-off in spite of all that I brought to the company, without so much as a “thank you” for all that I sacrificed to build their business, which is still struggling, by the way. I have to say, the experience was brutal and eye-opening,” Chanel admits.

Clearly at the point of pink slip, she didn’t imagine her corporate career was over. However with each passing week that she filed for unemployment compensation–which stopped abruptly last month–and each successful interview that failed to end with a hire, she became clear that a new path would be good for her psyche as well as her pocketbook.

Minutes later, Linda responded to Chanel’s email. It simply read: “I’m having a bad day.”

Friend to the Rescue

Chanel, now that her time was her own, decided to nurture her friend with pasta–her famous recipe, reserved for Christmas Eve, July 4th and special occasions when she needed forgiveness for prioritizing work over family and friendships.

Feeling proud of herself, and somewhat Harriet Tubman-esque, for escaping the shackles of believing she needed a middleman to broker her livelihood, Chanel called it a day and went to the nearest supermarket (owned by her former employer) to buy ingredients for the soul-comforting dinner she planned to soothe her friend’s rough day.

Channel had not patronized this place–the entity that drained and squandered her talents in more or less the same fashion as the two, higher-ranking African-American women who preceded her–since her departure. (One day, she will write about that dynamic duo that now directs the proverbial boot that continuously stomps the corporation that once antagonized them…thanks to omitted non-compete clauses in their contracts).

In the name of friendship (and her secret ingredient, anchovy paste), Chanel ventured back into her old territory.

To her delight, a familiar face spotted her in the Produce aisle: an old colleague. Chanel could see pride swell in this middle manager’s eyes when she congratulated him on his recent promotion. He beamed when she said she could see new sparkle (shining through the store’s customary dinge) due to his efforts. Not wanting to keep such praise to himself, the middle manager signaled two of his assistant managers to join their conversation.

“Guys, this is someone from Corporate you need to know. Do you know who this is? When you see her–“  the middle manager exclaimed.

“Oh, no. I’m not with the company anymore,” Chanel interrupted.

“What?”

“I left over a year ago. I sent an email…”

“You know it’s impossible to read all the email we get,” the middle manager laughed. “Which company are you with, now?”

“I’m working for myself…started my own PR business,” Chanel replied.

“Hmm…well that’s OK,” he offered in a pity-filled tone which, without being rude, clearly communicated that Chanel’s honor had diminished with her departure from Corporate America.

Dinner Between Friends

Over the dinner meant to comfort Linda—who wanted her PR-savvy friend to critique her strategy for preventing a know-it-all manager trainee from disrupting her award-winning department, without vexing the green bean’s big-wig, corporate mentors—Chanel lamented about her standing in the world.

“I mean, what was [the middle manager] trying to say? I have clients. Couldn’t he see how happy I am?  Couldn’t he tell I’m different…more confident?” Chanel fretted.  “It all makes me wonder, am I making the right decision to stay out of corporate?”

Both ladies shrugged and finished their bottle of Prosseco.

Linda slept on Chanel’s sofa that night. At 5 a.m. she showered and headed straight to the office wearing a borrowed, conservative pant suit—a rarely-worn relic from Chanel’s corporate days. Emergency staff meeting at 7 a.m. and Linda needed to prepare.

Chanel dressed and went to her computer at 7:30 a.m.  She worked her usual nine-hour day with no down time.

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