How Being Pissed Off Saved My Life & Career

Or, how being true to myself emboldened me to take steps to save myself from petty villains in positions of authority.

First: How I Quit Smoking in 1999

I had my first drag of a cigarette at age 13 while spending part of the summer at my family home in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. It was a hot, humid evening in 1980. Bruce Springsteen was playing on the Boom Box underneath the pier. My friend’s feather earrings blew around in the sea breeze as I decided to break my square streak and have a smoke. She was petite, blond and beautiful and I was definitely not. I was dark, brooding and quickly became hooked because my fictional hero, Holden Caulfield, was a smoker as were all the kids I was hanging out with. This includes the kids at home and at school so socioeconomic status wasn’t a barrier or predictor. I was smoking between one and two packs a day. I had a “smoking den” back at home which was the fire escape staircase at the end of the hallway with a window view of Queens. I started out with Parliaments, then Marlboro Light, then Reds. I smoked on the way to school, between classes and even when we walked from our school building on East 70th and Third to the Park for gym class. As you can imagine, this was very unhealthy and I frequently was winded when I tried to exercise.

I decided to go to a smoking cessation group in 1999 led by a highly smug, unlikable (by my standards) woman who informed everyone that we would be given a “supplement” to help us stop smoking. I asked what it was and it turns out it was Zyban, an antidepressant. I raised my hand and asked if it we could opt out but continue to attend meetings at the support group.

“You will never be able to quit smoking without it,” she said to me and for all the group to hear.

I got up, left, and haven’t had a cigarette since that day.

How I Fired My Boss and Became My Own in 2001

While I was married to the military and living in the south in the late 1990s I was working as a freelance writer. One of my clients in Maine created a full-time job with benefits for me which was perfect for when my ex-husband got out of the Marine Corps. The job was perfect for me–I loved it! I enjoyed building a successful company from the ground up. Things were going great until a new partner came on board. Said partner decided that he would take over writing the marketing copy but would sign my name to it. I will say that his writing felt much like reading Dad jokes without punchlines. Said partner, a man, thought it was OK to make inappropriate comments and touch my ears because he liked my earrings. There were other issues with his “leadership” that made me feel queasy. Rather than making a fuss I gave my notice and hung my own shingle. I am so grateful to the jerk because I saw his face every time I felt like giving up. Making cold calls was so much more pleasant than working for him. My anger towards him fueled my passion to succeed which I did.

Coming up next: How I Overcame My Fear Of Writing About PTSD

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