That's what I heard God say.
It was a sunny morning. I still remember what I wore that day. It was a navy blue dress. Tahari, maybe? And camel colored-pumps. I felt like MadMen meets the best lycra money could buy. I cleaned up pretty well, I think.
Inside, however? Turmoil.
For thirteen years, I’d worked as an Executive Secretary at Jamaica Hospital in Queens. My job was to support the Food Service Director and his managers. It was payroll for eighty-five people. It was drudgery. I loved my co-workers, but I hated it because I felt stuck.
Let me also tell you that I prayed hard for this job. I had been unemployed from July of that year. And in mid-November, I was frustrated! I complained to my grandmother. She told me to pray to a saint whose name I can't remember. I remember asking why I had to pray to the saint when I could pray directly to God. She yelled at me! Because sometimes you need a lawyer! And she hung up!
As I said, I prayed.
Soon after, I saw an ad to work in the kitchen at the hospital where my cousin worked. My work history showed instability. I'd been hired and fired and quit quite a few jobs. But I asked her what the job entailed. She said, "You don't want to do that job. But since I know you're willing to come all the way out here - my boss is looking for a secretary." Y'all. Do you see God? Do you SEE GOD coming through with BIGGER and BETTERRR? I had administrative assistant experience! On top of that, her boss had also attended our alma mater. We barely talked about my experience. We spent the majority of the interview talking about sledding, tipping cows (he did, I didn't), and what dorms we lived in. December 4 was my first day.
Yet, every year, I planned to leave. One year, I planned to leave on my birthday. It was a Friday, that year, and I’d entitled my exit, The Emancipation of Lee Lee after Mariah Carey's album. But on July 28, 2010, God told me to stay.
Furious, I prayed. And prayed some more. This was new to me, this hearing from God. My mother told me she got the feeling I should stay. And shortly before I was to turn in my resignation letter, I heard it again: STAY.
And so I stayed. Angry at first, I continued doing just enough. But I soon learned God would not release me to go anywhere until I mastered excellence. I had been writing books and movies and dreamed about leaving. In the meantime, I enrolled in school and set about completing something I'd always wanted to do: earn my Bachelors Degree.
It was difficult, going to school full-time and working full-time. But God. I took early morning classes and evening classes. One semester I had to drop some classes. In my final semester, I thought I'd have to quit. It was also difficult because I was old enough to be the Mama. But...
Not the MAMA! They were eighteen and I was closing in on forty and short on patience; questioning my life choices - like not quitting the whole thing when the kids in my music class thought Vanilla Ice and Markie Mark were most likely Eminem's biggest influences. Newsflash: they weren't.
Add to the fact that, my requirements to graduate were only offered at noon in the middle of the day on Wednesday and Friday. I prayed and considered the fact that I'd have to quit and find a part-time job. My cousin said, "Wait, don't quit fool. Maybe you can work weekends." Lightbulb! I asked my boss the next day. And guess what? I got Wednesdays and Fridays off. And worked most weekends when I didn't use my holidays, personal days, sick and vacation days. I hardly saw friends or family until summer.
So when I heard God tell me to leave, I was surprised. I had graduated cum laude *tosses confetti and glitter* with my Bachelor of Arts in Communications two days prior and had fully embraced the job with gratitude. That morning, I was cheerful in my prayers, ready to conquer my day (and be cute!).
"Leave Jamaica?" I didn’t even have any money saved!
Was it God? Or was it me?
Of course, I questioned myself. I leaned toward it being God because I was comfortable with life and unprepared! (Have you ever noticed that the discomfort zone is where God calls you to visit in order for radical change to take place? It’s annoying.)
Still chipper, I went about my business. When I got on Facebook that afternoon, there was a status from Pastor Joel Osteen. It said something like, Stop waiting for ten confirmations. Do what God has told you to do.
And then I received another confirmation. Okay.
When I turned in my resignation letter, my boss refused it.
"There’s nothing out there, he said. And where will you go?"
Then when he realized it was real, he asked me for an extra month. I obliged. This would give me more time to figure things out and I could train the new secretary.
I knew for certain I was going to leave there and be a best-selling author and screenwriter! I allowed myself to be excited! God had a plan! I just had to finish school first!
But no. There was more work. For three years, I was pretty much a hermit as God gave me work to do. There were tears and loneliness and highs and lows. Met a man, left a man at God's direction. Separation became the norm. Potential business collaborations and separation. Friendships and separations. God connects and God disconnects. I had to learn that.
There were disagreements with people who I'd expected to understand because they said they believed. But they just could not believe God told me what He did. You left a good job? That was stupid. You left a good man? That was stupid. You’re having a hard time? That’s because no one told you to leave that job without a plan.
Except God did.
And then there were the few who believed and encouraged and supported and prayed for me.
How did I make it? By the grace of God. I never knew where money was coming from. I never knew who He would use. I never knew what would happen tomorrow – but He kept me. I learned to live in the day, leaving tomorrow to itself.
I don’t wish it on anyone. But I wouldn’t trade it.
When I read my journal, I noticed something peculiar. On July 28, 2010, God told me to stay put. On July 26, 2013, I finally left Jamaica Hospital - so that on July 28, 2013, my prayer for Emancipation had been answered. Three years. There were another three years between leaving that job and starting a new life out west. There's just something about God and threes. I don't believe in coincidence. God is purposeful.
These were the days before I left my house on September 8, 2016, to start a new life. These are the backstories before the day-to-day stuff starts. I’ll answer some questions if the story doesn’t answer it later.
This is my journey of faith with Jesus as my navigator and Google Maps as my back up.
See you next Monday for the next installment of No Parking!
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