You may or may not have heard of the term “Virtual Assistant.” If you haven’t, this is the term for someone who handles the administrative support functions for other businesses. You can be a freelance worker, independent contractor, or have your own virtual assistant business. Having your own business means developing long-term partnerships with other businesses, taking these administrative tasks on so the client can devote more time to growing his/her own business.

The attractions to owning your own business are obvious: not having to report to anyone, working your own hours, better pay, and no daily commute. Of course there are risks. Lots of new businesses fail; you could find yourself destitute if you don’t land clients quickly. And of course there are the super-fun things like paying taxes yourself and having to buy health insurance in the disastrous government-run marketplace. But hey, there’s no such thing as a job with zero unpleasant tasks.

I know some of you that know me well are asking, “why stick your neck out like this? You and your wife have a lot of medical concerns, and costs that keep you living check-to-check. Why would you take a path with such uncertainty?” There are several reasons.

My wife’s health – She took a fall trying to transfer from the bed to her wheelchair not long before my weight loss surgery in November. By early December, she had lost the use if her arms & hands. We went to the ER, and discovered she had a bruised spinal cord, plus spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal column that puts great pressure on the nerves and bones. She was moved to a rehab hospital, where great progress was made getting some of the motor skills back. Then she was moved to a nursing & rehab center that offered very little rehab. She returned home last week, and all the progress had disintegrated. She is basically the same as she was when we went to the ER on December 9. We have arranged some home care, but it’s like putting a few Band-Aids on a gunshot wound. At least for now, she needs someone in our home at all times.

My mental health – I have written in the past about the depression and anxiety I was diagnosed with back in 2008 when I was placed in the company’s Employee Assistance Program. My job performance was suffering, and I couldn’t keep up with my 60-miles-a-minute VP, so he had HR put me in the program. I quickly moved into regular therapy and medication from a psychiatrist. Consensus was that I had been living with these conditions for 30 years at that point. The treatment was extremely successful, and today I am in a very stable state.

I also work in the nuclear industry, which is the worst possible work environment for someone with mental illness. Everything you do, every decision you make, has to be based on “what is the worst thing that could possibly happen?” I believe that to be an unhealthy environment.

I’m tired of suppressing my dream – I joined the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) at the very end of 2002. I had never heard of the group until I had attended an in-house admin training class in 2001, where the instructor gave a short commercial for IAAP. I hesitated for a while, and then jumped in. One of the leaders in the local chapter I joined was a VA. She gave a presentation on being a VA at one of the monthly meetings. That was probably sometime in 2004; I can’t remember the exact time (I’ve been to sleep at least 3 or 4 times since 2004). I remember thinking, “that’s what I want to do one day.” Both my marriage and my Duke Energy career were about 4 years old then, and I figured I needed to put more time in. But it was always in the back of my mind. In the 6 or so years I have been in the nuclear section of Duke, it has kept moving to the front of my mind more often. Honestly, I have actively thought about it every day since the beginning of 2016. Proverbs 13:12 says “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I don’t want my heart to be sick.

As I said before, I often wondered if I was valued in my current job. Well, my manager, along with another manager I support, were less than thrilled with my decision. They both spent some time attempting to talk me out of it. I respectfully listened and answered their questions. In the end, I ended up convincing my boss. He called it “a damn good idea.” 🙂

I know there are risks. You need to hit the ground running, with a good amount of work, so you don’t find yourself fighting the squirrels at the dumpster for food. But I believe I am ready. I am confident. I want to do work that helps others plus myself succeed, rather than just being an anonymous part in someone else’s machine.

So I’m off. My last day of corporate employment is February 28. I am excited about what the future holds.