After 21 years in the newsroom, notice of my layoff arrived in an email last year on April Fool's Day.
I had always looked forward to April 1, whether I was doling out the pranks or falling prey to them. But this email instructing me to report to Human Resources first thing in the morning was no gag. After reading it, I stopped working on my stories, said my goodbyes and began weeding through decades of clips, letters and assorted odds and ends. The detritus of my career filled three Supercans.
I took what I wanted that night and departed. No way would I return the next day, April 2, to pack my belongings under the watchful eye of a security guard or former colleagues at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
And so I left, dreams boxed, my heart dragging behind me.
One month after receiving my fateful email, I found myself climbing up the limestone blocks of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Sitting on one of the Seven Wonders of the World can change your perspective and fill you with hope.
There are far worse places to feel sorry for yourself than an architectural wonder that for 38 centuries was the world's tallest structure. As I sat on the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu, I felt alive with possibility. The ancient pyramids around me served as a reminder that hard work, girded by a strong foundation, endures.
I did not know what awaited me when I returned to the United States. But in the cradle of civilization, I vowed to start anew.
This is my year of exploration as a writer.
I have more time to write screenplays and scripts "on spec" of favorite television shows.
My love for journalism remains as I work on a freelancing business that showcases my narrative writing skills and expertise in stories that inspire. Finding them a home is harder than ever these days as the competition is fierce. So I try harder.
My schedule, the one I control, allows me to pursue projects that empower women and girls in my community. I hope to do more mentoring. I also have more time to slog, (slow jogging), and lose an additional 44 pounds on top of the 44 I had shed by exercising and eating well.
My layoff was one of life's lows. The trip to Egypt - an unexpected gift from my mother - was one of life's highs. I feel as if I'm still climbing that pyramid in search of life's treasures.
Finding the joy in each day as I pursue my various projects is truly exhilarating. Not having a steady paycheck during this troubled economy is absolutely frightening.
How will it all turn out? I am optimistic and realistic. My funds are limited. If I need to develop a new career plan, I will. But what I know for certain is that this April Fool's Day, I will celebrate a year of reflection, growth and discovery. And hope for an email that brings a smile to my face.
Robin Farmer has more than 20 years of award-winning expertise in news, education, feature and narrative reporting and writing.