I used to obsess over what other people thought about me. Coming from a family that was the antithesis of close knit, it felt for years as if I was navigating this earthly sojourn alone. Hungrily, I trailed behind all the cool and shiny looking people— pretty women, sharply dressed men, kindly professors, hip-sounding groups of people who gathered in bookstores or in church basements, for example. I also attempted to bond with every co-worker I ever labored alongside, hapless in the belief that our shared source of income somehow made us best buds.
In retrospect I am not at all mortified about the person I used to be. Along life’s path, despite shattered ideas and broken pieces of self, I was also led to waiting angels and pearls of wisdom. So, I hung in there with the nine-to-fivers until my innerchild began her familiar, hungry squirm. At first I thought the idea to quit my day job was nuts— give up a steady paycheck, face uncertainty, and pursue writing dreams? You’re fifty years old, more than half your life is over, pull yourself together and be practical, is what I told myself.
What more did I need beyond a door to my own private office and the freedom to mostly come and go as I pleased? The chump change of an annual two weeks of vacation and a fistful of sick time was modern day, indentured servitude, but at least I could say I enjoyed my work and got along with most of the customers. As for crunching numbers? Umm, no offense to all the lovely math people in the world, but I have been a word-girl my whole life! This was not some random case of job boredom, no no no. This was a matter of heartache and psychological warfare in the guise of self-sabotage. I needed a change and I needed it fast!
Somewhere along the career path, after our children were raised and after the nest emptied, I woke up to find myself in a job which felt safe. The problem was I felt nothing else— no excitement, no joy, no anticipation of what was next .… just safe. My story wasn’t new, I know. But the realization of life spinning away with a lost sense of self was enough to get my attention and I began journaling my way out, like a trapped mouse nibbling through sheetrock.
Eight months ago I submitted my two weeks notice, bought myself a Macbook to replace an ancient, oft-freezing laptop and here I am. Thankfully I have a hubby who continues to take the nine-to-five hits for our team, otherwise I’d be on some friend’s basement couch. Was I cured of the dimming light of soul-crushing, self-sabotaging mental death? Absolutely. Have I stopped following the breadcrumbs of so many shiny and cool looking people? Well, the jury is still out on that one. But here’s what I learned: writers must write. Knowing that writing is what makes me come alive and still, choosing to ignore it, is like having legs and refusing to walk. Today I write constantly and with alacrity, as if this very moment is all I have left.
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