I’m starting to realize that the act of making long-term plans over which I actually have very little control is kind of like watching for shooting stars through my sunroom skylights — Read the rest of this gem…
I wasn’t going to do that whole, let’s-get-drunk-on-over-analytical-self-indulgence-and-take-a-good-hard-look-at-the-innards-of-my-soul new year B.S. because ultimately it only leads to an incredibly low sense of self-worth. Read the rest of this gem…
I think I need help.
Not of the psychoanalytical variety, although that’s debatable, but of the prioritizational kind. Read the rest of this gem…
The eggnog’s been drunk, the gifts have been opened, and that week-long season — the one that somehow manages to suck entire months of our lives into its toothy vortex Read the rest of this gem…
Well, it’s another Last of the Mondays for me.
I can’t believe it’s been over 2 years since I last quit my job to venture out into the world of self-employment.
It’s embarrassing to admit now, but I had high hopes. I had high, high hopes that all I needed to do was book a 2-month trip to Costa Rica, be my lovely, endearing self, and somehow — hopefully through this blog — the opportunity to become a travel writer would present itself.
What I learned the hard way is that self-employment — chasing the dream — takes actual work.
In fact, it’s so easy to sensationalize the idea of working for one’s self because of a single, obvious factor: YOU HAVE NO BOSS.
Turns out, though, that’s not true.
Not even a little.
Of course, YOU are your own boss.
And that’s fantastic, right?
Well, unfortunately, disciplining yourself is a hell of a lot harder than getting an earful from The Man, because all you really want to do is take pity on yourself and be patient and understanding and all of those things you got mad at your boss for not being when you were having a rough day. But then, your Self learns. It learns that you’re a crappy boss and a crappier disciplinarian and soon every day turns into a rough day, and before you know it, you’re unshowered Self is crashing your sofa at 2:00 in the afternoon eating Häagen-Dazs from the carton and singing along to My Fair Lady and, aside from feeling sorry for herself because she’s a big fat failure of a Self-starter, she’s really having a grand old time.
So this time, I’m prepared.
I’m prepared to be a badass boss because I’ve learned that the Self-deprecation that comes with mediocrity is so not worth an afternoon of ice cream and Audrey Hepburn.
There are the other bosses. The other bosses are the people who, as an independent contractor, will be hiring me to work for them. With the other bosses will come a whole new slew of demands and expectations, and the only choice for me will be to meet them, head-on, because if I don’t, the only person who can take the blame is ME.
And I’m tired of letting people down.
Most of all, me.
This time, I’m doing myself a favor, packing a duffel bag full of all of the bullshit I fed myself 2 years ago, and sending it into space with the power of a hundred thousand helium balloons.
(You’ve heard there’s a helium shortage, right? Yeah. That was me.)
This is my last Monday. And hopefully, my last of my last Mondays. This is my last week of earning a paycheck just because I show up.
The last time I pack my lunch in tupperware.
The last time I roll my eyes at a request from my boss because my new boss, I hear, is unriddled by bullshit and in no mood to play.
This is life, after all, and we can coast on through making excuses for getting caught in the momentum of mediocrity, or we can really try.
The only thing ever really holding us back is the paralyzing fear of failure. That thing that makes us start and quit and start and quit again.
But. I’ve finally realized.
I would rather fail — I would rather fail so inconsolably and publicly hard — than continue to be the girl who just quits all the time. The girl who’s addicted to the bottom of the ladder. The girl who says soon – mañana – I will do what I know I was born to do.
Because. With 2 years of tomorrows behind me, I’m no closer to reaching my goals. Failure, at this point, would be a relief next to not even trying. The limbo I’ve been living. The bullshit that’s made me metaphorically fat and lazy and full of excuses.
I don’t want to be that person.
I stop today.
It is, after all, the Last of the Last of the Mondays.
Can you name the movie quoted in the title of this post?
As I sit here this morning with my thin toasted bagel, honey nut cream cheese, flavored coffee, glass of OJ, I realize.
I realize that I’m an almost-thirty-year-old assistant.
I’m an almost-thirty-year-old assistant with a college degree.
No responsibilities, no career driven passion, no zsa zsa zu for anything, save spewing my verbiage onto a screen and getting a slight thrill every time someone acknowledges that I do, in fact, exist.
The issue at hand is simple.
It’s hard to admit, and I choke as I write, because a character trait that would land me a role as a strong, unforgettable leading lady of my own damn story, this is not.
But regardless, it’s true.
I am addicted to the bottom of the ladder.
I’m not tied to it, wormlike umbilical cord still firmly attached at the navel, providing comfort and sustenance until I’m ready to climb.
I’m addicted to it because I’m not attached.
And, if you want to know the truth, I have no desire to climb.
I test a rung, then jump back down. It’s fun down here in the tall, tall grass. Up there, I’d have a view of the whole, wide world. But down here? Down here I get to run all around, play in the dirt, leave when I want, answer to no one. The playground is huge, and there’s no way I’d trade it for a tether to my cell phone and a plush, swivel office chair.
But what am I doing? I ask myself as I drive, fists clenched around the molded plastic wheel, cutting through traffic in a town that hates me on my way to the place where I will spend the next 6 self-deprecating hours as an almost-thirty-year-old assistant.
I’m not ashamed of the job itself, but of the fact that I’m wasting my time.
Of the fact that I’m wasting everyone’s time.
Of the fact that I’m privileged enough to do as I please, yet here I sit, ass tucked firmly between Rung 1 and Rung 2, with no drive to climb yet no heart to run. To run with writing, to declare to the world that this will be my career, even if it makes me a failure who has no choice but to sit at the bottom, staring up with envy at those who’ve made it — who’ve made a true impact — the Chuck Palahniuks and the J. K. Rowlings and the Stephen Kings and yes, the Jenny Lawsons and all the rest with their views from the top and room to run.
I’ve carried this metaphor too far, I think.
Which tells me I probably have a long way to go.
And many changes to make.
Are you ready?
Because I’m not sure I am, but it means a lot that you’re still here. Still reading. And you — yes, you — are my encouragement.
1. Wear something comfortable. Something like jeans and a t-shirt. Something that says, I am not a runner. I take myself too seriously. I would rather sit on the sidewalk drinking beer while you fools go run like it’s fun or something.
2. Arrive at the square with enough arms and bags to carry all of your non-runner stuff (camera, purse, reading material, umbrella, water bottle, etc.) and all of your significant other’s runner stuff (water bottle, free t-shirt, wallet, car keys, etc.). Promptly lose significant other because you had to run back to the car to get more stuff (aka. your jacket because it’s cold and you, the smarter of the two, will not be running).
3. Find significant other standing in line to acquire his bib (that’s fancy runner talk for “numbers”). Quickly become bored and wander off to see how many random strangers will let you take their photos.
I now own a piece of each of your souls. Mwahahahaha.
4. Realize how many people are there. Start to experience a pang of anxiety. Calm yourself by remembering that soon they will all be gone and you will be left relatively alone because, as one of the smartest people in Raleigh, you will not be running. You will be free to breathe, holding nothing but 80 lbs. of crap. And also, somehow, a glass of beer.
Will you all just GO already? You’re drinking all of the beer.
5. Strategically position yourself in a place where you can get a good view of the lesser species — that running breed of human — as they leave your life forever. Or at least the next 20-50 minutes.
Observe that the most hardcore competitive runners wear the most colorful footwear. Do you think that makes them faster, or is it simply so you can see something — a bright streak of color — as they zip by at lightening speed?
Some are clearly in it to win it. (Bright green shirt guy.)
Some wear looks of sheer determination. (Green tank top girl.)
Some are probably stoned out of their minds.
Some are… well.
I actually think he might be on to something here. A kilt could provide excellent breathability. Though he could’ve gone shorter.
This is NOT responsible running attire.
I sure hope he’s wearing a sports bra.
People who run with children are like extreme gluttons for punishment.
And also kind of badass.
It’s fun to embarrass your significant other by screaming and yelling like a crazed fan while snapping photos with paparazzi-like ferocity.
6. When they’re gone, find yourself the bar.
Order a Smithwick’s (but pronounce it Smiddicks, so you sound like you know what you’re talking about), sit on the sidewalk, and make friends with the other smart people who don’t run.
When the mob returns with the wet stench of sweat and pain unfit for human habitation, feel slightly superior in the fact that you’re still clean and happy as the last wash of Smithwick’s slides down your throat.
Totally, totally winning.
(For the record, I love runners. They’re like the happiest people on earth, and the truth is I just like to be around them and try to absorb the endorphins via osmosis and beer. Click here to see the last race I watched, and here for my friend Erin’s experience at the Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run)
Does that title sound as gross as I think it sounds?
Good. Then I have your attention.
Some of us have a time in our lives when we have to take a stand. When we have to say, from the gut of our gut (because just our gut isn’t enough), and with as much confidence as we can muster (which usually isn’t nearly sufficient), “I may not know exactly what I’m doing, but I know it has to be done.”
And some of us have to do it twice.
God help us.
But since God (or whatever superior being to whom you might occasionally make a plea for help) likely has more important things to do, like end world hunger or help Tebow win a football game, we’re usually pretty much on our own.
And that can be a pretty hard thing to do. It’s a tough call — to go against the grain of you feel you should do, and instead choose what you want to do.
The super enlightened among us might call this “living our truth.”
I call it “throwing out the shoulds.” It’s less mystical sounding, and a little more self-explanatory.
After all, if you’re unhappy, it’s likely the shoulds that got you into this mess. You should go to college right after high school. You should land a stable job and start a retirement fund and have medical coverage. You should buy a car. You should buy a house. You should water your lawn and wear nice clothes and attend company holiday parties and smile, because you just got a promotion which pretty much guarantees that you now get to spend even more time each day in this place that’s not so bad, but it’s not, somehow, where you know you’re supposed to be. It’s not. But you feel stuck because you should be happy. You have all of these things, and everyone else who has these things is happy, right? And if you change, you might lose these things.
So you should stay.
And you should learn to love it.
And you should spend the rest of your days trying to hypnotize yourself into this trance known as the American Dream that seems to come so easily for everyone else.
And that, my friend, is how you waste years. How you brush them into the dust pan, one by one, and throw them out with the trash. Because if you really feel this way (and believe me I feel you if you do), it’s not just going to magically get better. Because if you’re not happy, you’re missing the things you already have in your life that are wonderful. You know you should love these things, but you can’t. It’s like you’re not even present. You’re watching your life through a telephoto lens, and you never really even experience it.
I didn’t intend to get all deep and philosophical on you this morning. But I’m going to assume you needed to hear it, because I needed to type it. What I actually intended to tell you is that I need to do it again. I need to make the difficult choice. And while I know, in my gut of guts that the choice is already made, sometimes a pep talk is necessary to do the deed.
You see, if you’re fairly new here, you might not know that I quit my job back in August 2010 in order to go make hot sauce in Costa Rica for a couple of months. I had intended it as a jumping-off point — a type of cold turkey shock therapy to push myself into figuring out what, exactly, it was that would make me happy. The plan was ill-conceived, at best, and when I returned home my depression was at its peak. (I know, lucky Justin.) Instead of focusing on building a writing career, I let people should all over me. I had no job. My marriage was in a state of limbo. My self-esteem was lying somewhere along the side of that lonely stretch of road that took me to that lowest point in my life, and I just didn’t even know where to begin. So, by August 2011, I took a part-time job as a real estate assistant. The job market was horrendous, and, if you want to know the truth, that is the only interview I could get. Even though I’ve had some baby-step success at getting my foot in the writing door, I lacked gumption. And now, here I am, nearly a year-and-a-half after the epic quitting event of 2010, and I’m scarily close to where I first started.
My backyard view in Costa Rica.
And now, I find it’s time to make another choice.
On New Year’s Eve, my boss sent me an email. A very nice email. A complimentary email, on how he appreciates my hard work and dedication to the team. And he extended me an offer. A very nice offer. An offer to work for his company full-time, to become an integral part of the team, and to devote myself to this career path. To his career path.
The money would not come close to what I was making in 2010, but it would be better than where I’m at now. The job is more stimulating than where I was back then, but I still know that it’s not where I’m supposed to be. At least, not full-time. Because, if I choose that path, I know I won’t dedicate the ambition I need to fulfill my goals this year. It feels wrong, so wrong, to turn it down. And yet. If I accept, it will mean I’ve learned nothing in the past year-and-a-half. That it was a waste. That I’m destined to make the same mistakes over and over again. Turning down an opportunity that would put us in a better financial state feels wrong because that’s how we’re trained to feel. But, if I remember how I really felt in August 2010, I remember very clearly that money was not the issue. Not even close. So, I’m going to politely decline his generous offer, as soon as we’re done here. And hope I’m not making a huge, huge mistake.
Something tells me I might need something a little stronger than coffee this morning.
But you know, so far, all I can figure is that we need to make a series of difficult choices to start taking back control of these limited and precious lives that we have — choices that feel right, even if they don’t look right.
Obviously, I can’t tell you if this is really the way because I’m not there yet myself.
You can be sure I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Well, it’s about that time.
You know what time I mean.
That time when we’re supposed to get all reflective and introspective and think about everything that happened (or didn’t happen) during the past year — about all of the goals we accomplished and how our lives changed because we achieved said goals and how we’ve miraculously become these emotionally centered, successful, zen-like people because we perfected the art of meditation somewhere in the time between attaining all of our hopes and dreams (which ironically isn’t the goal of meditation but just work with me here), and now, finally, we can enter the new year with a sense of peace, contentment, and, most important, sans resolutions.
Because that’s realistic.
Sadly, if the psychological distance on the self-satisfaction scale I’d hoped to travel during the last year was a mile, I’ve managed to physically propel myself forward a foot. Maybe two feet, if I want to account for the fact that I’ve mostly emerged from a pretty uncomfortable bout of depression.
And why wouldn’t I want to account for that?
But still. That means I fell 5,278 feet short. I’m not disappointed, per se, because I’m not surprised. I mean, it’s me we’re talking about here. I frequently quote the Gin Blossoms in saying, “If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.” Genius. Or demoralizing. But whatever, it’s true, and it applies to me, too. If *I* don’t expect too much from myself, I can’t let myself down.
If I were to look back on 2011 and come up with a single word to describe it, there’s really only one obvious choice:
I mean, really, Katie? 2010 was an all-around shit year, which lead to you losing your shit, quitting your respectable, well-paid job, and moving to Costa Rica for 2 months to make hot sauce. Oh yeah, and to find yourself. But really, all you found was the first decent tan of your life and the fact that you have to first know yourself in order to find yourself.
And what do I know about myself?
For starters, I’m happiest when I am traveling and meeting new people.
I have a passion for writing.
I like learning my way around a camera.
So, after a brief bout of the fire-under-the-ass kind of inspiration which led me to vehemently absorb a zillion books and articles on freelance writing and photography, submitting exactly one super professional official travel article pitch, receiving exactly one acceptance after multiple follow-ups only to learn of an 80% decrease in the original advertised pay, and then working in a bar for a few months, I’ve settled, once again, into a job for which I have exactly zero passion except now my income is significantly reduced and my co-workers aren’t as fun.
Well, that’s not entirely true. My co-workers and I are getting to know each other, which takes time, and my new job does allow me some of the freedom of creativity I lacked in the former — I do get to write, take pictures, and mingle with the townsfolk, which is a vast improvement from sitting for 8 hours a day in front of a computer monitor.
But this is not, to say the least, where I’d hoped to find myself with just a few days left in this 11th year of the new millennium. I mean, it seems like just yesterday we were partying it up like it was 1999 because it was 1999, dammit, and we had all this time to become more awesome than we already were when we were only 17 frickin’ years old.
It appears as though I need to take this goal thing a little more seriously this time around.
I’m not going to call them “resolutions,” because that has all kinds of negative, clichéd connotations about not following through or only lasting until the Christmas lights finally come down, which will probably be sometime in February, much to our neighbors’ dismay.
(Our Christmas lights, in all seriousness, are the most hideous display of half-assedness we’ve publicly flaunted in a while, my friends. The thing is, after Justin finished installing new floors, smoking a turkey, and baking 2 cheesecakes for upcoming holiday festivities, for some reason he didn’t have the energy to commit to professionally stringing outdoor lights. Yet he still insisted on doing it. And all I have to say is that the drooping, scalloped string of white lights hanging from our front porch — only our front porch — look something akin to a melting frosted gingerbread house. But I didn’t have the heart to tell him. At least, not until guests were arriving and I’d already had a glass of spiked cider and it was finally okay to just relax and laugh it out.)
This year I’m going to stick with the term “goals,” instead of resolutions, because it sounds more political and serious and spreadsheety. There’s a sense of accountability, if you know what I mean.
Except maybe… not so anally.
And maybe… a little less intensely.
And probably… a lot more half-assedly.
Because that’s how I roll.
But I kind of feel ahead of the game because I’ve already done Step 1 and Step 2. Step 1 is to make an “Eff Yeah” list for 2011. That’s easy. I survived depression, I went to Spain, I threw the best baby hot tub party ever, and I didn’t die. Eff-to-the-Yeah. Step 2 is to come up with a word or phrase that best represents my hopes and dreams for the coming year. Again, that’s pretty easy. If the word for 2011 was anticlimactic, especially when it comes to finding a sense of purpose, then there can only be one word for 2012:
So. We’ll see if I can actually make that happen. Not that it will matter since the world is supposedly going to end at the end of the year anyway.
But, if I follow the steps, at least I’ll be able to say I tried, right? And in the end — the real end of the end of the end of the world type end — that’s all that really matters.