It Is Going To Be Alright, Right?

Ok breathe. Getting a major dose of depression right now, and it’s only adding to this already overwhelming feeling that I can’t put my finger on why. Doesn’t ever really help the situation does it, if you’re already deep in it, and then on top of that, you can’t name what exactly brought it on? I guess I’m just going to have to sit here, as always moping away in inexplicable misery, sorrow, until it passes.
Hold on; just had a thought. Since I’ve already been using this forum for reflection on such troublesome passages of my journey, maybe it’s worth a shot to try writing myself right through this sadness. I know, normally people go through the gloom, and then write about it in retrospect, once having achieved contemplation and a clearer head. But I don’t want to wait. I don’t want this one to be a look back on what went wrong, and how I can grow from it. I want this one to be about what it’s actually like to be in the middle of it, right now, as I weep and type.
So first, what I want to know is why. Why the hell am I so sad? I realize that at the core of it, it’s really just chemical; a chemical imbalance in my brain. Clearly my serotonin levels are a bit depleted right now, and my cortisol levels shooting through the roof. But beyond that, there must be a source to the emotional distress that’s feeding this chemical reaction. And in order to address it, I need to figure out what that is.
Ok, let’s walk through this thing, step by step. What happened today that might have upset me? Well, I did go into work today, which very likely contributed. I’ve already identified this work as damaging to my energy and health. So that probably plays a part in this. But then, it doesn’t really feel like that’s just it. Something tells me it runs deeper than that.
So let’s go back farther. Well, last night’s sleep was rough… again. I had more nightmares… again. More of the same frightening images symbolizing loss of self, freedom, dignity, loved ones, everything I hold dear. More of the terrifying attacks from unknown masked invaders, bent on destroying everything and everyone in my life. But again, I’ve had these many many times. So as upsetting as each one can be, I’m also growing numb with the expectation of each, so the resulting pain has diminishing returns. There’s just got to be something else going on here.
Going even farther back, I realize I need to look at this last weekend. It was by all accounts a superb weekend, full of epic powder, deeply fascinating conversations with awesome friends, and all around good times. So how could any of it have possibly helped bring this on? If I revisit those recent memories, will that reveal anything?
Ok wow, I just had to take a moment there to collect myself. It seems it’s actually too distressing to try and answer those questions right now. So I’m going to try a different tactic. I’m instead going to try and describe how I’m feeling right now, and then see if that leads to any deeper understanding of the root cause.
Well for starters, I’m feeling scared. Oh hell, I’m frickin’ terrified right now. I mean, I’m about to take this massive leap, and turn my entire life inside out and upside down. And though I’ve spent the last two months carefully plotting this next course, and though I know what I want and am reasonably assured I have the talent to do it, I’m still human. And I still can’t shake that looming feeling that it’s all going to go horribly wrong. I’m going to step out on this unpredictable ledge, and it’s going to crumble under my feet, and I won’t be able to catch myself before plummeting to my demise.
Come to think of it, this very thought did occur to me once this last weekend. Yes, there’s the tie I was looking for. It was only this once, a very brief, but very intense moment on Sunday night. We were right in the middle of our extremely productive group conversation, when I just stopped cold. I looked at everyone, and then down at my feet, and quietly admitted my fear. It was oddly timed in the conversation to be sure, and rather out of the blue, so what prompted this turn of feeling I can’t say. One minute, I was engaged ever eagerly in my role as scribe for our profoundly intellectual discussion, caught in a trance with my fingers ready and poised over the keyboard. And the next, the spell was broken and replaced with despair.
I get it now! This is the source of my current anxiety. I’m sitting here typing furiously, and I can see through blurry eyes that it’s all because I am human. And that means that I may be planned and prepared for this monstrous life change, but I’ll never really be completely ready. Are we ever really ready to pull the rug entirely out from under our own feet? I guess I just figured I was above that, and I chose to believe all those people telling me I must be so brave to go through with all this. But the truth is, I’m just as scared as anyone else would be. I’m just as wary that this might all actually turn out to be a huge mistake. And even if it doesn’t, I’m afraid knowing I’m just as capable of completely screwing it all up.
Yes I know, I know. I am strong, and I do carry myself with a strength I sometimes don’t even know I have. But even so, there’s still inside me that scared little girl who just wants to know that everything’s going to be alright. And it is all going to be alright… isn’t it?
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The Fierce, Frank & Free

I can’t take it anymore. I’ve only been back at work for a week, and already I can feel it eating away at me, sucking back out the bits of my soul I’d just finished piecing together. It brings back to mind the question, why the hell am I here? But then just as quickly, follows with the reminder of exactly why and how I am in fact going to get myself out of here.

The first day or two back were full of deceptive bliss, as I floated on a cloud of surprisingly smooth expectations and easy conversations. But the (second) honeymoon period is over now, and taking its place is a resurgence of that familiar old feeling of emptiness and frustration.

There’s nothing genuine about this environment. Oh sure, they all think they are being genuine. And perhaps for most of them, this is about as genuine as they could ever be. That’s why they fit this environment so well. It suits them. But it doesn’t suit me. I require more in my interactions with others.

I’d pass one of them in the hallway, and being so excited to see me after two months, they’d say enthusiastically, “Hey there! How are you?”

And as if programmed with the appropriate office response, I would react instinctively with: “Oh good, thanks. How are you?”

To which they’d reply with a polite and upbeat: “Good. Thanks!”

It’s all so one-dimensional. In the world outside of corporate America – that world I now prefer, filled with artists and burners and dreamers – this kind of conversation would never happen. In that world, such a greeting would go something more like this:

“Oh hi! So good to see you, love! It’s been so long. How have you been doing?”

To which I would more openly reply: “It is really great to see you too! Well I’d say I’m doing well, but it’s been a rough journey. Though I’m finally getting to a place where I’m living the life I really want. And you? Tell me how you have been?”

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But that’s not here. Here I have to hold that part of me back, and hide it away as if ashamed of its heartfelt and honest ways. Here, you can’t be real. You can’t say things as they are, or how you feel them truly in your heart. You have to stick to communication that is appropriate, and words that are legally risk-free. Even the ‘watercooler’ talk is coated with politically correct and carefully chosen phrasing.

There is one colleague here who I do think understands where I’m coming from. She always seemed to look deeper into me when we talked, and gave such a vibe of unassuming compassion. And it struck me as odd in the past, before I learned to appreciate that energy. I see now how unique and valuable she is, and how she might be the only truly genuine person in my office. And yet, would you be surprised to here that she’s not viewed as being that competent or easy to work with? There have actually been numerous complaints and negative feedback regarding her ability to collaborate smoothly with teammates. When I learned all of this, being in the position to absorb such juicy team gossip from both teammates and boss, I was so surprised. How could such a warm and caring person be considered a burden to the team?

Well, this was just further proof that I don’t belong here. And frankly, probably neither does that particular colleague. We belong in a world of more genuine generosity of spirit, and open exchange of ideas. We belong in a world without dictated internal PR and claustrophobic office cubicles. We are among the people of this world that thrive on compassion and creativity and community.

I know I won’t have to tread in this intolerant world for much longer. In four short weeks’ time, I know I will be freed forever of this cage and can spread my independent and inspired wings forth. I have a dream that I will then be able to find my place in this world – the world where I am able to speak my mind and pursue my heart; the world in which I do thrive and belong. And I can only hope that that colleague of mine, and any others of this same world, will find their way home someday as well.

Long live the fierce, frank and free!

And if that be ye, won’t you come join me?

One Fine Day

Dear me, that went well! I’ve just had my first day back in that tall imposing office building, returning to the grinding gears of the corporate machine, and boy was I nervous! I’d worked myself up into such a frenzy about it that I barely slept a wink the night before (further aggravating my already terrible insomnia) and literally had to catch my breath for a second before walking through that first office door.

I got in a little later than I’d have liked, having overslept my alarm due to being up all night. So here I am, running late and panicking, with no idea of what to expect to come into. I had no idea if my boss (let’s call her ‘M’) was expecting me to jump straight back into being her Admin. Like the logical side of me figured probably not, but that didn’t stop me from briefing myself on her entire schedule that day, just in case I was asked to help her navigate it first thing that morning, as I used to do.

So I’m cursing myself the whole drive down, and it’s a few minutes after 9am when I finally rolled into work. And after a brief pause to collect myself, I entered apprehensively through the usual office door that leads up a back staircase to my floor.  To my relief, not many people were around, meaning I only had one or two ‘Oh you’re back!’ exclamations to face just then. ‘Phew!’ I thought. Maybe I’ll be able to go the whole day like this, in manageable waves.

After that initial wave of relief, things just kept getting better. I happily discovered that the temp Admin (let’s call him T) – the one who’d filled in during my leave – was still around AND still managing M’s calendar. And upon reaching out and meeting with him, I further learned that T’s contract was actually extended full through June and intended to continue said Admin work all the way through then. Happy discovery number 2! This means not only don’t I have to take back over any Admin duties now, but I’ll also be able to stay free of them all the way through to my resignation!

Then, just as I thought it couldn’t get any better, T informs me that he and M have been discussing his future and the hope to transition him into her Admin role full-time, as my permanent replacement. This swept away any other concerns I had, as I know only too well how long the hiring process here takes, and was afraid I’d have to depart before we’d locked down new full-time support for M. She means so much to me, that I knew it would be terribly hard to say goodbye knowing I was leaving her on her own.

And now I don’t have to worry about her! If all goes according to plan, I will be leaving M in the (as I’ve so far observed) capable hands of T. So now my purpose here until my departure is clear. I have my successor, and now I must prepare him. T seems to have a lot of potential, from what I’ve seen of him so far. And what’s more M likes him, which speaks highly for him. So I’ve no doubt he could do this job, and do it well. The key is to get him to the point where he’s doing it as M needs it done, working with her as she needs someone to. That’s where I come in.

Armed with this plan, I headed into my first meeting with M. The day had already been going so much better than expected, but I still had one remaining worry. I was as yet unsure how M would take the news of my ideal future plans, carefully developed out of my extensive introspective journey. I’ve always known how supportive she is of me, and I was banking on that. But at the same time, I was keenly aware of how much she loves working with me, and would suffer to see me leave the company.

I was thus prepared for such pushback in walking into our meeting. And can you imagine, but I needn’t have worried at all! The very first thing she did, after squealing with delight to see me, was to insist that she see my eyes. Before I left, she had made the pointed observation that the sparkle was missing from my eyes, an indication she said of just how lost she saw I was. So naturally, upon my return, she was eager to see if my eyes had regained their light. And after careful study, she declared they had, and that I looked much happier and healthier in general. Satisfied with this, we sat down and commenced to dig into the recap of my leave.

I told her everything. I always tell her everything. It’s a rare relationship we have, M and I. And we’ve always felt comfortable telling each other everything. So it was no different now. I told her all about how I’d struggled to find myself, to listen to my own inner voice for once. I told her about setting a strict health regimen of sleep, food and exercise. I told her all about therapy, about overcoming the panic, and tackling the overwhelming family issues. And ultimately, I told her how all this had lead me to realize my own unique and personalized definition of a successful life. How I’d learned to look beyond the pre-conditioning of my past, and the expectations of my family and society, to determine what lifestyle I myself would find valuable and sustainable.

And M just nodded. She just sat there, soaking it all in, offering her approval and encouragement here and there. It was more than I’d hoped for, more than I’d given her credit for. Here was my boss, my mentor, my leader, offering completely respect and support for all my decisions. If I paused for reaction, she would agree that this sounded absolutely appropriate for me, very much more suited to my personality and passions, and the truly best next step for me. I was elated! I finished telling her about my next occupational adventures, the training I was already undertaking, and even my plans to go homeless and couch surf with friends to save money. And you know what she did? Not only did she love the sound of it all (aside from a few natural concerns about the homelessness), she even offered to have me come crash with her if I liked.

How many bosses do you know who would do that? M is truly extraordinary, is she not? I also mentioned how I’d like to do some traveling while having no home, and she again jumped at the chance to have me come along with her on any upcoming trips! She turned to her computer enthusiastically, and exclaimed, “Where am I going next? Maybe you can come with me!” And the funny thing is, I would go with her too!

Having gotten full buy-in on my future plans, I then turned the conversation to the next month and the transition ahead. At first, M offered to let me leave in less than the month previously agreed upon, seeing how well T was already doing in the role – which normally I’d have accepted. But then I mentioned my ‘other’ reason for staying the full month, and M immediately understood. In further confirmation of our awesome relationship, she told me in perfect frankness that she’d happily keep me on until paid my year-end bonus, and then let me go immediately after.

The meeting ended on the most excellent of terms, M and I having fully laid out my final day of work, and what I’d be doing up until then. Simply put, my only job until then would be mentoring and training T for the full M Admin role, and helping him out with any bigger strategic projects. No Admin bitch work, no calendaring, no expenses, nothing! Just mentoring and strategic planning, the only two parts of the Admin job I ever actually liked!

So here I am now, sitting in my room and reliving today’s events. And I still can’t believe my luck! All my worries that I’d be thrown directly back into Admin mania, that M wouldn’t understand my reasons for moving on, that she’d beg me to stay at the company… all of that seems so silly now. In the end, M was every bit as supportive and sincere as I’ve always known her to be. And in the end, I discovered it might just be possible after all to achieve the change I’ve come to dream of. I may, after all, be able to live the life I want. The life I choose for myself. With one very fine day successfully passed, I just have to get through the next 5 weeks, and then… freedom!

The Moment of Truth

I’m going back to Google tomorrow. I know it’s only temporary, the necessary prequel to the next exciting adventure of my life’s journey, and yet I can’t help but be nervous. On this, the final day of my perfect little leave, I am sent into a whirlwind of reflection in an effort to maintain any sense of sanity and purpose as I take this next terrifying leap. Oh it’s terrifying alright. And just as surely, it’s quite a leap. A leap of faith in myself, and my ability to successfully execute on the plan I’ve been spending the last two months carefully crafting, questioning, and rewriting.

You see, it’s one thing to figure out what the hell you want and how to get it – and believe me, that is a challenge in itself – but it’s quite another thing to actually deliver on it. As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, I am all too aware of this. Even in the beginning, I knew that I could spend all the time in the world (or as much as my therapist would sign off on) pondering and brainstorming and digging into my true self for such answers. But in the end, the real difference would have to come in actually acting on it. Now that moment of truth has arrived, it’s starting to feel a bit daunting.

Have you ever made this huge a change in your life all at once? I feel as if I’m about to launch a complete 180 on myself. Here I am, one month away from leaving the comfortable corporate job I’ve hidden behind for the last 4 years, while simultaneously moving out of the wacky 8-person apartment I’ve been trying to call home.

I’m one month away from redefining my entire lifestyle, going nomad and starving writer status, hoping to scrape by with some shaky foundation of bartending or part-time work.
I’m one month away from abandoning the lifeless cubicle life I’ve discontented myself with and launch headlong into an extremely vigorous and rousing existence of kicking ass and taking names.
I’m one month away from throwing away everything I’ve poured all my sweat, tears and sanity into building over the last 4 years, and starting over from scratch.
Sounds pretty terrifying, doesn’t it?

But you know what’s been the most amazing thing? Despite how apprehensive I may feel about my impending reorg, I’ve found that anyone who’s been patient enough to listen to me explain all this has actually reacted with awe and admiration. Quite an unexpected response, and I’m truly touched. It’s even clearer to me how crucial it is now, as it has been throughout this whole exploration, to know how much my friends believe in me. And it reiterates the theory that such life changes and chances are easiest to execute when you have a strong network around you.

I know I have a rocky road ahead of me. And though guided by a carefully developed plan, I know there will be tough times ahead. So I guess this is me giving thanks, once again, for the encouragement I have and will continue to receive from you all.

And now a moment for reflection. Looking back is only has useful as it is to help you look forward. Mmm yes deep thoughts. The vision in front of me is much clearer now, having done the work to dissect my past. And now that I am moving forward, I know what key themes I have still in play. Naturally there’s the usual family stuff: my parents have never understood me, I hate my grandmother with all my hate being, and I’m terrified anytime I see any indication that I am becoming like them. Then there’s the other vulnerabilities I have to work towards accepting: my fear of being constantly left behind, left out, and let down, my inability to trust men, my addiction to stress and over-extending myself, and most notably, my fear of being weak (love the irony of that itself being a weakness). I know I run away from commitment, and I cringe at the idea of being tied down. I realize that not always being the leader isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And I’ve learned that sometimes the best therapy is just getting whatever’s inside of you out of hiding and sharing it with people who care. Writing in this blog has taught me that. Sharing with you all has taught me that.

I know I have a lot yet to face, and I’m prepared for the life long trek ahead of me. But I also know I’ve got to take it one step at a time. Because I’ve always had a bad habit of focusing too far in the future, and that’s always had this annoying little side effect of stressing me the hell out. So this time, I’m going to take it slow and steady. That’s what wins the race. I’ve got a monster of a next step ahead of me, and that’s all I’m focusing on right now. And eventually, with all of your support and love, and a steady step, I have hope that I will make it through this alive and kicking, successfully executing this plan I’ve so carefully pieced together.

The moment of truth has indeed arrived. And it all begins tomorrow. Wish me luck!

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