I have met a few new people, online and off, in the past couple of months, so I thought it would be a good time to revisit the last eight months of my life. Don’t worry, I will sum up. I suppose I can start by pointing out that I’d been gainfully and steadily employed for about five years by June of 2011. And I was clinically unhappy, going from Celexa to Lexapro to Zoloft with a sprinkling of Lorazepam and alcohol in the mix. I’d done call centre work pretty much without interruption from 2005 to 2011.
I didn’t want to lose the last of my soul to a cubicle and a telephone so I did look for other jobs. I interviewed for various things, I even left a company to try my hand at selling cars for a summer. Sales is not my forte, so I ended up back in the cube farm at a different company. Now, I will say that this company, for what it is, treated its employees fairly well: good benefits, decent(ish) pay, and as far as I was able to witness, a non-discrimination policy that was put into practice. But the bottom line was that the work itself was soul-wrenching. Depression gave way to anxiety attacks and even more medication.
In June of 2011 I saw a job advertisement for a local non-profit organization. It was a cause I believe in, and it was in a related field to what I’d been doing at the call centre while being a completely different sort of job. I believed I could do this job, learn the ropes and kick ass. I didn’t realise at the time that I was kind of taking a tiny pay cut, but when I did realise it, I was happy enough with the job that I didn’t mind it.
I aced the interviews and got the job.
It was a challenge, but I felt a sense of pride in being a part of the agency. I was around good people and I was doing good for people who are often marginalised. A new work schedule also meant that I was able to adopt a puppy, whom you probably have seen pictures of on Google+ or LiveJournal.
It didn’t occur to me at first that I simply wasn’t good enough. I’ve never not been good enough for a job I’ve been tasked to do. It’s possible that I went from aiming too low to aiming too high. I started in mid-July and on November 30th I was told to pack my shit up. I felt betrayed by the people I worked with, who apparently had gone behind my back to complain about my poor performance. I felt betrayed by my own inability to be invincible and without flaw. It was like I was a kid again and had disappointed my grandparents one more time.
I let myself freak out for about an hour, then I immediately went to work figuring out what I was going to do. I was willing to go back to my previous employer, whom I’d left in good terms. It was the soul-sucking cube job, but at least it was something I knew I was good at. The people there were good people, and I wouldn’t mind working with them again. But there were no openings.
I must have filled out dozens of applications those first few weeks.
Now it’s three months later and I’m collecting what little unemployment I qualified for, still looking for jobs, but there seems to be nothing out there that will pay what I was making. Am I scared? Yes, I won’t lie. I don’t have much saved up (hard to save up anything when you’re in as much debt as I am). But I haven’t had the panic attacks I was having at the call centre or the non-profit job. Money stresses me out, but it doesn’t trigger my anxiety the way other things do. Feelings of being trapped, of not moving forward, that’s my primary trigger.
I clung to my writing in the hope that this break from work will allow me to finish and publish my YA novel. I’m, bit by bit, making time to teach myself new skills. I don’t know that I’ll stay in Pennsylvania if a better opportunity appears elsewhere, but for now, I am moving forward. I will have a book finished soon and I’ll publish if it’s the last thing I do. I’m keeping busy and networking online and off. I am living my life.
I am only guilty of reaching for more, of not settling. At the call centre I worked with people who had been at that company, answering the phones and repeating the same party lines for anywhere from ten to thirty years. THIRTY YEARS! Every time one of them had a work anniversary I wanted to throw up. Not because of them, but because I feared being stuck like that. I knew that if I spent many more years where I was I would become a husk of myself. Dead inside. I couldn’t let that happen.
I’ve been off all mental health medication since December. I haven’t needed it. I have been depressed, on occasion, but never for more than a day or so and never so bad I couldn’t shake it, never bad enough to be a true concern. Maybe it’s part denial, who knows?
So I failed at my attempt when I took that job. So fucking what? At least I fucking tried. At least I said ‘I’m done being a cubicle drone now, kthxbai’ and jumped into something new. I moved forward.
I still ask myself if I would go back to the job I left in July. I can’t give an automatic answer. I would have to think about it way too much and just trying to do so right now wears me out. There are many reasons to go back, but just as many reasons to move forward. I probably wouldn’t be here without my awesome friends and family. And even though a Vulcan may have told me that the expense of a dog when one is on a tight budget is illogical, Merlin keeps me here too. If I were gone, he’d go to strangers. I can’t account for how strangers would treat him. He’s my buddy and I’m responsible for his happiness.
I wanted to share my thoughts with you, not as a warning not to leave the safety net, but to show that I don’t regret a thing, and why. If I hadn’t left, I might still be at that desk, popping pills and fighting panic. That’s no way to fucking live.
But things have changed. What if I did go back now? I think it may be a completely different experience. Having been unemployed, having hit a sort of rock bottom, would probably help mellow me out. All I know is that the status quo back then was not on the right track.
Maybe in three months I’ll be able to write otherwise.