Here and now

I’ve often commented, and probably blogged at some point, about how work is what defines one’s life. Well, mine anyway.

As the good news spreads about my impending departure, the question that I find that I am not always asked is “where.” Everyone assumes you’ll stay in the same apartment because, really, isn’t changing jobs traumatic enough without changing residences and, worse, going to a whole new city/state?

Ian’s mom warned me about, for lack of a better term, the “18-month itch.” That you’ll start your whole life over but it takes that long to actually either get adjusted to your new area, or that’s when you’ll totally freak out and wonder WTF it is that you just did with your life.

Seven years ago, I had a very difficult time adjusting to D.C. I’d left behind a lot of great friends and also came to a really shitty job that didn’t pay squat. I’d been making good money in Pittsburgh at another horrible job, but I didn’t take into account the higher cost of living here. So, every spare penny went to rent/bills.

And even though I didn’t have any cash to go out and see what the city had to offer, I still couldn’t pay all my bills. Hence, my looming debt spiral began. Add to that losing said shitty job, and the financial woes worsened.

I’ve gotten back on track and while I’m certainly not here living the high life, I do OK. I have a safe apartment in an OK neighborhood. My car works. Job’s good. The highlight has been my amazing work family, and the handful of friends who have put up with my perennial absence at most social events due to my overcommitment at said job.

But this time, those were my choices. I guess they’re always my choices, but I’d rather say no to going out because I have a big project to finish then because I’m hiding in my apartment, too ashamed that I have seven dollars to last till payday.

Which still happens, but meh. I at least get my kicks in there when I can. I don’t feel like I missed out on a ton of things, so that counts for a lot.

There will always be the things I didn’t get to do — see a performance at Kennedy Center, or wear the dress I bought six years ago in case an event cropped up. (You could fit two of me in that dress now, so I’m not complaining!)

“Each mistake that I made was right
For it led me here
And now to your side
Could I travel
The rest of the way with you?

I’ve been looking all my life
For what it means to be alive
I’m wide awake and full of light
In the peace I find in your eyes.”

— Tara MacLean, “Here and Now

But yeah, even though it’s a mobile society, I’m choosing to move to my new city so I can be in the office. I never asked to telecommute. Much as I hate offices in general, there’s something about being with that work family every day that makes it worthwhile. I’ve bonded so closely with people at every job, and most of it came from being in the trenches together. I mean, we just “get” each other after a while. You can’t read a mood over Instant Messenger. And I hate the phone, for the most part. At least if you’ve seen me in the office for 10 hours, I don’t feel obligated to answer calls/e-mails after I leave. As a freelancer, I didn’t have that opportunity — you had to be available 24/7 or else be perceived as a slacker, at least in my experience.

But it’s funny how, for a great opportunity, you just drop everything. I mean, that’s what I’m doing and it’s not a moment too soon, if you ask anyone who knows me. But I’m buying into a new lifestyle. The job could be a godsend or it could be my demise. (For the record, I’m erring toward the former!)

And that’s what life is — making the best decisions you can, with the information you have available at the time. You can belabor the issue and come up with pros and cons till the cows come home, but it all comes down to the almighty paycheck and how much of your soul you have to sell to earn it.

The problem with giving as much notice as I did (I gave a lot) is what happens in your own head in the meantime. I mean, I’m so attached to my work and my work family that I wanted to savor this time. But at some point, you’re just ready to go. Not to leave; go and leave are two very distinct words here.

But you’re eyeing the door, waiting for your chance to fly or run or hit the bricks or whatever you want to call it. You just KNOW there’s a new life waiting for you, and even though it’s going to be hard to make a new life, you want to get started on it as soon as you can.

Maybe before you chicken out. 🙂

I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m burned out. I did it to myself, so don’t look for any blame games here. I wanted to do my best and I gave it at every opportunity. And now that I’ve switched from full-speed ahead to normal pace, I don’t know what to do with myself. One of my superiors approached me recently to say that I can have my job back at any time, if I want it, because he’s super-impressed with me. And I said, you know, I’m only operating at 70% capacity these days — you’d have your socks knocked off if you’d seen me at 100%.

Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted that I’m wearing out. But again, I don’t think it was any secret that I’m not at my peak anymore. And I would come back in a heartbeat, if things didn’t work out where I’m going. I’ve never said that about ANY job I’ve left before.

But again, that’s the thing — you’ve got to go after the new adventure with your whole heart or else what’s the point?

A friend on F-book posted a note yesterday about “economic survivor’s guilt.” That those of us who are thriving may feel not just blessed, but also a little bit guilty for doing fine while the rest of the world implodes. I think the only thing keeping me from climbing up on the cross for having two really good jobs is the fact that for many months in the past, I had zero of which to speak. After the famine comes the feast, and I am sure that will be true of everyone else out there as well.

And hopefully, those who’ve lost their way or been drop-kicked off-course won’t do what I did and give up everything to show they’re worthy of making a comeback.

I wouldn’t do anything differently than I have up until now, but I am definitely going to do it all differently from here. …

2 Responses to Here and now

  1. Mel :

    send the dress my way. 😉

  2. mikeiam :

    I’d not heard that about the 18 month itch, but … yeah, that sounds about right. Going through that myself right now; trying to figure out how long I’m willing to stay in my current city.