Life is too damn short.
Today I asked one of the social workers where I work how a patient of hers is doing. Last month, I had the opportunity to watch this social worker make this woman’s dream come true. Hearing that the patient still talks about that day and also hearing that she is in decline brought tears to my eyes.
I stepped outside and looked at the sky, thinking, “Life waxes and wanes. What if it ends before I’m done with it?”
My thinking turned selfish, because I’m at a point in my life where I am incredibly unhappy.
Thirty years ago, I knew what I wanted to be – a writer. I knew it with my whole 12-year-old heart and, oh, did I write! I wrote fiction – fantasy, mystery, funny animal stories, non-fiction commentary on the world around me. As I matured, the writing changed, but I never lost that love. For years I imagined how my life would be: me with a small studio apartment where I hardly spent any time, because I was a busy journalist, traveling the world and telling people about what I saw.
I turned eighteen. Life happened. Choices were made in response to needs versus wants and the life I dreamed of cultivating as a journalist remained a dream. Over the years, I had good moments and bad moments, and made choices that led to both positive and negative consequences. But I kept writing.
In 2002, I sent my writing out into the world and was published. An article here. An article there. More articles. Online magazines and some guest blog posts. A book. Two books. I kept writing and, for a while, it was ramping up. I added editing to the mix and was bringing in a small income. It wasn’t enough to live on, but I didn’t need enough to live on with my husband’s military income.
My husband’s enlistment ended. He didn’t want to continue it. He had other dreams and, suddenly, mine had to take a backseat to his. I decided there was nothing wrong with this. He was younger than me by eleven years and this was his “chance” to do something now, rather than have regrets later.
I took a job that was “beneath” my abilities and experience, because my family needed to pay the bills and put food on the table. I was promoted ten months later into a job that paid a little more, but was still “beneath” me. Ten months later, I aimed for what was – in my mind – the figurative moon. I hit it, but that promotion did not bring me the joy I expected. Instead, it brought nothing but frustration, stress and misery. The work was what I wanted to do, but it was a job for two people. It was a job that demanded long hours and supporting an entire company’s needs. It was soul-crushing; even more soul-crushing than the first two positions because of the demands.
For a while, I tried to downshift, but no one responded to my resumes and applications. I couldn’t understand why, when I used to be inundated with calls during prior job hunts. Was I making too much money? Did they feel I was overqualified?
I also felt like I couldn’t escape my job.
More often than not, I dreamed of walking into work, saying, “I just can’t do this anymore,” and quitting. It was a huge emotional effort to push myself to play by the rules. To try to shift my networking and job hunting into the right environment for me, while still balancing the demands of my current job. I couldn’t let my family down. I couldn’t come home and tell them there would be no more money.
Trapped. Helpless. But feeling like I wanted to do something bigger. More meaningful. More human.
You’d think that working where I was – in healthcare – was human enough. But no. The corporate office dehumanizes everything and that’s what hurts. It hurts to read “team” newsletters – that I had to write – and feel like the owner’s commentary on certain matters is a slap in the face to me. It hurts to see my supervisor put others on the spot as he interrogates them to find out why we aren’t meeting our census.
“People aren’t bottom lines!” I want to scream.
But I don’t say what I think, because my suggestions always get brushed aside. And I don’t just drop everything and quit, because I have a spouse in college and two children to consider. The job is stressful, but the company culture is the killer.
I’m still here. The walking dead, really. Dead woman walking? Either way, I’m here, working in a job I don’t care about. Working for a company I don’t care about. Fighting every day to get out of bed and get here. Faking every smile. Wondering when the day will come that I’m just done and tell them so. It’s not far off. I can tell. I can also tell that I’ll gladly do it without the safety net of a new job. I’m that miserable.
Waiting for my day to come and hoping I’m not building a lifetime of regrets with each passing day is awful. I can’t put off my dreams any longer, but how can I make a living off of them? How can I break in at my age? I’ve already spent the past three years reliving my life; shoved back to the point that someone just out of college might be stuck in.
I don’t want that. I want to live better days…