A Tricky Little Pill
Last night, er morning, in one of my frequent bouts of insomnia, I was thrashing about in my bed in a half-haze of would be, could be, should be self-talk. I have been driving myself well past the point of nail biting-furrowed brow-hair pulling-my god my life is a joke- anxiety for some time now. In fact, I think the highway of anxiety has given way to the bumpy dirt off-road of perilous clinical depression with cyclic bouts of insomnia, hyper-somnia, excruciatingly harsh negative self-talk ( my mind likes to play this little movie of every terrible thing that has ever happened to me), and well the whole dirty Petri dish of mental and physical ailments that go along with deep and dark depression. My body aches, even though I don’t do much. My mind is on a loop of “I’ve failed” all the time. No really, all of the time (and can you believe I don’t drink or do drugs..nothing numbing the pain here, well maybe ice cream). I punish myself incessantly for being unemployed. Everything I do, say, think, long for, wish I could have changed, every little damn thing I want to buy (coffee or breath mints or safety pins-NOT in the budget!)–it all circles back to being unemployed right now. Every single thing I do or don’t do is weighted against the fact that I have failed to get a job in my field after some 250 applications and a decade of plugging away at a degree, and that the degree I did earn is not even close to being as impressive as the masters and PhD’s many of my peers have managed to acquire in the same amount of time or less. I feel guilty for laughing even…there’s no laughing in unemployment! Then, of course, I had the “now what” talk with myself. Now what job will I take? Instead of what career will I launch. Pastry chef, court reporter, florist? What? What can I do, if I can’t do what I like, besides work in a cubicle tending to work that makes my brain numb? But everything, no EVERYTHING, is competitive now. There is no niche you can snuggle up to…gone are the little corners of the workplace where one could wander in, look around and say, “why yes, yes, I think I’ll do this…will you train me?” Apprenticeships in the blue collar world are being replaced with expensive certificate programs and no guarantees of placement afterwards. Perhaps if you know somebody in an industry you are interested in, that still works as an “in”, but I am a loner and my networking skills are as smooth as popcorn ceilings. I am so bad at it…actually not just bad, I am completely inept at networking. If I read one more article about job searching and networking…well I don’t know what I would do, but it would probably involve something that would not make me “marketable”. My BS sensibilities just can’t handle it.
And so comes the thoughts of financial stability…health insurance…starting a family…buying a home someday…and those are the big things…never mind the little things stability affords like magazines…road trips…movies on Friday nights…sushi dinners… expensive shampoo and a general good mood. Yes, never mind those things. I have been without them for so long I have learned to let go of much of that, but damn if I don’t miss high-quality hair care and quality food. I damn sure do and I would like them back. And when I think about those things the cubicle starts seeming tolerable…but is that just a mirage…is that just how the whole system is set up…a tricky little pill to be swallowed in desperation?
Perhaps. But the more I absorb stories about how other people approach life and the more I look around without the youthful ticker tape of “I want a career I am in love with” I feel nudged to settle. It is such a pointy precipice. Could I be happy with passions developed outside of a career I enjoy? Will it be a relief to let these lofty notions go? Is letting go of your career dreams growing up or giving up? Am I going through some sort of rite of passage? I am not sure yet.
But as I tossed and turned there was this little part of me that spoke up quickly in a whisper before the unemployed monster beat it down into silence. It said, “be outside of THIS agony”. It seems as though I have, yet again, allowed myself to be programmed to tie my entire self worth into someTHING, in this case what type of job I have (or don’t have as the case is). It seems as though it’s something I fell for, a scam of sorts, much like the notion of upward mobility (despite the battles of socio-economics and cyclic poverty), or the value of a college degree in 2013. And the unemployed monster piped up and said, “well you are just telling yourself that because you are FAILING!”. Perhaps, but either way that little whisper is the one piece of my self worth that is hanging on here. It loves me, it wants me to laugh and find happiness without guilt even if I don’t have a damn job. It wants me to recognize myself as a whole being, not just Laura-unemployed. I have turned off every other part of my life in search and suffering over a job I want to love, and I think I am finally just sick of it. I am not giving up on searching in my field, but I am giving up this constant anxiety reel playing in my mind. I don’t know if I will ever land a job in my field, and if I don’t that is going to hurt, and I will mourn it for a long time.
I can’t continue to put my well-being aside until things go well, and really I think I have been doing this my whole life. I just want to be me, the whole me who used to laugh, cook, dream, listen to music, and do a million other things that have nothing to do with my job status. Just me, not me +1 unemployed monster. It is a cancer and it has got to go.
There is a delicate, maybe even experienced-only, balance between acceptance and seeking. Knowing when to move from one space to the other in your mind is a hard task and a tricky little pill to swallow, but that’s it, I’m getting a glass of water.