Some Assembly Required

Hi, dear friends. I’ve missed you.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to write a post or had a passing idea of a brilliant new project pass by me, uninvestigated, in the intervening days. So many times I’ve felt the pull of this blog, of my readers, of my stories. Yet, I knew it wasn’t time yet. I needed to wait.

For maybe the first time in my life, I’ve gone a full six months without giving too much thought to writing outside the jobs and exercises of my paid obligations. I love it still, and I am grateful and happy for all the paid work that comes my way. But as for my personal writing journey, I needed some space.

In my last post, I was writing from my bed on my phone because I was too sick to move, yet determined to finish my NaNoWriMo novel. I was also slowly breaking apart. While in San Francisco for The Night of Writing Dangerously, I was laid off from my writing job unceremoniously, and then within days given back my position with no apology or explanation. It felt shady and I was desperately unhappy to go back to a company who had already proven to be unreliable, but I didn’t know what else to do.

I felt like I had to choose between going back to being the life I had retired from, or staying the (now murky) course of a writing job in hand. I decided to stay on with the company, and did my best to feel grateful for “being able to write for a living”. It was rewarding work in the challenge of it, at least, though not in the spirit of it. I did my best.

Meanwhile, my body and mind knew better. Around Christmas, I came down with a flu which turned into a month-long bout of walking pneumonia. I quickly slid into a pretty deep fog of depression and ill health, the likes I haven’t seen in many, many years, and in that haze I wandered, uninspired, angry, and exhausted for most of the beginning of the year. All I could find energy for was my job, which was increasing in demand and difficulty by the day, and several family crises that needed ongoing attention. My friendships and relationship suffered because I didn’t have energy or mental stamina to bother to be kind. Or human. My life, my sense of myself, was suddenly all about my job — one that had already thrown me away once before.

And as is typical in all kinds of abusive relationships, excuses were made. The money was good ($16/hr — not great), the work was flexible, at least I had time to do what I wanted, at least I was being paid to write.

And as is typical in all kinds of abusive relationships, the excuses were total bullshit. Once I totaled how many hours I worked instead of what I billed, I was making much less than I thought. I never really had time off or did what I wanted because I was always worried about work and getting impossible assignments done in impossible amounts of time. And even though I was “writing” I was doing nothing — absolutely nothing — to actually further my craft or my career.

I’m explaining this not just because I wish to offer some explanation for my sudden absence, but also as a cautionary tale: if you are miserable in your life, make sure something in your life isn’t what is making you miserable. If your job is making you too tired to do what you love, or too tired to be a Real Person after you are finished, it’s most likely not worth the money it pays you. If you “are lucky enough to be paid to write/do art/play music/etc” but are not able to further your career in your field or art, you are not lucky — you are being taken advantage of. 

I finally got the feeling things needed to change, so I started with myself. I started meditating and going to martial arts classes again. I worked up my stamina by going on long, slow walks and watching the world wake up from winter one blossom at a time. Gradually a sense of self came back; a sense of being someone who was worth creating happiness for. I tried to use some of my renewed vitality in my work, and finally received  “feedback” so acrid I had to face it — I was being abused in my job. I was worth more. I needed to quit.

So I did. I gave notice and finished all my projects and lived on that large last paycheck while I searched for a new job, one that was supportive and allowed me to be creative in my off hours. I went on longer walks, I meditated for longer periods of time, and I allowed myself to daydream for the first time in months. The depression fog thinned by the day.

There are a lot of small yet significant lessons I learned along the way back, and am still learning. I’ll share them with you in time.

It has been three months since I quit; I’m feeling better with each passing week, slowly detoxing from the stress and urgency of my toxic job. I still do some freelance writing work, and I enjoy it very much. I landed a part-time gig as a cashier at Whole Foods, and with it found a group of people I en
joy working with who are lovely and supportive. Ends are being met, and I am healthy.

And best of all, my stories are returning to me — whispering, urging me to write again.

Last time I was here, I was falling apart. Now, I am in assembly.

And I’m happy to be back.

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4 thoughts on “Some Assembly Required

  1. Pleased that you’re back PP, though sad with what you’ve had to put up with. But without the bad times it’s impossible to appreciate the good. Hopefully the trend is upwards and looking forward to seeing your creative writing grow accordingly.

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