I’ve never been a great planner. No that’s not entirely true. I did plan one hell of a great wedding. After 2 years of planning, my wedding day went off beautifully, and without a hitch. Tah-DAH!! And then things fell apart. We both went to grad school, bought a house, money got tight, we disagreed about what to do with our future, he had an affair and problems with drugs and alcohol that I could not plan my way out of. I did try for a couple of years. But I finally had to conclude that I could not control everything, and I certainly could not control the actions of a person who seemed determined to self-destruct. I had to light a stick of dynamite under my plans and run.
I’m glad I ran. It was absolutely the right choice.
Even before everything in my marriage fell apart so spectacularly, I already felt as if I were marching forward mindlessly according to someone else’s plan. Whose plan? I don’t know. My ex-husband’s? Our family’s plan? Society’s plan? Married life for me was simultaneously surface-comfy yet terrifying, like a hug that from a reformed convict that continues for 2 beats longer than it should. I felt “on track,” and that was satisfying. I had checked off most of my shoulds, including college, job, marriage, mortgage, grad school. The whole world shouts “hooray” for the person who is on track. We love a track. Here comes the Predictable Safe Life Train! Choo-choo!
But, at the same time, the whole thing felt surreal. Like I was acting out a part in a children’s show. Absurdly wide smiles and choreography, and everything dumbed down. “Heyyy, Kids!! Let’s play with matches and LSD in this abandoned refrigerator!! Wheee!!”
When you fit into a comfortable, vanilla, predictable story — when you are “on track” — the world assumes all is well and smiles upon you. You make people comfortable by fitting in. You realize that making everyone comfortable is your job — and you do your job. You put on your uniform and smile for the camera. You bury your dreams if they aren’t Pinterest-ready. Your job is to shut up and be grateful for the nightmare wrapped in shiny paper.
Leaving my marriage put me off track. It was scary and interesting and weird. I could sense a discomfort from others that wasn’t there when my life was going according to plan. I went off-plan. Derailed. I blew up the happy narrative.
So, now I’m at a new crossroads. I work a day job that may no longer be a good match for me, though I don’t dislike the company or the people I work with. The job description has changed, and I have not. Or maybe I have. I’m feeling less comfortable in the corporate environment than I did a couple of years ago. Shifts in management have changed the landscape significantly, and I just do not fit in there now. I was always a little bit of an oddball in the office. Now I am just an anomaly. I do not belong.
It’s no one’s fault. I am this. They are that.
I’ve felt this before: this disconnected feeling — this need to be out of the confines of a school building or an office. It’s uncomfortable, and potentially self-destructive, because surely my days are numbered. It’s just a matter of how I want to handle it. Do I take a leap and leave of my own accord? And to where? Another corporate job sounds like a terrible trap, and I’d like to avoid it if I can. But I live in a world of commerce, alas. I need things like shelter and protein and coffee and wine.
This is your Life. This is it. How do you want to remember it? Do you want to regret not taking a chance? What does that chance look like? What do I want, exactly? How do I want to get there? What do I need to do it? Do I need a day job? Do I need this day job? What am I afraid of? (Failure. Poverty. The perception of others. Making the wrong choice and regretting it.)
Interesting. It mirrors the thought process that kept me in the marriage for so long, up to a point. I remember feeling desperately afraid of taking the wrong path and regretting it. I was afraid of what people would think of me. I was held back by the comfort of “the devil you know,” because the alternative seemed so unclear, so scary. And I stayed on the safe path, despite hating myself for it. Until finally I decided that I would rather take the leap than live a lie.
I’m afraid of my own mind. What if this is madness? What if this is the story that I tell myself while in caught in a temporary down cycle, and I later come out of it –filled with regret?
What if the fear and the lack of funds and the depression keep me from being productive with anything? What if I’m back to the state of mind I had in high school, in my marriage, in my last job? What if being on track is the key to everything, and I’m just a rambling, bumbling idiot with nothing to say — and I only realize that AFTER I throw myself off the track?
Let’s put that all aside for a moment. What do I want?
I want to write. I want to get off track in my own good, semi-controlled way. I want to be caught up in my work. I want to wake up each day excited to get back to work.
I want to collaborate with other creative people in a supportive environment. I want to be in a position in which I feel I have something to contribute. I want to help people achieve their goals and feel good when they succeed. I want to be at peace with my life as it is, and not feel the need to defend it.
Whatever track I’m on, I want to know that it is my track, and not some ancient trail that has been laid out for me. The new trail is difficult, it may lead me off a cliff, but at least it is my own.
Ok, I will stop talking about tracks, now.