Too Many Doors (and Then God Comes in the Window)
Friday, February 22, 2013Tweet
It's been one week since I left my job. You'd think it would feel strange not having to get up for work every day, but instead it just feels like a long weekend or holiday, and I keep losing track of the days.
I knew I wouldn't immediately find peace upon leaving my job -- I gave myself a whole year to get there, after all -- but I wasn't quite expecting to be launched headfirst into the gaping maw of anxiety right away either.
Part of it is bodily memories from spending so many days at a job I dreaded; I have to remind myself to breathe, to unclench my stomach, my shoulders, my jaw, that I never have to go back there and get beat down again. But a larger part is the simple uncertainty of not knowing what comes next.
All my life I've been a planner, knowing exactly how I wanted the next five years to unfold. Never has my life gone according to plan, of course, but having a plan, having a goal, has at least told me which step to take next. Even when we moved out here initially and I said I was going to take time to find exactly the right job, I had a vision. I'd loved what I did in Chicago, so I wanted to do the same thing, or as close to it, at a school or a non-profit or something similar out here.
This experience with my last job threw me for a loop, though. After dealing with a long commute and low pay for something that ended up not even being the work I wanted to do, I'm not sure where to focus my energy. Ensuring that the job itself is truly something I'll love? Ensuring that whatever it is will pay me what I'm worth? Ensuring that my work fits into my life and not the other way around?
I'm keeping a lot of doors open while I figure this out, and that's not something I'm terribly comfortable with. The school where we live wants to hire me if they can find the money to create a new position, which will apparently take a month to figure out, so in the meantime I'm applying elsewhere and also trying to determine what I would want my job description here to be (if I get a say in writing it) and what my minimum salary should be (is it worth going a little lower for the ability to work where I live?).
I've found there are things, like editing, I could potentially do from home full time, which on the one hand sounds like something I would love, but on the other hand I wonder if I'd get bored or feel like what I was doing wasn't meaningful enough.
I'm also wondering if I'd be better off with several part-time or freelance gigs, since one of my issues at every job I've ever had is not having enough work to keep me busy. Would I do better having a variety of projects and getting paid directly for my work rather than forever complaining about having 40 hours to fill and not enough to fill them with?
And of course, I already have my own side businesses, with manuscript editing and job search coaching. How much could I grow those if I really put some concentrated effort into it?
My subconscious is not dealing well with this uncertainty. Earlier this week I had a dream that all my teeth fell out, which my dream dictionary helpfully informed me means I'm "full of anxieties about the future." You think? Then I had a dream that I was back working on my old job, and when I remembered I'd quit I discovered that I was continuing to work there part-time in a contract role until I found something better, and as I left for the day everyone just said, "See you tomorrow," which was depressing. Last night I dreamt I was interviewing to be one of Mike's RAs, which is hilarious and sad.
My brain has also unhelpfully been looping the song "Just Around the Riverbend" for the past week for no apparent reason except to drive home the point that I don't know what to do.
One of the things that has helped is to limit my goals per week. This week's two goals were Resting/Healing (from my lingering illnesses) and Applying to Jobs. Next week's goals are Exercising (getting back on a regular schedule) and Editing -- I'm working on this manuscript of my great-grandfather's and want to clean it up to make it publishable. The next week I'm planning to go to daily Mass and the various Lenten activities on campus.
Last night I went to a Lenten prayer service in our building. It was short but vital for me. I went hoping to find some of the peace that has been escaping me in my anxiety over the details of my job search. Instead, we talked about friendship and compassion. What makes a good friend? How is God a good friend to us? What does it mean to be compassionate? How can we be more compassionate to others, more like God and our best friends?
At first I thought, this isn't relevant at all to my problem! This isn't helpful! Where are my answers, God?
It soon became embarrassingly clear to me how self-focused I was being. All of the questions I was asking were about what I wanted and needed and deserved, and I had forgotten to ask, Where does God want me? Where does the world need me?
Regardless of what I end up doing for pay (and what that pay is), there are more important questions to be asking myself about what my life should look like. If I can't see the deep importance and value in being a compassionate friend to others, then how am I going to be fulfilled in whatever I might be doing?
So that's where I'm at right now. The lack of clear vision for my future is still weighing on me, but I'm reminding myself -- and will need to keep reminding myself -- to step back and take a God's-eye view of my life. To go back to that Frederick Buechner quote about my greatest passion meeting the world's greatest need, and not forgetting that second part. Yes, I can still work on building a schedule in which I can thrive -- that elusive "work-life balance" -- but if I'm not building it around something important, how will I know when I'm there?