A Nerd Goes (In)Sane [Single White Nerd]
I walk into my supervisor’s office. “This,” I say as I pull out a chair, “is going to be a sort of awkward conversation.”
I’ve been building up to this conversation for weeks. I’ve also been putting it off for weeks. My inability to initiate this talk has dragged me into spirals of self-loathing and driven me into hiding from friends. Who was I to have friends? I who was not even able to have a small, completely professional conversation with a colleague? What the hell was my problem? Clearly I was fit only to sit on my couch alone practicing magic tricks and mourning for a life filled with dwindling possibilities.
Sometimes I can tend towards the overdramatic.
Anyway–the conversation. I pull out the chair and sit down. “As you think about reconfiguring the team,” I begin, “you should know that I’m going to be leaving the organization at the end of the quarter.” I wait for a response. After a brief pause, it comes. “Ok,” says my supervisor. “Thanks for giving us so much notice.”
And that’s it. It’s done. Weeks of angst, lost sleep, and tension and it’s taken less than two minutes to take the action that will reconfigure my life in a significant way.
In two months, I will be without full time employment for the first time in about 15 years. Although the actual conversation was brief, the journey towards it has been long, winding, arduous, and annoying as hell to friends who have listened to me whine about wasting my life for years. I’ve been hiding behind the security of a job. Now, my jobs have all been for the social good–very noble. And they have spoken for at least 50 hours of every week, usually more, leaving precious little time to contemplate what it is I would actually like to accomplish with my time. When pressed, I could always say “Well, you know, I’m saving the world.” I would leave out the next thought. That was “at the expense of my own…what…dreams, I guess. Or soul, if you want to get woo woo about it.” Never said that part.
At 35 and with a life largely unencumbered by the trappings of adulthood–mortgage, family, large debt–the internal pressure to free up the space to figure out how I want my life to look has become more powerful than the forces of inertia and rote practicality. So now instead of knowing where I will be and what I’ll be doing for most hours out of the day, each day will present as a more or less blank canvas.
How exhilarating! And terrifying! A bit like standing in the middle of a vast desert with a few jugs of water in reserve, but only a faint inkling of which way to head. I can walk in an infinite number of directions, but the water will only last so long. There’s no way of knowing which is the “right” direction. The key seems to be striking out with confidence and certainty in the direction that most compels me and have faith that I’ll hit an oasis of some kind.
Before taking my first step, though, I want to stand in the vastness for a bit. Part of the reason for this change is to get comfortable with the responsibility inherent in choosing my own direction. A hastily made choice could, and probably would, result in the reestablishment of past patterns. Walking down a well trodden path or even leaving the desert altogether. So now instead of hearing me whine about wasting my life, my friends–should they want to stick around for this–will get to witness me spinning out about the multitudinous ambiguities and opportunities of every moment of the day.
Or maybe I’ll be just fine.
If there’s any validity to Einstein’s saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then I’ve come down with a case of sanity. If there’s not. . .well, quitting an objectively good job in the midst of a recession is kind of crazy.
featured image credit: monstro