I felt like I was dying. That’s the best way I can describe it. I would be sitting at my desk, staring at the computer, feeling the keyboard under my fingers, and I would think, “I’m going to die.” Not a suicidal thought, just a premonition. If I continued to sit there, at that job, in that building, doing the same thing every day, I would die. This I knew.
So I quit. After four months of torment, fear, sadness, bingeing, resignation, anger, meditation, crying, praying, thinking, journaling, and dreaming, I quit. When I made the decision to quit my well-paying, full-time, insurance-providing job, I felt free. I felt like I could live in the world again.
I told my boss about my decision four days after I made it in my heart. I had discussed the choice with people, who mostly reacted positively. I was rather shocked at how responsible they seemed to think I was. I doubted I would be able to get myself to focus each day, trying to find work as a musician and writer, but they seemed fairly certain that I would do it. It occurred to me that I might be far more mature and reliable than I estimated. Perhaps I am. Perhaps I’m not. That remains to be seen.
I have been self-employed for three days now. I have a few solid clients with Rock Star Writing and Editing already. By a few, I mean 3-5, and only two of them are booked for more than a single project. In music news, I couldn’t get any other musicians to sign on for the second Mi’Show, which is happening on May 4. Nonetheless, I have a nice vision in my head of a solo concert, so I think it will work out. I have a lot to say to my fans right now, and perhaps I need an entire two hours to say it to an audience.
I have little idea how I am going to make ends meet. At this point, I don’t even know if I’m approved for individual health insurance. If I get it, how will I pay for it? My decision to leave my job seems increasingly insane.
Still, I do know one thing. The thought of going back to my old job upsets my stomach, up into my throat. I don’t want to go back. It was certainly not a bad job. It was the best job I’ve ever had. I was paid handsomely for work that, honestly, wasn’t that difficult. I liked the people there. The office location was beautiful. People appreciated my writing and editing for the most part, and I got to contribute in many other ways to the company.
Nonetheless, I was going to die.
Today, I don’t feel like I’m going to die. Today, I feel free. I feel afraid. But I also feel free. Part of me is strapped down by thoughts clambering for me to find more work, more money, more gigs, more everything. But another part of me knows that I will always have everything I need. I just don’t know what I need yet.
I watched the sunset today from my car. I was coming back from a recovery meeting that focuses on steps 10, 11, and 12 from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. We call it After Nine. The concept resonates with me. We focus on spirituality and on our connection with others. It lines up brilliantly with something my last sponsor told me. She said that recovery is really about three things:
- Connecting with God
- Connecting with others
- Connecting with ourselves
That’s what After Nine is about. I may not fully ascribe to everything the Anonymous programs typically stand for, but I do feel that this part of it works for me.
I feel that something in this universe knows more than me—can see farther than me—even if that something is nature, pure and simple. There is a future and a past where I do not exist. I exist right now, in the present. And right now, the present is a pretty uncertain place. Or maybe it’s the most certain place.
In this moment, I know that I am sitting here, writing this post, choosing words. I know those things. I don’t know the future. I don’t know how long I will be able to work for myself or even if I will be able to work for myself at all. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with music or if I will really find the new outlets I need. I’m scared that I will not find what I need to make this life work.
But maybe a higher power will give me what I need instead.
Maybe I don’t have to know. I am trying. The bottom line is that I am putting one step in front of the other. Even in my darkest times over the last few months, I did not stop getting up in the morning. It became very difficult to do so, and I would procrastinate on taking that first shaky step out of bed in the morning. But I kept living life.
I gave it my best. Yes, my best sucked a lot of the time, but I gave it. I am giving it. I have goals for how many hours I want to work each day. I have specific milestones I want to reach. But I don’t know if I will manage to work that many hours or reach those milestones. I don’t know if I will achieve my goals, and I also don’t know if my goals are really what my goals should be. I’ll go after them, but I hope that the universe/circumstance/God/Goddess/whatever takes me to the best place for me.
I keep thinking that Houston, Texas, does not reflect my values and isn’t nurturing me the way it once did. Perhaps it’s time to move on. However, Houston Community College has a great music production program that I want to complete, and I treasure my friends and other connections here. How will I know whether to stay or go? Time will show me.
I canoed almost 15 miles down Buffalo Bayou last Saturday with some friends. I felt my smallness. The boat wasn’t very big at all, but it was certainly bigger than I am. The canoe seemed so insignificant compared to the trees and the steep, sloping sides of the bayou. The sky was so much taller, and the city streets so much more massive than anything I have ever been or created.
I quit my job. I play music. I write. I edit. I look for work. I look for ways to feel in touch with the world. That’s what I’ve done. That’s what I’m doing. And a whole big world continually expands and engulfs all of it.
I’m glad I quit my job. I’m glad that I can go anywhere in this big, wide world. I don’t know if it ever dawned on me so fully that I can truly go anywhere and do anything. I’ve known that at an intellectual level, but I’ve never put it into practice. Since I was a teenager, I’ve had a plan for everything. I always follow the plan, and when the plan inevitably does not work out, I make another plan. How about not making a plan? I don’t mean discard my personal work schedule, goals, or other organizational tools. But how about loosening my grip on those things? How about life not being my plan, but instead, the way I do things?
Thinking about plans in that way helps me understand that I don’t know the outcome of what I’m doing. I don’t know what will evolve out of my current efforts. But my current efforts feel right. I love writing. I love inspiring others. I love talking to other people about the things I’ve learned in life. Perhaps these things will come together in a life I enjoy—in a life I want to live.
I’m going to die—eventually. But I’m going to live right now. In my uncertain, unsteady, bewildered, inquisitive, sometimes frantic and afraid, sometimes peaceful and confident way, I’m going to live. I’m going to put one foot in front of the other and see where it takes me. I’ve heard phrases like that for a long time. Now, I’ve given myself a chance to really feel what the words mean. In a way, I want God to show me that she really is in control, that my life is okay.
I don’t want to binge and cry away my whole life. I want to write, travel, love, play music, give, and enjoy. When I tell you that you can make any choice and do anything, I mean it. Every decision ha consequences. And guess what, I can deal with those consequences. You can deal with those consequences.
I’m not going to tell everyone who hates their jobs to quit them. I am going to tell you to listen to your heart. Your heart knows when it’s dying and when it feels alive. It knows how to live. I don’t know how it knows, but it knows. I feel it in my spirit. I am shared out of my boots, shaking, weirded out, and totally puzzled by what I’ve done. But you know what? I’m allowed to make a giant mistake. I’ve never let myself do anything that I thought would be a huge mistake, and even with that kind of forethought, I’ve still made too many mistakes to count. I’ve always avoided any major choice that I thought could turn out very, very badly.
Well, this time, I see the possibility of failure. I recognize it. And you know what? It’s worth it. Failing would be better than never trying at all. At least I’ll be somewhere different when I hit bottom. And maybe that’s all my heart needs: something different.
Heart, I won’t let you die, especially not in front of a computer screen.