A few years ago, I’d wake up at 4 AM, head to the gym, hurry through a workout to get back to wake the kids, shower, herd everyone out the door, join the throngs of other drivers heading out of the suburbs into the city, muddle through the next nine hours trying to find a semblance of some piece of satisfaction before jumping back in the car to make the trek back to the burbs, make dinner, help with homework, then fall exhausted into bed. A few hours later, the process started all over again.
I was drained, stressed, and unsatisfied with my working life.
I’d always enjoyed writing but as I entered corporate life with positions as a project manager of clinical research studies and policy analyst, I had little time and even less motivation to write. Then one day, during a meeting about a meeting, in which the same issues were discussed with no actionable outcome, I started daydreaming about actually writing and finishing a novel. While I enjoyed, for the most part, the essence of my career, I was discouraged and unhappy. I’d developed an art out of biting my tongue and still sport the teeth imprints to boot. When my boss told me I needed to live to please him, “I control your life” (actual quote!), and in Godfather mode said I must kiss his ring in order to have any hopes of a promotion, raise, or transfer, all remaining thoughts of trying to make the best of it fizzled. My home life suffered, my self-esteem plummeted to subterranean levels, and the thought of years of this existence induced serious nightmares.
Then one day, the first light bulb turned on. Maybe it was self-preservation but writing became an outlet. At any point during the day, I could sketch a scene or write a paragraph and the creative outlet helped me survive the day. No, I wasn’t banking a lot of words but I was doing something positive.
A few years later, I had the opportunity to leave my job. By this time my previous job had been dissolved and I was pushed into a position that was so far off anywhere I wanted to be or had an interest in. I didn’t think things could get worse, but I was lucky. My husband had a great job and had reached a level where we didn’t need my income. It was like the sun had appeared after years of living in the dark. I was free! But amazingly, I was hesitant. I went through a litany of what ifs and remained frozen. One day I ran into an old friend and she asked how I was. I burst into tears. Light bulb number two lit and I decided it wasn’t fair to my husband, children and myself to continue to in this self-destructive life.
So, I quit.
The first morning I awoke after leaving my job felt amazing. For the first time in years I opened my eyes with hope and enthusiasm. As an aside, I’ve learned a lot and gained perspective. I shouldn’t have allowed the job, which was horrible in its own right (and corroborated by other co-workers) to dominate my life. However, maybe that experience was necessary to get where I am today.
While, my life isn’t perfect, I haven’t reached the ranks of a best sellers list, and I haven’t been showered with prestigious writing awards, I have a newfound appreciation for life. I love the excitement when I get a new idea or finish a writing project. Writing is hard, sometimes frustrating, and, for me, a constant state of learning and practice, but I love it.
I will admit sometimes I think about my previous life. I wish I had coped better or had a better experience because I truly enjoyed the essence of my positions. Although I needed two light bulbs to find my way, in the end I wouldn’t trade those experiences because they led me to where I am today.
And besides, I have a treasure trove of fodder for my villains!