Three days ago, I left a long-time job that had begun to damage my health and was already well on its way to destroying my spirit. The decision to leave wasn’t impulsive and it wasn’t easy, but regardless of the ultimate outcome, I’m convinced it was the right decision. Hopefully, when all is said and done, I’ll have gained more (and lost less) by leaving than I would have by staying.
I’ve been struggling for some time now with the ongoing conflict between my need to make a living and my need to follow that which moves me most deeply. I’ve written about that struggle numerous times, in poems like “soul versus survival” and “rush to nowhere” and “dot” (as well as several others). It’s been a theme in my work going all the way back to my first book, Iron Man Family Outing, a tormenting puzzle that I’ve simply been unable to solve. In the last few years I’ve begun to wonder if it can be solved.
In any case, now I’m free again, for a while anyway, for the first time in almost six years, and it feels strange. I’m so used to running against the clock, so used to cramming all of my meaningful creative activity into whatever time I had left on evenings and weekends, that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be able to slow down, to breathe, to be with my body and my feelings. It’s actually a bit intimidating. I’m surprised at how much anxiety and disorientation I’ve felt these last few days. I’m finding it a lot harder to settle down and trust this strange new freedom than I expected.
Part of it, I’m sure, is that I’m pretty exhausted, both mentally and physically, from trying to survive in a work environment that had become increasingly oppressive and psychologically toxic. One of the reasons for my decision to leave was my realization that being in that environment was beginning to burn me down, and that I’d wind up in cinders if I tried to stay. But the damage had already begun, and now I have to deal with it.
I’m also finding myself feeling a lot more fear than I’d expected about having an interruption in income, and about how long that scenario might last. I’d become very accustomed to a certain level of financial stability and now I may have put that at risk. But the risks I was facing if I stayed put were worse, they were certain, and they’d already begun to transform from risks to realities to consequences for me. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating right, and I wasn’t taking proper care of myself, and previous experience tells me exactly where that path leads me. As I told one of my coworkers before I left, it didn’t make a lot of sense to me to destroy my health in order to keep my health insurance.
So here I am, free, tired, and a little (sometimes a lot) scared. I expect I’ll begin to settle down over the next week or so, but it’s going to take some more focused awareness and some better self-care than I’ve been giving myself for a while now. I have a strong sense of why I need this time (aside from punching out of a bad situation) and what I want to do with it. I have a deep backlog of personal and creative work that’s been waiting for me for a very long time, and I’m itching to get to it. But my first order of business is to settle down and allow myself to get back into my own rhythm.
Maybe then this new freedom won’t feel so strange anymore.
—Photo credit: woodleywonderworks/Flickr