progress · self-doubt · vision · work

Living Out Cliches

Last Friday morning, I received a phone call from the temp agency I’d been working with, telling me, in excited “what a great gig is this” tones, about a possible receptionist job.

On Saturday morning, as is not unusual for Bay Area Rapid Transit, I got onto a train car with a homeless man sprawled out in a blanket by the doorway, and turned right to walk through to the next car.  There, I was pleasantly surprised to see a former co-worker (the only one I really befriended) from my retail job this past winter and I sat down next to her.

I got to tell the temp agency and my former coworker the same thing: “I just accepted a teaching job for the upcoming school year.”

It felt as though The Spirit of Jobs Past had come to call on me, showing me how my life could have been.  I get a call for a crummy temp job–that only days before I would have actually had to consider–just 24 hours after accepting a position teaching 3rd grade at a local Jewish private school.  And only a day after that, I run into someone who holds up a vision into what my winter was and what my present still could be:  long, hard, meaningless, monetarily and spiritually rewardless hours.

This morning I pulled out my “morning pages” notebook thinking to write about what’s happening now, and I flipped it open.  It fell open to a page from February, when I was still at that retail job, and I had just decided I was going to be a school teacher.  I have all these “law of attraction”-style invocations written down over that month:

  • I’ve made a decision.  I am going to teach physics.  And math.  In high schools. & later college(?)
  • I’ve decided: I’ll get a private school job & they’ll sponsor my credential program.
  • The future. My legacy.  Middle schoolers, I love them! Real holidays.  Real breaks. Stable. Stability First.
  • I want a job like Jess’s or Chris’s – a cush public or a great private.
  • I need a regular job. I need a regular, benefitted, well-paying job.
  • I wanna fly a plane for tourists.
There were all the questions, too:

  • This will take a lot of work & more schooling.  How is this gonna work?
  • Will I be able to do a normal job AND the acting thing? Dreams change, right?
  • How the heck to I teach this stuff?
  • How is this gonna work at all??
  • Where do you (inner core) need me? What needs to happen to get there?

I also wrote about the other things that I was struggling with:

  • I broke down yesterday – I shared & cried & said how it really is for me right now. I feel ancient, I feel tired, and – not lost actually – just temporarily very, very stuck.
  • I am a mess, and I need help to clean and slow things down.  I can’t do it all at once and I’m trying to.
And finally:

  • 2015, the year I taught at a private school, was in a musical & play, learned calculus and physics.  Right? Oh, and got counseling for cancer. Oh right, that.  I need help on that.  This isn’t okay.  I wanna hear from cancer survivors.

It was the entry after the day I “broke down” to my friends and let them know how much that winter was weighing on me…  How broken and tired and hopeless and directionless I felt…  The day after I admitted that what it looks like on the outside can kill you if you don’t admit what it feels like on the inside…

It was after that entry, the very next one, that I received the call that I’d gotten the temp job as an executive assistant and would be leaving my retail floor behind me.

It was at that temp job that I made a friend who ended up gifting me funds so that I could afford to accept the part-time summer school job at the cushy private school (and take a physics class at night).

It was the experience and resume-fodder of that private school job that enabled me to speak with recent enthusiasm to the cushy private school interviewers where I got hired last week.

And, true to the last bullet point above, I have, in 2015, taught at a private school, been in a musical, learned physics, and gotten counseling for cancer & discovered a community of young adult cancer survivors whom I cherish.

Oh, and I flew in a plane with a friend and was able to take the wheel for a while.

So, what?  What is the take-away from all of this “what it was like & what’s it’s like now” reflection?

Firstly, and I believe most importantly, I admitted the truth to my friends about how broken I was feeling – and I will not be exaggerating here when I say things were as black as they can get for a person like me, a person who will actively hide behind her shiny exterior while gently suggesting suicide to myself like a lover whispering nothings in my ear.

This was not okay. And I didn’t know how to change or fix it.  I put on the armor of the Look-Good every day.  Until finally, one very lucky day for me indeed, I told the truth to people who could hear it, and, importantly, help me change it.

It was because of this admission of my truth that I got help: I began to work in earnest on my recovery.  I “happened to” read the back panel of the Cancer Support Community newsletter, where they offered free one-on-one counseling for cancer patients and survivors. I was accepted into a climbing trip with survivors like me where I was able to tell them the truth about how much I missed them in my life without knowing what it was that I’d been missing — like breathing fresh oxygen when you’ve lived in LA your whole life with a 100lb pack on your back.

So, I suppose the take away is mainly for me to say that.  To say that this was a hard fucking year.  It was a hard fucking winter and it nearly killed me “for realz.” And so, all these cash and prizes now, all the fulfillment of these “manifestations,” all the rewards that seem to be piling in on me now and making me spin with their accuracy of help… they have not been granted by a fairy godmother, magically and suddenly.  They have been fought for with the truth, with action, and yes, with the childish hope that what dreams I put out into the world might actually come true.

My coworker asked me on the train car last Saturday, “When did you quit?”  “February.”  She thought for a moment, and replied, “So six months.  You’ve done what you said you were going to do in six months.”

Indeed.

And wow.

And thanks.
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