I sent out a mass text on Wednesday to several women I know
who’d understand. I asked them to help me not quit my job that day; that for me
quitting without a safety net is equivalent to drinking; that I was at the end
of my rope.
I got several texts back, including from a woman I am only
acquainted with but who I admire, and she offered that if I called her, we
could pray together. Sure, what else have I got?
When I called, I imagined we’d just say some rote prayer that
is common around, but instead, she launched into a several-minute long prayer
personal to and about me. In it she said, to me and to the ether, that this job
is just a recreation of my childhood trauma and neglect, and to help me see
that and heal that. She said many other loving things, but this is the part that
has been sending shock-waves through me the last few days.
I’ve “gotten” that my relationships in the world tend to be
mirrors or recreations of older, historical relationships. It’s been clear that
my acceptance and pursuit of jobs that make me want to cry with frustration
over the hemorrhaging of my time is a pattern of low self-worth and despair.
However, there was and is a new level of understanding – an
“aha” moment if you will (not gag) – as I listened to my friend’s prayer. How
is my job a recreation of my home life
Well, at home, I was a runaway.
When I was little, I only did it twice. I got as far as our
public library, with a small backpack filled with maybe an apple and a
sweatshirt. But at 7 or 8 years old, I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t have a
place to go, there was no where to go. And so I defeatedly walked back home,
and slipped into my house, where no one noticed I’d been gone anyway, just like
the time before.
In my home, my gifts were not encouraged or noticed; there
was an unstable force that expected perfection, meekness, and to be obeyed; and
finally, all of my most basic needs were met. I was fed, clothed, and housed —
anything else was bonus, not to be asked for and not to be expected.
(It wasn’t prison life, I know; but this is the
interpretation and internalization of a small person with a brain that analyzes
and makes judgment.)
So. How have my work environments been a reflection, a
recreation of this initial home environment?
Perfectly. Perfectly parallel:
Basic needs met. Check.
Gifts not seen or utilized. Check.
Perfection and meekness expected. Check.
Unstable authoritarian. Check.
Somewhere I run away from. Check. Check, the whole of my life, check.
I have held 6 jobs in the past 8 years.
Each year and a half or so, I become so frustrated with the
confines of my environment and the yearnings of my soul, that I quit. I quit
without a safety net. I quit with nowhere to go.
And so I do what I did when I was young: I go back home. I
find another underearning, underbeing, dissatisfying, deadening, useless position
that also meets my very basic needs and has a few coworkers to be my allies.
I keep this job until I end up crying in my car for an hour (See: this Tuesday). And then I quit again.
So, today, I am attempting with every fucking fiber of my
being not to quit. Not to start the cycle again without a plan – without
someplace to go. Without someplace to go that is “right,” that is safe, that is
not running from the frying pan into the fire.
For me, to quit a job without a safety net – meaning,
another job or enough savings to carry me through to another job – is tantamount to drinking. And as a sober alcoholic,
that’s a pretty serious parallel. It is deadly for me to do this again: I eventually begin to think about driving into oncoming traffic. It is insane for me to do this again and expect that in any way
it would be different than before.
So, what is my solution?
I have tried every mode of visioning, job window-shopping,
informational interviewing, praying, meditating, and begging known to me to try to “conjure” or land on or decide or realize or discover
what the job, the career, for my life should be. And I have landed on nothing.
I am absolutely blocked in this area of dreaming.
A therapist once told me that I don’t let myself dream.
And this is true. Why dream, when it’ll be taken away or
I’ll fuck it up anyway, which amounts to the same thing?
I had a moment last night when I heard someone say that “we”
are the kind of people who try to get away with doing the least work.
I thought about that. Why is that? Because I completely identify with that.
I leaned to my friend on the left, who identifies with that
way of being, and asked, Well, what about workaholics?
I leaned to my friend on the right, who is a workaholic and would no more do the least amount
of work necessary than eat sand, and asked her about it.
Later, in talking with her, I’ve come to see that although
the routes are very opposite, the motivation and the fear is the same for both
“underearners/under-be-ers” and for workaholics: Things are not going to work
out; I’m not going to be okay.
For the set that does the minimum, the fear (for me at
least) is that whatever it is is not going to work out anyway, so why try? Why
give the world the satisfaction of seeing me put effort in, if it’s only going
to turn to shit?
For the workaholic set, the fear is that unless I have my hand in everything, it’s not going to work
out. I must make sure that I’m doing everything possible, or it will turn to
In both these scenarios, the fear is that the result will
not be favorable to us. On the one hand, why try to make it work – on the other hand, make
In both cases, there is a lack of faith in the positive
outcome of things, or in an outcome that is unfavorable but doesn’t demoralize
and crush us into smitherines. Because,
for me, that’s the final stage of the fear – I will be so demoralized, I will be
But aren’t I there anyway?
So, again, what is the solution here?
It seems to me, that I needed a safe place to go when I was
running away. And although I cannot conjure or envision for myself a job or
career that I want, I do think that I
can try to envision for myself a safe home.
Though, even in my home life now, I’ve recreated what it was like when I was
a kid: My own small room that was safe, filled with things I’ve made and pretty
things, a place I could hide, be myself, and a place where I was mostly alone.
What is a real safe
place, not like this isolation? Where would I want to run away to?
I believe that as I try to answer this question, to envision
what an ideal safe home looks like, I will begin to have movement on the job
front. I will begin to create that environment I crave in the external world. And though that might not mean a lightning bolt in terms of a career
choice, it may help to make whatever my next transition is one that I don’t
have to run away from.