Giving yourself a break

Anyone who knows me knows that I am notoriously hard on myself.

Today was a notable day, mostly because it was my last day at the day job which I have worked at for nearly 19 years. I have mentioned this before. In an uncharacteristic move, I didn’t plan any sort of way to end the time there other than to say I was going to do my exit interview and drop off all my…their stuff at the office.

The exit interview went as expected. A lot of empty “are there any questions for us?” statements. Other than the typical “How long does my health insurance last?” or questions about retirement, I didn’t have any. When they asked for comments, I did tell them that they could have handled the layoffs much better. That making us all stew for two months before even telling us who was getting laid off was mental abuse. So this layoff has been at least four months in the making. Try living with that hanging over your head. It is stressful to say the least. They really didn’t care. The guy did everything but yawn. I was over it too.

I brought all the equipment back to the office. Exchanged pleasantries with the Dean, Assistant Dean, and Officer Larry who was hanging out in the office visiting, and then when I got tired of people pretending to care, I took my leave. Today should have been a day of celebration, which I did feel in my heart. But I was also hungry, so I grabbed some dinner at Roma. A Mama Mia corroli the size of a football. Once I ate it, I didn’t think much of the office, my desk, my chair, any of those things. I was free of them. My thoughts turned to upcoming projects I have to work on.

  • The podcast
  • My travel blog
  • This blog
  • My books
  • the paid writing deadlines coming up
  • Trying not to starve
  • And about a dozen other things like how am I going to buy my son socks, Christmas, etc.

So I started feeling overwhelmed. Exhausted. I took a nap and woke up to the gloaming of the evening. My favorite time of day when the world has a bluish tinge to it. How the hell am I going to do all of this? I just lie there, pondering. I started beating myself up, because before I went into a food coma, I was ready to sit down and work.

So, tonight is quiet. I have nobody around to share this moment with. Just myself and my words which you are reading now. A big part of me is actually at peace with that. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and panicked that I’m wasting the last few hours of the evening when I should be working(!), I decided to give myself permission to do nothing tonight. I thought about renting a movie. I still might. I thought about pouring myself a drink, which I could still do. I have no desire to get drunk. Just enjoy a celebratory scotch in a quiet house. Taking in the last moments of a day that marked the end of a lifetime at a job.

Because that’s all it was is a job.

It wasn’t me. I know we all are expected to surrender a few key elements of our lives when we meet each other. Your name, where you are from, what it is you do for a living. Somewhere along the way, we have confused who we are with what we do. I am not a scheduler. I’m a man, a dad, a lover of bad movies, a romantic, a son, a friend…but you know what feels really good? Tomorrow is the first day I can turn to someone when they ask that question and answer:

“I am a writer.”

Damn is that some powerful juju right there. Before, I was a swimmer. I was out on a vast and endless sea, dragging myself across the surface of the water. Kick, stroke, turn and breathe, keep going. Don’t think of the beasts the lurk in those inky depths. Don’t think of the land you never seem to reach. Keep going. Keep swimming. I hate swimming. I like breathing whenever I want to breathe. I like being dry. I like feeling the sun on my face. Tomorrow is the first day I will get to stop just swimming. Existing in a hostile environment that I dislike intensely. I get to stand on dry land again and at least test these legs that I haven’t been able to use for a long time. Let somebody else occupy their headspace with the toil of that old job. I get to use my mind now.

It took a lot to give myself permission to do nothing tonight. I beat myself up a lot. But anyone who knows me also knows that when I am passionate about something, I don’t pursue it in half-measures. This is what I truly want, and now I finally have the chance I’ve been waiting 21 years for.

So, other than writing this, I’m going to take the night off.