It’s an incredibly gorgeous day in New York today – 85 and perfectly blue skies. For whatever reason this has brought up a lot of mixed emotions in me this morning. Nice, right?
I’m happy that it’s lovely out. Thrilled, in fact. I’m also disappointed that I am still working at this office. I knew these feelings would come up when the summer weather arrived. I’ve known it since January. I’m not proud of it, but this wouldn’t be an honest account of my journey to leave my desk job if I didn’t share the ugly truth of it all.
Intellectually, I know the reasons why I’m still working here. I know that I need to earn a living, that I want to have health insurance and that I really do have a pretty sweet set up. I perform minimal work for a reasonable paycheck and I have job security and a routine – things that I’ve missed when I’ve been out of work in the past.
Yet still, probably mostly because of my own mindset, great-weather days like this where I’m trapped in a windowless lobby while recycled air blasts down on me, feel like punishment or purgatory.
I don’t envy the guy who works his butt off on the street every day, driving a taxi or selling sodas and pretzels to tourists – or do I? I honestly don’t know anymore. Is he happier than I am? Does he have dreams and goals that he’s working toward? Is his just a “desk job” too? What would he do if he had all the time and money in the world? Maybe he’s someone to whom I should be posing the payday questions.
It’s rewarding to be working toward the small business venture and other personal goals. But I’m feeling down today. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I want to snap my fingers and change it all in an instant. I want to have left this job, be baking and selling sweets, be freelance writing, be taking yoga class every single day. I want an instant lifestyle makeover. I know that’s a lot to ask for. It almost sounds spoiled, doesn’t it? I don’t mean to appear ungrateful for the things I do have – and I’m not ungrateful for them. But I also don’t believe in settling for something just because it would be an ideal lifestyle for someone else.
When will it be “responsible” to leave my job and change my day to day routine? When I have another job in place? When the baking biz is starting to take off? When I’ve eeked another year’s worth of bonus checks and health insurance out of my current employer? What about taking a leap and making it work?
I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my young life. I’ve made a lot of impulsive, stupid, ill-conceived choices. I dropped out of college, I randomly moved home to Chicago for a handful of months on a whim, I moved back to New York a few months later for no discernibly logical reason, I’ve quit jobs, skipped classes, spent more money than I’ve made and taken expensive trips I couldn’t afford – all of which were knee-jerk choices that just felt good in the moment. Some of them worked out, some of them were huge mistakes – I’m not sure I can even remember anymore what led to what.
I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older (and after years of therapy) about choosing which whims I follow and which I suppress. I’d have to confirm this with my mother to be sure, but I think it’s been in my nature since I was a little child to be impulsive. It’s a quality that has gotten me into a lot of trouble and a quality that has given me a lot of interesting memories – some wonderful, some terrible. I’m bright but I’m not always smart in a look-before-you-leap kind of way. So being impulsive is not something that serves me much anymore when it comes to big life choices, if only because I’m confronted with rebuilding a stable lifestyle from scratch each and every time. That said, making choices that are guided almost solely by emotion, another quality I’ve possessed since I can remember, is not something I can so easily disqualify.
If I don’t like the way my life feels today – if I ache to be outside in the sunshine, enjoying the city and interacting with people – why would I not reach for that today, rather than wait around for the perfect moment when all the stars, bank accounts and business plans align. I do know that I won’t look back on my 28 year-old life when I’m old and gray and think “Thank god I had that health insurance I rarely used. That kept my grandmother from worrying.”
Fear is a very powerful thing: fear of being broke, fear of leaving a “good” job that allows the people who care about me (myself included) to sleep at night, fear of ending up exactly where I dream of going and discovering that it’s not what I wanted at all, fear of having what I want and learning how hard it really is, fear of missing my desk job, fear of choosing a road less traveled, fear of making the wrong choice, the right choice, the impulsive choice, the overly-planned choice, fear that I’m running away from something or toward the unknown, fear of not having built any kind of real career for myself by now, fear of being judged, fear of being laughed at, fear of being lonely – I could go on but I won’t. It’s crippling, right? All that stuff could choke me if I let it. Luckily for me, I’ve stared down much scarier more barren roads than the one I’m looking down now. I wonder what me then would say to me now. Probably something annoyingly flip like “Do whatever makes you happy.”
The beautiful and painful bottom line of the whole self-created saga I’ve laid out here is that I and I alone am the only person who can make these choices and take these actions and nothing anyone says – not my boyfriend or my mother or my boss or my grandfather – is going to create what’s true for me. What’s true for me is what I decide to make true for me.