Monday, February 7, 2011

I'm Not Saying I'm Betty Draper, Exactly. Just That I Feel Her Pain. A Bit.

You know what sounds like all kinds of fantastic? Quitting a job that you've been stagnant in for a while, but that was safe, moving across the country, enrolling in an MFA program, and generally getting to have an interlude of intense writing focus. Many people dream of that, let me tell you. Many more dream of living in a gorgeous locale and not having to worry about how one will be feeding the cat or figuring out how one would set up a vinyl tarp next to the woman on the beach-walk bench. (Should I, god forbid, become homeless, that's where I'm heading. Mild weather, close bathrooms.)

I'm so fortunate! I realize that, truly. And I didn't think my stagnant job was any great shakes. Enhancing my future job prospects? Hah! More like sending me toward mental breakdown.

But, but. Dropping out of the "what do you do," even for a moment, even to be a student, is a bit of an identity void at my age and stage in life. I've never been one deeply invested in my career, such as it's been. But I've taken great pride in being a hard worker, a good thinker, one who contributes. And I've also taken great pride in having supported myself successfully since graduating college. There was a brief moment back in the day when I was terrified that I would fail, and that any moment, I would have to move into my parents' basement. Or find kind relatives who wanted to take me in. It took me years to get past that primal fear of failure and dependency.

Instead, I've been taking care of myself for a long, long time. I've been able to take vacations, buy a house, and keep the cat in premium chow. Not that I've been awash in the money, just that I've been okay. And able to save, choose, and spend on--for example--organic produce, if I want to.

Losing that thing you've been doing every day for years is hard. Waking up and knowing it's all on you to write, do your homework, or hammer out that freelance job is hard. No longer being that person who can cover her own bases, take care of herself, keep the cat in premium chow, is really hard.

You don't realize how much your identity is tied up in what you do and what you present to the world until you drop off that standard grid. And the world motors on while you fight your own inertia and attempt to instill structure and meaning into your day.


Toby said...

Most transformations require a period of vulnerability, which is why they are perfect moments for relying on the support of friends. As for the identity crisis, be the ball! Do you think the butterfly ever misses being a caterpillar? Doubtful, but I'm sure he was pretty freaked out inside that cocoon.

Laura said...

Thanks, dude. I've got to work on that commune to collect everyone in one damn location.