26 June 2007

Feeling like the weight of the world is off my shoulders

"G'on, brush yer shoulders off"~Rapper Jay-Z

I told you a week or so ago that my personal life had a bit of a blow, that I'd be dealing with the fallout for a while. I could not share the details at the time, but I can now, and it feels so incredibly freeing.

I'm tempted to throw caution entirely to the winds and share the whole story, and shed my anonymous pen name, almost like "coming out" must feel. I'm giddy, and thinking that perhaps I ought not feel giddy, that I ought to feel sad, or bad, but I just don't. Can't.

I resigned from my job. The job that has been such an important part of WHO I am, the job that has given my life extraordinary meaning for almost 3 years, the job that in the beginning was a dream job, being the boss, being in charge and doing something for the community where I live. Things at the job were closing up shop, and I resigned before the bitter end, when I would have been laid off anyway. Gave up, in a way, I suppose. But I don't feel bad about it, I feel that I made the best decision I could for myself, for this time, this place. That "living in the NOW" idea, which has always been so hard for me, that sense of serenity, that almost state of grace is with me now that I have decided to finally let it go.

This job has also been the reason, well, the primary reason, but maybe not the only one, that I've hidden behind a pen name. My stance as an abortion-rights activist, flaming liberal, and champion of feminist ideals probably wouldn't have gone down very well with my employer. I never hid who I was and what I was from them, but I didn't flaunt it in their faces, either.

I'm old enough, and wise enough, to continue to use the pen name, and to not identify the former employer by name. But now I can tell you that I was the director of a local chapter of a global non-profit organization whose work on behalf of children is recognized worldwide. If I did tell you the name, you'd know who it was right away. Heck, you may be able to guess just from those details. *shrug* SOOOO not my problem anymore.

I was the head of the local chapter, a small branch of the wider organization, responsible for keeping our programs fiscally healthy, running the day-to-day operations, supervising a small staff and a group of volunteers. I loved it deeply. It was the most frightening, trying, and at the same time the most exhilarating thing I've ever done in my life.

Coming as I do from a white-picket-fences background, two parents, stable home, good schools, college education, around the time I turned 25 I realized that I wasn't doing much to give back to the community at large, which had shaped who I am. Working as I did back then for a huge super-regional bank, what was I doing every day? Making the rich, richer. Pushing paper. Data entry. Stock transfers, legal document review, taxes....it mostly made me miserable. I wanted to be doing something that made a difference. Something that mattered.

In business school, they don't teach you how to become a middle manager, a corporate slave. Many of us with business degrees end up as just that, but I assure you most business students have plans to take over the world, to run a company, to be the top dog somewhere along the way. And the curriculum, indeed the instructors themselves, encourage that ideal, that when you graduate, you're set to hit the ground running.

For most graduates, reality smacks ya in the face about a year or so after you graduate, when you realize that no one is going to give you that promotion to senior vice president, and you have to work hard to impress everyone. For me, the first epiphany came when I was passed over for a promotion and they hired someone even younger than me for the job. The second one came when I hung up the telephone with a client one day after the client said, "Thanks, you've been really helpful. We couldn't have gotten through this whole process without you, Lucy." I realized when I hung up the phone that I'd just had the best compliment I was likely to get all week, and that was possibly the most satisfaction I would EVER get out of that job, the occasional times when I was able to help someone with a specific problem, solve some issue for them. Six months after that phone call, I was out of there when I was offered my non-profit job.

You might wonder, and perhaps rightfully so, "Lucy! How could you? Walk away from a children's charity? How *DO* you sleep at night?"

My answer to that is twofold; first, my insomnia has been a well documented occurrence on this site. Since making this decision, I've been sleeping better. Not fantastically, but better. Next, it is simply time. Time to move on to something else, time to re-evaluate what the hell I'm doing on this earth, time to breathe for just a minute.

We all spend more of our adult lives at work than we spend doing anything else, including sleeping. Think about it. Forty hours (and most likely more than that, 50-70 perhaps) a week if you work full time. Fifty-two weeks in a year. Most of us get 2 weeks vacation, so for sake of argument, and the easiest possible math for me, let's call it 50 weeks a year at 50 hours a week. 2500 hours a year spent at work. Multiply that by 40 years or so and be prepared to be astonished. But let's stay focused on just one year. There are 8760 hours in a year, 365x24=8760. So you work 2500 of those hours. That leaves you with 6260 hours a year to yourself. If you get 8 hours a sleep a night, lucky you. Most of us don't, so let's go with 6 hours a night of sleep. But that deletes another 2,190 hours from your free time, so you're left with 4,070 hours to do with as you will. I'm not going to sit here and figure out how much time we all spend in running errands, commuting to and from work, working from home or on our CrackBerries, e-mailing when we're supposed to be "off" because my point is this. If you don't love, and I mean absolutely LOVE, what you're doing for a living, why are you doing it?

Yes, yes, we all have bills to pay, and we're all looking for that dream job in Hawaii, but really, if you get up every morning and think, "Ugh, I have to go to WORK today. I hate it there. Please help me get through this day." Then you are wasting what little time you have on this earth. You're a grownup. Change it.

I loved, with my whole heart and soul, this non-profit job, loved it as much as I despised the bank job. It breaks my heart that the services we offer to people are going to disappear from my rust-belt community. That is far more painful, as idealistic as that sounds, than the fact that I'm going to be out of a job. Really, it is. I can get another job. I have a degree. I'm pretty damn employable. I'll survive. Thrive, even, who knows what I might find as another job in the future?

So now what for Lucy? I'm not going back to the bank, I can tell you THAT beyond a shadow of a doubt. I'm in the rather silly position of being 32 years old and having no idea what it is that I want to be when (if) I grow up. I think I'd like to stay in the non-profit arena. I also KNOW that I'd like to move far, far, far away from Oh-hia-ia, and that this may be the last, best opportunity that I have to do so.

But for the immediate future, I'm going to take a minute.


Savor the fact that I've survived the terrible depression that I suffered from, which was related in no small part to this job, as it broke my heart to watch it slowly die.

Take a week or two to work on the book, sit in the sunshine, watch the world go by, and for once, (and maybe the only time in my life) be unemployed. And then I'll get back into job hunting and being a productive member of society. How lucky I am to be able to do that for a minute. How scary, and how exciting.


Dawna said...

I figured that's what went down ~_^, and I was online last night to chat too... pooh.

Ya know, I totally feel ya about leaving the charity. There's more to it than helping the kids. Sure, that's the big picture, but you don't always work with them and it is very hard to keep sight on that. I volunteer with a children's group and do the catering for their hall, and I can honestly tell ya, I rarely feel the satisfaction knowing that I have somehow made a difference. Of course, when the kids took their trip to Ottawa a few weeks ago, I got a small smile deep down inside knowing that the $10 000 or so I've made for them in the last year has helped bring those under unprivileged children there. Even though the money didn't go directly to them, I helped.

I hope you can find something satisfying. Maybe work at a book store? LOL

Lucy Arin said...

I'll be on after my class tonight. Catch up with ya then, hopefully.

LOL re: the bookstore...only if I can be the boss, set my own hours AND read what I want, when I want. heee.

I actually have NO idea what I'm going to do. But no need to worry 'bout it just yet either. Thank goodness.