Friday, July 29, 2016
I wanted to write about creativity and such, but after a tough week - physically and then emotionally - I’ve had my mind on other things and it’s left me feeling rather torn. Torn because I keep coming up against measures of success that indicate, to me anyway, that I’m failing, but then there’s still an underlying current of fight inside. Even though I’ve been home with a stomach bug all week long, it wasn’t until I tried to tackle yet another batch of medical bills that I was so sick to my stomach I burst into tears. Money earned instantly disappears to get debts paid off. And they just keep coming in, every day, from all around. Cancer treatment. Imaging. Therapy. Psychiatrists. Just when I had finally paid off surgery and radiation from three years ago, I had to land in the hospital and start another trail of bills. This in addition to paying hundreds upon hundreds for health insurance “coverage” that doesn’t cover very much and charity care that clearly believes I have more money than I actually do.
After hanging up on the attorney now handling my medical case after throwing another $600 into the hole, I buried my face in my knees and lost hope. I work and work to create the kind of life I’d like for myself, but then I look around and wonder, what’s the point? I’m not rich enough for that luxury. I’m not even rich enough to get sick.
This blog goes back so far that I’ve taken to clicking through the relevant stories at the bottom of these posts. It’s like a tiny time capsule for me because I’ve forgotten so much of what I’ve written over the past nine years. Some of those earlier thoughts feel so foreign and immature, but I have to remind myself that I was 25 when I started sharing my life online. “A quarter of a century,” I’d say as if that were anywhere near old enough to know anything.
Last night, I stumbled upon two things that are so close to how I’ve been feeling lately. First, the post “Up in the Air” from August 2011. My life was in flux at the time. I was just given notice that I would be losing my full-time job at the end of that month and wasn’t sure if I should continue with plans for a trip I’d dreamt about for so long. I was struggling with the shock that came with the news as well as disappointment and anger over being so dispensable (I’d also been laid off just two years prior). Did I want to keep hacking through the traditional route working for one company in an office or did I want to break away from that? Could I make it as a freelancer and write about the things I cared about rather doing whatever it took to earn a paycheck? Should I finally start that stationery company I’d been talking about for years?
It’s easier to do what is expected, the norm. Land a job with benefits, climb the ladder, and hope they don’t fire you. Rent an apartment, buy a home. Get married, have kids. Eat, sleep, work, repeat. It’s not because they’re inherently easier to achieve, no. They take a lot effort and motivation, but there are also countless roadmaps to follow and so many mile markers along the way if you want to see how you measure up against others. How long have you been at this job? Does your employer match your 401k? How many vacation days do you get? How big is your home? How long have you two been together? When do the kids graduate from school?
You know you will fit in because most people will have been where you are and they will be more than happy to share with you their similar story of struggle or triumph. To me, it’s felt slightly harder to do something different. Not only because it feels riskier and less stable, but because the urge to compare my trajectory to others' is still there.
I never did go back to an office job. Since that second lay-off in 2011, I’ve worked remotely taking on jobs, going full-time with contracts, then back to part-time, losing jobs, freelancing for others, launching a company, in and out of projects, working from home, abroad, the park, a coffeeshop. The constant churn of ideas is relentless as is this never-ending need to figure out, “What’s next?” What if I don’t know what my next should be?
After I finished my sobfest, I let myself get lost in Vimeo films where I found Adrift. It’s a time-lapse of fog rolling over the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s simple, with beautiful sweeping views of the landscape at dawn, and it stuck with me. Sometimes I feel like I’m not tethered to much of my own. Wayward, in transit, “still figuring it out.” Or rather hazy, and sometimes consumed by it.