Two weeks after returning from my 40th birthday solo travel adventure, I was laid off. Not surprised. A few of us felt the squeeze over the course of the last year with the arrival of fresh corrupt middle management slowly poisoning the well. The Commander contacted me weeks later to say he was shocked, upset and could he provide me a Letter of Appreciation. I told him “Of course” and no hard feelings because this blackball was rolling long before he showed up late last year. No one should gain or lose a job due to nepotism in modern times but it happens, particularly in my field where women struggle to compete against the Good Ol’ Boys and I never knew how to just “shut up and color”. I was increasingly stressed and miserable and could find nothing redeeming about my work anymore. The end was coming; Others jumped and I waited to get pushed. Strangely, my announcement was met by fewer condolences than congratulations. Even my autistic brother sent me a message: “Mom said u lose ur job. That’s great!” I had hoped to hold onto the job through the holidays but in truth, even that would have been a challenge because seeing the end near, I enrolled in a Masters program at last. My VA Vocational Counselor has tried for the last two years to convince me to get out of this line of work but whenever I suggested an alternate career path, she would say “No, you’ll take that job home with you too”. Finally, she said something that made me reconsider my entire outlook on jobs “You’ve already had the jobs you were passionate about, Now maybe it’s time to find a stable, flexible boring job that pays well, that you can do anywhere, roll over your retirement points, and focus your energy and passion on things that don’t keep you up at night.”
I know people, including my former roommate-for-a-minute who only work as much or as hard as they need to because they enjoy their downtime. It’s not about constantly upgrading, buying more “stuff” and then upgrading again. One of my favorite sayings is “To have more, want less”. I want a peaceful, happy life. I want to love and be loved in return. Is that really so difficult to attain?
So in my first week “off”, I ordered textbooks, finished orientation, rolled over my 401k into an IRA and insisted to the financial consultants that damn the tax-consequences, I’m not going to starve during my sabbatical. And that’s what this is. It’s not just about trading a paycheck for 40 hours of homework, it’s about sleeping when my body needs rest, taking my dog to the park every day, dancing more because I no longer have an 8pm bedtime, and taking advantage of cheap airfare to pay friends across the country visits for a few days here and there. Maybe even head back to the Caribbean to hike the hills in Jamaica or the Virgin Islands. But not alone. I’m over vacationing alone. Oh, and I was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. How is that for proof that that place was affecting my physical as well as emotional health? Oh, the irony. Call it a parting gift…
And the scale is moving at last. The day before I left for Scotland, I had a follow up with one of my doctors who reassured me that endocrine issues take time. “Six – 12 months. I don’t know where you got 5-8 weeks from.” The internet, I admitted. I weighed the exact same amount after 9 days of hiking the Highlands as the day I left. But three weeks later, I was now only 35lbs overweight instead of 50. He noticed too without me fishing for it. I sent him a few pictures of an Aerial Silks class that I tried and his response was “You look thin”. No, I’m not thin but I am getting stronger and my bones no longer hurt, thank G-d. It still takes me longer to recover than it did before I got sick but I am getting better, I think. I squeezed into one of my black swing dresses last night. Still a squeeze but it went over my hips so that counts. It was the first time in many months that I didn’t hate how Iooked and felt and it made a difference in my attitude. Until later that night when he’d had a few drinks and decided to tell me about another woman who picked him up at the bar. This is now the third time that I’ve had to remind him to save those conversations for his guy friends because I don’t particularly want to hear about his game. He kept up until I finally said “Do you just like fucking with me? You know how feel about you”. He even sent a picture. There were a group of them at the bar but he was leaning in close to a young brunette. Whenever I don’t hear from him in the evening, I assume it’s because he’s found someone new to occupy his time (and he knows I don’t want to hear about it). I figure he only keeps in touch as much as he does because he’s lonely in a new town. I wasnt really joking when I remarked that he’d soon forget me amidst his new friends in the tiny dog club. Six inches shorter, 20 years younger, and 80 pounds lighter and I might have had a chance with him.
“Does he make you feel good about yourself? Do you feel better after having communicated with him?” The answer is still No and no.
But I’m still dancing. I’m smiling. Sometimes it’s even sincere. My once-lifelong bachelor friend and his new bride canceled their honeymoon because she’s 14 weeks pregnant. And now I really don’t have a single close friend locally who doesn’t have children or a significant other.
I need a nap. Well, what I REALLY need is someone to put their hands and mouth on me but since that isn’t an option, a nap will have to do.