I worked at a job that worked at destroying me for 2 years and I took it out on my family and myself. I doubted every choice I made, was afraid to do anything but stay inside the lines, and didn’t allow myself to enjoy life except for those occasional quiet moments I’d steal watching the boys play peacefully while they remained unaware of my presence. At the end of June, Z and I agreed that I should stop working for the first time in my adult life and it was ah-mahz-ing. I was free and loving it. I laughed without the sharp edge of someone waiting for the moment to be ruined by the Monday morning or the hours of 9-5 every weekday. I spoke openly without worrying about who might hear or that my words might be jagged with hardened frustration and anger. I no longer found powdered tooth dust on my pillows in the morning from hard nighttime grinding. Just kidding, that’s still there.
In those first few days of resignation bliss, it felt like my life would magically transform itself into whatever perfect, clean, 10 lbs less, healthy-eating form it had been waiting to become and all I would have to do was sit back and watch. And after taking the MCAT that’s what I did; I sat back and watched hours of One Tree Hill and the entirety of Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated (mostly without Connor) on Netflix. I passed hours on the couch knitting and fawning over Blue Boy. Z would get home from work and I would find myself trying to grasp for what it was that I did all day. I didn’t have to have anything done, but I was so used to measuring my days by what I accomplished that it felt like I wasted dozens of hours of precious, unscheduled time without being able to stop myself. And, for some reason, my life and I didn’t become suddenly sage or detoxified.
What had I missed? I thought all of my stress came from work, having two little boys, and the elusive lack of a life-work balance. Without work in the equation, life should have been easy and adorable. But it wasn’t easy. I found myself irritable and impatient at the end of the day. I became easily offended and felt needy and neglected and often doled the silent treatment out to Z because it seemed like the only power I had. I felt isolated and while I wouldn’t consider myself an overly social person, I missed those daily interactions with people who had stories I’d never heard before. I actually missed working. Now I was taking the stress of not working out on those I loved the most. That life balance remained ever elusive.
Before quitting my job I believed that I was the only one in my circle who hated her job this much. I was the only one who had to deal with this level of shame and fear at work. I was the only one who had to juggle being a mom with work and household chores. After taking the MCAT and choosing to spend my days at home while the boys were at daycare I felt guilty about not finishing every household chore and project that had been put on the back burner while both Z and I were working and going to school. I felt like a bad mother for not keeping the boys home with me all day because I had the option to do so when so many other mothers would love to do just that. I fell into thinking that I was somehow an exception in my work life and in my feelings regarding my home life. I let the “shoulds” and the “you just don’t understands” distance me from my happiness and those around me.
It’s important to recognize and honor what makes each of us special, but we need to stop believing that we’re so special that the ways of the world don’t apply to us (or maybe I’m the only one crazy enough to put myself in that category of exceptions). Some days you feel like putting the kids to bed by 5:30 because that last 30 minutes with them since you got out of work gave you more than your daily dose of frustration/attitude/weightlifting. Some days (or weeks or months or years) bosses are terrible. Sometimes that stinky pot of old water and dirty utensils needs to sit for 3 days because I don’t feel like destroying the new ecosystem that has started thriving in it. Picking on our differences divides us. We need community, villages raising children, tribes to help us raise ourselves, and simple understanding. We need to talk and be awkward about it (nailed that one!) if that’s how talking makes you feel.
I’ve started giving my time to other people and it has brought some needed structure back into my days. I’ve talked to Z about my fears and bitchiness and am taking the silent treatment off the table as it was a punishment to both of us. I’ve reached out to friends and am working on making new ones at the ripe old age of 34. I’m doing things that require I give myself a little extra push, especially since Scooby and his friends have moved on to Miskatonic University (just to clarify, I started watching Scooby with Connor. It just didn’t end that way). I’ve decided to stop being special and just be me.
P.S. I will stake claim to having the worst travel luck ever. I am positively blessed by being special with my powers of travel plan destruction.