Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize that I’m STILL not working at that desk job anymore, that over four months have passed since I walked out of that office for the last time, and that they have been filled with successes, failures, and everything in between. But I’m still standing, and I’m not eating beans out of a can for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Just dinner.) Hallelujah.
Quitting that job and making a decision to move forward with my life, despite the predictable obstacles, has been an interesting learning experience in many ways. And many of them, I’ve chronicled for you all here. That’s why I started this blog to begin with – to share with you, the reader, the story of this journey as it unfolded.
I received my first critical comment from a reader yesterday. Generally, a good life tactic is to ignore the bullies on the playground, rather than bring them center stage and offer them a moment of your time or energy. But the woman, Joni, who left me this critical comment wasn’t a bully. She was just, as she pointed out, stating her observation. That’s fair. I state dozens of observations every day on this blog. She’s entitled her to opinion.
Her comment was this: “you are not half as interesting as you were before you quit your job. sorry, not trying to be mean, just an observation.”
Thank you for your observation, Joni. I appreciate it because it’s given me something interesting to write about here. I still haven’t wrapped my mind around people who leave critical comments on other people’s internets, because it’s not something I can bring myself to do even when I feel the impulse, but that’s every person’s right to decide for herself. (It’s also the subject of a different blog entry.) Joni’s made a decision in her life to be someone who leaves her honest opinion in the form of comments on blogs that she reads. It’s a free country, as we used to say in the 5th grade, and she’s welcome to do what she pleases. (Remember when we all began to grasp that concept and ran around on the playground yelling at each other, “IT’S A FREE COUNTRY.” That ruled.)
So to Joni’s comment, I will say this: She’s probably right. I’m sure this blog isn’t nearly as interesting as it was before I quit working at that lonely office. I don’t plan to do anything to change that, but I hear her feedback. When I first started writing here, this blog kept me sane. At the time, I was unhappy, unchallenged, unfocused, discontent and getting angrier every day about feeling stuck in that job as I barreled toward age 30 without a “real” career to call my own. All that internal conflict is inherently interesting to an outside observer. That’s why plays are written and movies are made. Conflict is fascinating. And let us all be glad that I had the foresight to start a blog during that difficult time, so that I could share with you all, and more specifically, with Joni, the conflict I was feeling.
I don’t feel such malcontent anymore. And the things I do feel don’t always make it onto the blog. I wasn’t quite sure how my relationship with the internet would change once I quit working at a desk all day long, once I found something to do with my days that made me feel happier, but now I know that as much as I love keeping up this blog, checking facebook and twitter, reading other blogs and gossip sites and watching funny videos that my friends make, I just don’t have the desire or the means to do it all day long like I used to. Standing in the kitchen baking sweets for hours on end doesn’t exactly lend itself to regular time spent on the computer. And I’m okay with that. I hope my readers can be okay with it too.
People, in general, are drawn to one another’s sorrow and pain. I know I am. I enjoy reading someone’s blog when they’re going through a hard time. Yes. Enjoy. Not because I want that person to suffer, but because there’s nothing more real than someone finding the right words to express what they’re going through, and there are few things more to which I can relate than hearing about someone’s challenges. And it’s even more inspiring to watch that person process through their pain and find a way to the other side of it. Will I keep reading their blog once they’re happy and well again? Probably. Will everyone else? Maybe not. We’re all entitled to our own opinions.
I will say that we, as blog readers, might consider being willing to let the subjects of our voyeurism grow and change and morph into more than the stories they tell. There will always be another sob story right around the corner to satisfy our needs, another hero or heroine to champion as they share with us the journey they’re on. But someday (hopefully) the protagonist of that story too will lose the weight or quit the job or leave the relationship or take the risk that they’ve been writing about from the beginning. That’s the beauty of the human spirit, and that’s the path that every journey ultimately takes: it changes, it grows, there are successes and failures. Perhaps unfortunately for those of us who are witnessing the story’s unfolding, the person traversing that path can’t slow it down or change it just for us and our entertainment. They have to travel along without concern for who’s watching. Kind of like real (non-internet) life.
Back in late December, a few members of my family with whom I’m not terribly close, decided they didn’t like some of the things I’ve written on this blog. They indirectly asked me to stop writing things that “might upset the extended family.” I use the word ‘indirectly,’ because they didn’t approach me themselves, they asked someone else do it on their behalf. I wish, for a dozen reasons, that they could have found the courage to speak to me themselves, because I think it would have netted a different result all-around. But we’re all fallible and we all do what we can, to the best of our ability, to communicate our needs to the people in our lives. It’s never easy.
When that situation happened, I wavered back and forth between writing about it in great detail, to never mentioning it all on the blog. I certainly don’t write the things I write here to hurt anyone, to cause drama, or to make anyone jealous. And I do always intend to write with a generous spirit, recognizing that people have a right to their privacy, and recognizing that my feelings are just the feelings of one girl, and not reflective of the collective experience of the world. (Maybe I shouldn’t have assumed that everyone else already knew that.)
But I’ve decided to avoid being silenced, in any way. I, quite simply, refuse that notion. And so I’m writing about my experience. Come find me if you don’t like it.
Reading Joni’s comment yesterday reminded me how I felt in the days after my family situation occurred. I don’t write this blog for anyone one person. And I won’t be changing it for anyone, nor will I be making it more interesting, less interesting, more controversial or less, more personal or less. Not for anyone. And none of that is an act of defiance, or rebellion, or an act of sending a virtual middle finger in anyone’s direction. It’s actually, very purely, an act of self-love. And act of self-preservation. And a personal decision that I’ve made about how to be an adult person. Also, no one has to read here if they don’t wanna. Isn’t that the most delicious part of life? If I like to drink beer and you don’t, we both win. If I like to live in New York and you like to live in Japan, we can both be happy. If I am a writer, and you are not, if I express myself one way, and you another, everybody’s good. We are all individuals.
Some of you may know this and some of you may not, but I had a very difficult time being a functional human being between the ages of 18-21. Those are hard years for many people, scary years when things are uncertain and when our personalities are still being formed, for better or worse. For me, those were the darkest years I’ll probably ever know. I lived through excruciating mental and physical pain, and caused the people close to me a great deal of agony as well.
As sad and sorry as I am that I went through that, that I or anyone else had to feel pain during that time, I’d never undo it. I bet you wouldn’t either, if you were me. I am proud that those years shaped who I am. I am grateful to my strong mind and open heart that I was able to get through that time. It has taught me that I am capable of anything I set my mind to. It’s what allowed me to know I would be able to quit my job and succeed in whatever came next. And it will continue to fuel me positively for the rest of my life. Overcoming challenge will do that.
Of all the things I learned through those years and the harrowing experiences that came with them, the most important thing I learned, the thing that has stuck with me and informed me the most, is that You must take care of you first. You are often your worst critic, but you also have the capacity to be your greatest cheerleader. And if you let anyone else tell you who to be, how to think, what to create, or what you need to do with your life so that their lives are better, you will be unhappy and you will feel trapped. There’s a difference between being generous and being a doormat.
If you ever let anyone else tell your story for you, if you let other people define what you’ve been through, where you’re going, or how you get there, if you let the judgment that other people will inevitably fling at you, because their own insecurities are so great that they can’t feel good about themselves unless they’re judging others, you will never find peace. Peace, as we’re all well aware by now, comes from within. Not from casting judgment, nor from wearing the judgment that is cast in your direction.
So thank you to all the voices of dissension in my life, past, present and those yet to come, who, through my desire to avoid following their example, have taught me that all we can do is move through life doing the best that we can. All we can do is keep our hearts open and filled with love, focus on our own journey, and keep our minds searching for the path to empathy.