#4 Is This The Real Life?
I’ve had a corporate job of one kind or another since moving to NYC in 1995. Back then, I called them “Survival Jobs” or, more frequently, "Day Jobs." As if I had some spectacular artist-life during the evening hours. I didn’t - but I sure thought about it a lot.
I wanted to write. I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to sing and get better at the guitar and maybe write songs. But, that all seemed scary and fantastical. I needed to be practical. I needed dental. I had to focus on my Real Life, not the fantasy.
The Day Jobs gradually turned into a “Good Job” which then became a career in Pharmaceutical Advertising. I stayed at one company for more than 15 years. It was a great job, a great company, full of exactly my kind of weirdoes. People who challenged me and made me laugh harder than anyone outside my own family. Sure, we had our problems, but that job and those people changed my life in beautiful and unexpected ways.
But, by 2016, I felt myself drifting away mentally and emotionally, if not physically. I’d been restless for a while, but unmotivated and afraid to make a change. And besides, I had almost zero idea what I’d do if I wasn’t traveling all over the world and working 65+ hours a week thinking about ways to get doctors to prescribe a particular blood thinner or recommend a specific IUD.
That year started with a thud- the sound of me hitting the ground after being thrown from a horse while on vacation in Costa Rica. A broken back and 8 weeks at home recuperating gave me some time to think. I started reading Brene Brown books, but I’d get overwhelmed by the exercises in the back. Or, it could have been the opioids.
When I got back to work, things changed. The company went through a massive reorganization. I kept my job, but my people, my weirdoes, seemed to just disappear, week by week, raptured up and replaced by new people, some of whom were quite lovely. Some of whom were not. Fear and anxiety filled the air, replacing the buzzy energy and laughter I was used to.
Real Life kind of sucked.
In the summer, I met Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic and all-around swell gal. Liz asked me a question that changed everything: “Why do you keep calling this thing, this job, your Real Life? Why? When you know that it’s NOT your Real Life at all?”
My REAL Real Life? Writing, telling stories, music. Why is the thing that gives me joy scarier than the thing that gives me, well, something a lot less than joy?
At Liz’s urging, I went to my first storytelling open mic. Then another, and another, and another. It was terrifying and fun and strange. I was hooked and going to open mic and shows a couple of times a week.
Work was less awful, sometimes. But I was still filled with dread and worry about losing more people at work, and when it would inevitably be my turn.
Then, in October, I had a real bad day at the office. A 3-cry day that ended with me banging on a conference room table, wild-eyed, frantic, choking on some awful thing that some awful person said and asking, “Is that what we’re really doing here? Really!?!?” I was so enraged, triggered, and hurt I was almost frothing at the mouth.
When I got home that night, a text snapped me out of it. My sister’s husband had died suddenly at 56 years old. She was a widow, and her life changed forever.
Nothing like a little perspective to snap me out of the trance of my dumb non-problems. After the funeral, my inner badass started pacing back and forth, like a coach revving up for the big half-time locker room speech. "Oh, you had a bad day at work? Shitty people said some shitty things? Your feelings are hurt? Jesus H. Christ. Get off your ass, take control of your life, and change it." **
So, I decided to leave my job and focus on my creative life. That decision was the hardest part. Once that was done, once I’d DECIDED , the rest began to flow. I made a plan and determined a timeline. I talked to a few trusted mentors and friends.
In June of 2017, I left my full-time corporate job and entered the next phase of my life.
Artist? Consultant? High-Powered Executive Witch?
It’s a work in progress. Stay tuned.
What’s your REAL LIFE? Are you living it? Tell me all about it - leave me a comment or hit subscribe so we can keep in touch!
**Is this what happens in the locker room at half time? I imagine so. And also that there’s a lot of towel snapping and fist bumping.. Note to self: avoid sports metaphors.