A little visit from Reality
posted by: JoAnn
“Sometimes I miss my old life,” I mutter to myself, as I am sitting at my computer, looking at my calendar, phone in hand.
All of a sudden, Reality slaps me in the face.
“Which old life?” she spats at me. “The one where you worked so hard to get into a private college, studied your heart out and graduated with honors? The one where you were in search of a life in the social work field, only to come home every night and cry because you realized that you weren’t really helping people? That you really couldn’t help people? The life where you realized that to be a good counselor you had to care, but to continue to be a counselor you had to not care? That life?”
I am stunned. I hadn’t even heard her come in. “N-n-no. Not that part,” I stutter, remembering how devastated I’d felt at that moment. The realization that what I was going to be when I grew up wasn’t making me happy and that I needed to be happy to function properly had created mass confusion in my brain. The world I’d created for myself threatened to crumble around me.
“But, I fixed that. We moved away. I got into another line of work, using the other part of my major. Life was so free and uncomplicated then,” I say wistfully. “…problem solved.”
“HA!” she laughs in my face. Her wicked eyes crinkling with her smile. “You mean the job where you had the fancy title and were in charge of so many things, but had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to drive all the way up there? To be there early because of your work load? The job where they promised raise after raise but instead laid off those around you, giving you their duties? Yes, you could leave that job at the door, but at what cost? A horribly long commute and the stress of not knowing if your paycheck would bounce? All the work you did for a man who literally told you ‘Thank you’ ONCE the entire time you were there?”
“True. But, I got a free flat of hydroponic tomatoes every week,” I blurt out.
“And, even with the tomatoes, you weren’t happy…were you? All of the wonderful tomatoes in the world couldn’t erase the stress of that job,” she reminds me. Reality can be so cruel when she gets on a roll.
“Oh, let’s not forget the job you went to from there!” she cackles.
This isn’t fair. She’s not playing fair.
“You went to a major corporation! You had all kinds of benefits and perks and promises. They groomed you for a role that was perfect! Project Management! It was awesome for a person like you. A perfectionist. You did your job perfectly, and it was your downfall. Your boss couldn’t find someone like you to replace you, so he was afraid to let you go. Then, just to add insult to injury, the market crashed. The dots bombed. The promises made of nothing more than fairy dust floated away. I told you it was ending, but you didn’t want to believe me.” Reality can hardly contain herself at this point.
“Oh, but YOU forget what happened when I took your advice and left,” I say, mad that she’s brought this all up, but happy that I’ve found a chink in her armor. “YOU told me to get out. YOU pointed me in the direction of the perfect job, the perfect answer to all my corporate problems. YOU pushed me toward that sales position. YOU gave me a taste of freedom and all the pieces fell into place. And look what happened,” I say, hands on my hips.
“Eh…ya win some; ya lose some. How was I supposed to know that going into the Travel Industry right before September 11th would end the way it did,” she says, ruffled, but not truly shaken. “Plus, that job gave you the confidence to start your own business…remember?”
“Oh, that’s right,” I admit, remembering the thrill of owning my own business and being the one to call the shots. “I do miss those days sometimes,” I say. “I miss the freedom of working from home and being able to leave whenever I wanted or schedule appointments without hassle.”
“HA! I’ve tricked you again!” This time, her finger is just inches from my face as she points at me accusingly. “You miss working all the time? You miss the stress? You miss being tied to your job? You miss having it infiltrate your entire being? You miss not being able to easily walk away, because you built it? You miss trying to manage people who have different priorities than you?” She pauses to laugh. She hasn’t had this much fun in ages.
“And, what about the other home-business you did?” she asks, wasting no time in starting in again. “You thought it was perfect for you, and you gave it your all…you did a great job of balancing the work load and a baby. Things were going along fine until you had that little nervous breakdown…”
“Wait,” I say. “That wasn’t really a nervous breakdown. No medication was prescribed, and no one with an official title diagnosed me with a nervous breakdown.”
“Details, details…and don’t interrupt. I’m trying to get you to realize that Your Old Life wasn’t always as rosy as you try to remember it being. Yes, you met wonderful people. Yes, you experienced wonderful things. Yes, you gained some new skills. But, it wasn’t all that. Parts of it were dark. Parts of it were messy. Parts of it were scary. But, none of that can be compared to what you do now. I’m trying to get you to realize that you are so fortunate to be home with Claire. This is the lowest paying, most unappreciated, most incredible, and most important job you’ll ever have.”
“I know this. I was just trying to schedule a hair appointment.”
“Oh,” she says. “Good luck with that.”