This is my nervous/scared face…
I remember what life was like when I was working full-time. There were some happy days in there, but a lot of those days were filled with frustration, stress, sadness, guilt, anxiety, and health challenges. I wasn’t happy at work; although I could fake it really well at times (I am a woman after all).
Sometimes going to work was like a scene from Star Wars. I was Luke Skywalker, my boss was Darth Vadar, and each work day my boss would use her/his Jedi mind tricks to crush my soul.
Yes. Crush. My. Soul.
I Was A Commitment Phobic Escape Artist
I spent years (I am totally serious when I say years) planning my escape. My tool of choice? Travel. I spent what seemed like endless hours surfing the Bootsnall forums, chatting with travellers. I bought guide books. I researched round-the-world tickets. I made lists of all the places I wanted to travel to. And I talked the talk.
Except, I never took any of those trips. I wanted to go, but life always got in the way. Bills to pay. Debts looming over me. Oh, and I was also incapable of saving money.
Sure, I had good intentions, but somehow my money seemed to evaporate into thin air. One day I had a paycheck’s worth in my bank account, and four days later I had like $50 left. (I’ll talk more about the money stuff in another post. Too much to cover in this one)
As you can imagine my dreams of travelling around the world were just that, dreams.
In time, I became a bit of a work-o-holic. I worked way more hours than I needed to in an effort to make my life feel as though it had a purpose.
The more I worked, the less I thought about things like money, or debt. In a way, work was its own escape – clearly I am no Houdini. If I were, I would have come up with a better escape plan!
So I used work to escape debt, and I used travel planning to escape work. In essence, I had painted myself into a tight little corner, pitched a tent, built a fire, and then surrounded myself with man-eating bears to keep myself from straying too far.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
In other words, I was keeping myself from achieving my dreams. I was my own judge, jury, and executioner. Why? Fear.
I Was Afraid to Challenge The “Norm”
I had been raised to believe that as an adult I needed to have a steady job, which provided steady income. A job, any job, was preferable to no job. It wasn’t about finding a job that filled me with exquisite passion, it was about finding a job to pay my rent, and put some food in my belly. Oh, and to keep my creditors at bay.
I know I’m not the only person who has this problem. How many of you have accepted a job because it was with a reputable company, paid well, or because you thought it would open up bigger and better doors in the future? It’s totally okay if you’ve answered yes. Many of us have!
Sure, some of you reading this absolutely love your job – and that is crazy awesome – but many of you are just trudging along. I was trudging along!
Work = Money.
Money = Success.
Success = Happiness.
But what if success and happiness never happened? What if success was fleeting, and happiness was… wait, what is happiness again? I can’t see the shinning, sparkling light of happiness through this thick fog of stress that surrounds me; especially with these manacles of guilt clamped around my ankles!
Challenging the norm seemed impossible to me, and in a way, I felt guilty about it as well (I am totally aware that I should have seen a therapist, but that in itself presented way too many feelings of stress and anxiety. Maybe I should stop writing this article…)
Dealing With Guilt
Work meant stress, anxiety, and guilt. Yes, guilt. I felt guilty if I had to call in sick. I felt guilty about the idea of quitting my job because I thought it would inconvenience my boss too much – I am totally aware of how sad that is. Now. Hell I even had a boss who made my feel guilty for being off work for almost three weeks because I was sitting beside my Grandmother’s hospital bed!
“Although the most acute judges of the witches and even the witches themselves, were convinced of the guilt of witchery, the guilt nevertheless was non-existent. It is thus with all guilt.” Friedrich Nietzsche
I know it sounds ridiculous. Why on earth would I feel guilty about being sick, or quitting, or putting my family before my job?! Perhaps it was feelings of inadequacy, masking themselves as guilt. I’m not entirely sure. I have an idea as to what part of the cause may have been, but I’m not sure if it’s something you want to read about. Then again, if I want to be totally honest with all of you, I think I probably should share it; as scary as it is to do.
Okay, take a deep breath, and exhale slowly…
Part of my guilt issues and feelings of inadequacy stems from an incident in my childhood. I was eight years old. My parents were out, and my brothers and I were at home, with my uncle. He was in his late sixties (he was the oldest of twelve children, and my father was the youngest). I was upstairs, playing (I have no clue where my brothers were), and he called me into our small library, which is where he slept. He patted the bed and told me to lay down. I did. He then molested me. Thankfully I had the mindset to stop it.
I remember leaving the room, and never speaking of it. To anyone. Over the years he’d come to visit us, and I would stay away. At night he’d wander into my bedroom, wearing only his underwear, and I would pretend to be asleep. Eventually he’d tire of waiting for me to wake up, and leave.
When I was about fifteen, I convinced my parents to buy a door knob with a lock. I said it was because of my brothers. I was lying. I wanted to lock my uncle out when he came to visit. When I was seventeen he died. I cried, and then told my Mother everything.
This one incident of molestation affected me in more ways than I ever imagined. It left me feeling unworthy, dirty, and incomplete. I became quiet. I had trouble (and still have trouble at times) interacting with other people. I took comfort in being a wall flower, being invisible. I
felt feel guilty for not being a better person.
I felt like I needed to be perfect, new, fresh.
The abuse at the hands of my uncle is not completely to blame. I know that I am the key to a guilt-free life. Unfortunately it is easier said than done – especially when one’s boss has a habit of making one feel guilty for not working more than 40 hours a week!
Over the years I’ve learned to live with the effects of the abuse, and I’ve found ways to not feel guilty. Well, not as much as I use to.
Dreaming of escaping, working over time, challenging the norm, and dealing with my guilt were not the only things keeping me from quitting my job and pursing my dreams. My health, and my bank account were also in the way.