Although it looks like the job issues are starting to settle down for the short term, I’m still not sure that this isn’t the beginning of the end for me at the Big Corporation where I’ve been working for the past few years. I never thought I’d ever have a corporate job in the first place — I mean, I was a writer and an academic and in general, ever since I gave up on New York City in my twenties, had been someone who’d chosen quality-of-life over making a living. But when I finished my PhD and was so miserable and fed up, and especially fed up with being broke, I thought I’d give it a whirl. I remember driving around the Bay Area with my brother when I’d first moved out to California and I was temping while trying to find a real job. I remember looking at all those big buildings and thinking “there’s got to be a job for me in there somewhere.” Those buildings looked like safety. Those buildings looked like people who had the kind of stability that Patrick and I had never really known. I wanted in to one of those buildings. I wanted to try to build a “normal” life, to stop trying to be so special and artistic and authentic and just have a life. Make enough money to have a decent place to live and maybe go on vacation once in a while.
And so I got a “real job.” I got a real job just as the book I’d given up on was beginning to find a life. Because of this, my first few months at the Big Corporation were somewhat surreal. I was the oldest, most overeducated intern I think they’d ever hired (and the fact that I was still enrolled, since I was ABD, was crucial to their ability to bring me in as an intern), and the whole time I was madly trying to pretend I had a clue about computer networking or technical writing, I was getting emails from my agent about which publishing houses were interested in my book and which ones had passed. It was enough to make a girl’s head spin.
I never thought I’d stay at the Big Corporation as long as I have. But my novel, while it did reasonably well for a very dark first novel, never earned me enough money to even consider leaving. And then life just sort of happened. I worked my way into a position I liked, working with people I liked. I managed, after two years of concerted effort to get them to let me telecommute full time so I could move up here to My Little House in Montana. I discovered I liked having the safety net of a traditional middle-class job — health insurance, a 401K, a generous salary. And because I wasn’t paying attention, I let my debt level run up to the point where I really need to keep this job.
And so, despite the fact that the job changed suddenly and radically on me last fall, and despite the fact that I’m no longer working with people I know well and I’m having to adjust to not having that kind of trust and rapport one builds when you’ve survived the wars together, and despite the fact that this has been a very bumpy transition. I’m not going to be able to go anywhere for a while. And so I’m back in the place where I was three or four years ago, where I have to prove that I’m a solid employee, a hard worker, someone who can be depended on, while simultaneously building a new set of personal boundaries between my life and my job.
I was talking to Wendy-the-Buddhist about this last night. About how I’m trying to practice nonattachment toward my job. About how I’m trying to just accept all these changes, accept that I’m no longer an insider in my group, accept that I have to start over and prove myself again. About how I have to let go of my own ego and hurt feelings about having to start over like this. About how I’m trying to accept all that while not getting attached to outcomes. About how I’m sitting again because lately this transition experience has me not sleeping, has me indulging in worry. We talked about how many people we know have jobs they don’t really like — we’ve both weathered major career changes in the past couple of years, and in the process, we’ve talked to a lot of people about their jobs and how those jobs either do or don’t work for people.
Because as difficult as this transition has been for me, I still have a Very Good Job. All I have to do to remind myself of that is to go look at a site like Ravings of a Corporate Mommy. I get to stay in Montana. I don’t have to go to an office every day. Because of the time difference, I have a little block of time in the mornings to write, and now that the sun isn’t setting at four in the afternoon anymore, and now that the mountains are starting to thaw out, I can walk my dogs every evening in a place so beautiful that people come here for vacations. I am deeply grateful that I have a job in the first place, especially one that affords me the very pleasant life I’ve built.
But I can’t help feeling like it’s also time to start planning an exit strategy. Like it’s time to really start living small and pay off my debts, build up my savings, make a long term plan so I have some options and so I don’t wind up like so many people I know, semi-trapped in a job that is just a job, wondering what might have been, wondering if one wasted one’s chance here on the planet.