I revealed myself a bit on Friday. I am (f)unemployed.
But April, weren’t you just bragging about your great new job?
Why, yes. Yes I was.
Last March I started a new job at an engineering firm. It actually was pretty great. As far as professional writing jobs go, it was more than great, it was unbelievable. I worked four days a week, got paid a totally decent salary, and I loved the people.
The biggest downside was that I got very lonely. My office (I had my own office!) was a small windowless room. I sat there all day by myself. As nice as the people were, I had very little interaction with them. When I took the job, we had agreed that I would work from my “home” office, which is really the corner of Daniel’s office. I love it there. Daniel and I can talk and share music, and I know a lot of the other people in the building, so it’s very friendly. But working remotely didn’t work out. So I was commuting half an hour each way, to sit alone all day. I left as the kids were waking up and came home just before bedtime. It began to wear on me. If it’s one thing I cannot tolerate, it’s anything that gets in the way of my time with my kiddos.
But that wasn’t why I had to quit. Not completely.
By August, I was truly depressed. I was also drinking too much, which really wasn’t helping. It got to the point that I had to come clean to the HR lady at work. I was just sitting at my computer all day staring. Doing nothing. I figured I had to tell someone what was going on, or I was likely to get fired. She was very understanding. She insisted that I take a leave of absence immediately and take care of myself.
So I did. I was even able to get some disability pay to soften the blow financially. It’s embarrassing to apply for disability pay. All my life I’ve told myself to just suck it up, but I couldn’t any more. It was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning.
I enrolled in a treatment program at a place called Refuge Recovery here in LA. What immediately became clear was that my depression had actually begun to build in the fall of 2014 when I took a class called The Meaningful Life, taught by George Hass. It blew apart my entire sense of self, and sent me spiraling into depression. If you ever get the chance to take it, I highly recommend it.
Yes, I know that sounds ass backwards. But here’s the thing. I had been cruising along feeling pretty meh about life. My family is amazing, but everything else felt like just getting along, marching towards death. I think it’s fair to describe it as a mid-life crisis. It’s cliché, but I was overwhelmed by the sense that “there must be more to life than this.” When I took the class, which was largely meditation based, I began to understand what really mattered to me. It’s the people in my life, both family and friends. Real connections with people I love.
This realization and my super-lonely work environment were completely opposed to each other, but I didn’t think there was anything to be done about it.
To quiet the unhappy feelings, I drank, which helped temporarily, but only compounded my problems in the morning when I was too tired (or hung-over) to get up and write. I stopped writing. I stopped exercising.
That’s when things really got bad. That’s where I was when I went into the HR lady’s office and ended up taking a leave of absence.
That was five months ago. Officially, I quit in December, though I hadn’t been to work in three months by then. In my outpatient program, I dove deep into the mess that had been stirred up by the Meaningful Life class. I had a psychiatrist, two therapists, and daily group sessions. I meditated a lot.
I don’t know where I’m going from here. I quit drinking. I’m writing daily, exercising three times a week, and trying to figure out what I want to do to earn a paycheck.
Funempoyed isn’t quite the right word. I still have tough days. I’m still working through some hard shit. But the feeling that there must be more has evaporated. I feel like I’m living a life that is much more authentic to the life I had hoped to have. When I do take a job, it will be somewhere with people, doing something that I really care about. I don’t know what that is yet, but I have hope that I will figure it out. Or maybe I’ll go back to freelance (even though I said I never would). I don’t know.
I’m making an effort to spend time with a friend every day (be it coffee, lunch or going for a run), to foster real connection with the people I hold dear, share what’s going on with me and hear what’s happening in their lives. It’s not something I have a lot of practice with, which sounds odd, but it’s true.
As midlife crises go, this one is much cheaper than a sports car, and I get the sense that ten years down the road, the value will have only increased.