When you’re making a pie, you have to get flour everywhere and roll that dough out… show it who’s boss. In the process you may end up with flour on your hands, shirt, in your hair and maybe even a little on your face. Or is it just me? Well, in my world life is kind of like that. You have an end goal and you work toward it but you might hit a bump or two and get your hands dirty along the way. My hands get dirty, yes. But also my shirt, face, shoes, boyfriend, cats and entire household will be covered in the mess du jour.
I could be talking about a project like baking a pie or sewing an apron (seriously, I get thread everywhere when I sew, I try to be tidy but then I find it on my cats later). But really I am talking about life projects (tomorrow I will talk about pie. A damn good peach pie at that). One life project in particular: “What do I want to be when I grow up?”. For a long time, I would joke and say “Bah, I don’t want to grow up.” But whether I want to become old or not is beside the point. Because it turns out, ignoring the question doesn’t work. Not for me. I tried to stick with my chosen career and I made a good showing… ten years in the software industry. I was good at my job and earned the respect of many of my peers. I was rewarded by the companies I worked for. I had some great opportunities to work with interesting and creative people and also to further my career. These are all wonderful things except that… I wasn’t happy. Oh sure, the first six or so years I was happy enough. I was learning a lot and staying busy. I had moments of doubt very early in my career, but they were mere moments. I would brush them aside and get back to work and plug away like a good cog.
Then a few years ago, I noticed that those moments were getting longer. Moments became days, days became weeks, weeks became… well, you get the idea. Brushing these thoughts aside took more effort, bigger projects, more energy. But still I chugged along. I don’t mean to paint a picture of misery. Certainly, my misery has been brief. There were many high points. But the peaks and valleys eventually became more jagged. What started out as a nice, soft curvy sine wave eventually took the shape of an EKG of someone in distress. Turns out, that someone was me.
What was I going to do? I have only known the career of software engineer in my adult life. How will I pay my bills? Is there something wrong with me? Do I need to go back to school? What do I want to do? These and a million more questions buzzed around my brain until I was paralyzed. I couldn’t make such a big a change, could I? No, I couldn’t without having some direction to move in. Some kind of safety net… some way to keep my kitties off the street. So I was in that holding pattern for a while (a couple years?)… taking what joy I could from the peaks and bolstering myself as best I could for the valleys.
But then I broke down. Similar to the pie crust that breaks and cracks around the edges as you roll it instead of making a nice uniform disk… it just wasn’t working out. I was unraveling. After a good wallow and much support from the best guy I know, I picked myself up off of the floor, took a deep breath and started to patch my cracks and jagged edges. The pie crust that breaks apart can be patched up with a little more dough and in the end no one has to know because you have a delicious pie to share. So why couldn’t I do the same with myself? Patch it all up, go back to work, game face on… But there I was patching what holes I could with whatever I could: cupcakes, cookies, writing, … but when I took a step back to reassess the mess I realized: it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t have enough energy left to find a decent game face, let alone figure out how to use it again. No, no matter how cool or lucrative or hip or smart a job may be, if it is depleting my energy reserves and causing stress and unhappiness, it is not worth it. I had to repeat that several times to myself before I believed it. I mean, who quits a good job during a recession? That’s just not sane now is it?
By no means am I encouraging anyone to quit and go on some wild goose chase to find that fulfilling dream job (but if you are planning something like that I totally understand and support you because happiness is more important than money. There I said it. Follow your dreams… and if your dream is to work for a tech company writing software, that’s awesome too. I know a company that might be hiring soon… ). I have decided for me it is the right decision. And it is time. I’ve built up a tiny nest egg as a cushion so my cats will be fed at least, and I have a vague direction: writing. I even have a plan B in case I can’t hack it as a writer… I mean, certainly I can throw up random bits and bobs about margaritas and cupcakes on this blog… which I love… but will anyone want to pay me for my words? It’s a scary unknown. But I’m on my way. I’ve quit my job. The end is near: August 7. And then… who knows? At this point I have dreams and fears, but I figure that’s enough to get started. And hopefully, when I reach the other side of the fears and the dreams morph into more realistic goals, maybe my pie will be perfect.