Melting Down, Explored

by Victoria Storm

I quit my job this year and shifted into what I call “a non-traditional work environment.” I do this Beloved thing, but I also work at Starbucks, and do some freelance social media, and babysit when people ask me. Because I don’t have to wake up at the same time every day and go sit in a chair for eight hours, my brain has a lot more room to play than it used to.

When I worked like a normal adult human, I would sit and listen to podcasts at my desk all day long. I surrounded myself with stories and noise, and I didn’t have much free time when I got home for “introspection” or “quiet,” cause who does? I was completely insulated from any consequence beyond that which I could file under the work side of work/life balance (and the balance part ensures that you can’t take it home with you.)

Transitioning to being alone and the freedom/responsibility of making choices that affect my destiny every day triggered a full system meltdown. All the sudden, I was allowed to make choices outside of the comfortable and safe bubble of “work.” I was single-handedly responsible for my life and my well-being, I couldn’t succumb to the security of being on a team anymore. It was a sledgehammer to my identity. The pieces of myself I’d safely been able to tie up in work or school were suddenly free-floating. They were attaching themselves to individual conversations and mistakes and moments. They had gone rogue.

I was suddenly more self-conscious than I’ve ever been in my life. If I had to let someone down or I made a mistake involving another person, I was paralyzed for days. I avoided quitting a job for 2 weeks and just mostly ignored my boss just to avoid the horror of the conversation. Literally ghosting my employer seemed more favorable to me finding the words “I can’t work for you anymore.”

I was more afraid than I’ve ever been too. Everything seemed threatening and dangerous. I was afraid of car crashes, of being kidnapped, of falling off things. There was a new and horribly acute awareness of my mortality.

I’m reading Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist and she’s a firm believer that we fill our lives with crutches and noise to avoid having to listen to ourselves, and I agree. We’re all tricking ourselves into thinking we’re more emotionally well-adjusted than we are, and we can think that because we don’t give ourselves enough time to consider another option.

In reality, I was operating as a kind of numb zombie with so much background noise that I didn’t have to notice my screwed-up soul. It isn’t until someone smashes the radio that we can hear all those voices that have always been saying “you’re not enough, you’re not enough, you’re not enough.”

This isn’t really the kind of blog where I can wrap up with “25 seconds of inward meditation and prayer every day will prevent this from ever happening to you!” It’s more of a, try not to give into motion for the sake of motion. Try to slow down, just incrementally, and listen to what’s going on in there. Because it’s going to come out, sometime, regardless.