So I received a depressing email last week:
Dogg – how’s consulting life treating you? Looks like it’s killing your blog post game. Still living the dream?
Just my boss’s way of checking up, wondering if going back to work had sucked the soul straight out of me and if he was responsible.
Truth is, I’m pretty solid. It’s actually quite nice engaging the left side of my brain again, being part of a team, feeling useful, having the semblance of a schedule. I’m sort of in my other element. Obviously I jumped back into these murky waters with a boatload of hesitation, but coaxed myself to dive head-first, and not because the mortgage company shockingly didn’t receive my Real Life Hiatus Memo, but because over the past two years, I figured out how to best play my turn in the complicated Game of Life: hiatuses need to be earned, not given.
His email was depressing because I was faced with a sad truth I’d been avoiding: something was killing my blog post game. And though I can’t directly correlate that to being gainfully employed, I will admit after spending so much time flying high above the crowded streets of society, the ground adjustment has been tough. After I quit my job as a multi-tasking project manager, Time became all mine. I was free to do what I pleased, every single day, answering to no one but my own conscience. And for a huge chunk of that time, I literally had one task to accomplish, and I had all day every day to do it: Walk North. And I got really good at it, really quickly.
But most jobs operate within time limits, working hours, days of the week. Sleep now filled a specific time slot. Eating, working, exercise, friend time; they all had time slots. TIME SLOTS. I know what you’re thinking. This is normal, you jerk. But my normal had changed. And it’s been an adjustment. Working parents, I salute you. If I can’t find time for myself in my “new” role as a childless unmarried employed woman, I have zero clue how you actually find time for yourself. Unless you are like my boss (and model parent), who offered this advice when I listed my time struggle as an excuse for my lack of written words, simultaneously questioning how parents get anything done:
You should write on the plane. Good time to catch up on personal stuff. I’m sure people miss your posts…pooping is so much more boring w/o them.
If you strive to simply keep your children alive, it actually takes minimal effort and allows for a lot of free time. And, once they get older and can start actually working on their indentured servitude (I did give them life, after all), things will get even more breezy.
But work is not why I stopped writing regularly. The writing stopped months ago, somewhere upwards of 1,000 miles on the Appalachian Trail. Not because I didn’t love writing anymore, or because I had nothing to say. I always have something to say. It’s not because I didn’t have the time or was too busy hiking or because I had better things to do. I thought about writing all of the time. But the flow from head to hand just sort of trickled to a stop and his email forced me to ask myself why. And here is my super tosha-scientific conclusion:
Think of your favorite artists. Musicians. Authors. Inventors (I am not comparing myself to these people, they just support my super scientific explanation).
Their real good stuff is often born from a pretty shitty place. Inspiration, inklings of ideas, the need to be heard; they seem to stem from heartbreak and sorrow. Pain. Trouble. Discontent. Discord. Disappointment. Injustice. Restlessness. Aloneness. And for a surprisingly large portion of my adult life, I’ve felt some form of “alone.” Alone in my thought processes, a disconnect with people closest to me; alone in my life path as everyone around me seemed to be zooming by in the same direction, waiting for the same bus, while the mere thought of the bus caused me to experience severe claustrophobia; alone in my wants and needs; and often more simply, just physically alone.
Okay, so that sounds really sad. But it wasn’t. Aloneness doesn’t make me feel sadness, it just makes me think. I used those times as periods of self-reflection, explored the differences between me and The Others, attempted to find a place for myself in this strange little world. And the words flowed. I felt the need to represent myself, explain myself. Be myself.
I remember the exact moment that need to be heard left me: Upwards of 1,000 miles north on the Appalachian Trail. Walking amongst people who, for whatever reason (and there are so, SO many reasons) decided to embark on the exact same journey at the same time. All hiking toward the same goal, that if reached, would release us all back to our highly varied individual lives, all over the map. Often I would just stop walking and turn in a slow circle, listening to the silence from every direction. I couldn’t see a single soul ahead of me, no one behind. The times I was totally alone in the middle of the woods were the times I felt the least alone. Because I knew they were there. Maybe walking south instead of north, maybe stopping at different shelters, maybe relishing in a town day, maybe happily experiencing a town vortex. White blazin’, blue blazin’, yellow blazin’, all of the blazing. I knew so many others were out there, tiny moving dots on the same footpath in the woods. I just couldn’t see them.
And the biggest life metaphor of the trail hit me.
No matter where I was, I wasn’t alone. I had never been alone. The world was filled with my kind of tiny moving dots.
I just couldn’t see them.