Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Resignations and Revenge

Like anyone who has ever had a job—I have fantasized about quitting my job frequently, especially when ridiculous things happen.  How empowering and rewarding would it be in to pick up your purse in the middle of being yelled at by your boss, grab your coat, walk for the door and just say, “Guess what?  I quit.”   I’ve had this little fantasy running through my brain every time I’ve been called down to the carpet for something.   Sometimes it’s so vivid in my mind that for a horrifying moment I think I’ve actually said something out loud. 
However, when it came down to actually giving my notice yesterday, the whole exercise was surprisingly civil. And to clarify, for the vast majority of those I work with I have ZERO animosity and I even will really miss working with them.  But for maybe a few key players, I was really looking forward to saying the things I’ve choked down for the past year.  Mostly out of fear of the repercussions, which in my mind always lead eventually to me turning tricks and living in a box by the river.   So when I turned in my little piece of paper, a carefully crafted gracious letter of resignation, somehow it felt like a breakup where you think of all the terrible things you want to say to your ex, but instead you just end up giving him back his CDs and wishing him well.  And while the vindictive, insane part of my brain is kicking the back of my eyeballs screaming, “you should have said THIS!” overall I’m glad I was tactful and diplomatic.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, and I think everyone at one point in their lives has imagined themselves to be Robert DeNiro’s character in “Cape Fear,” doing sit ups in a jail cell, laying in wait to take revenge upon those unsuspecting fools who wronged you.  My five year high school reunion is coming up, and I can’t tell you how much I wanted to come back with a huge diamond ring on my finger, a lawyer/doctor/Jew/ on my arm, and 30 lbs missing from my frame.   That would show ‘em—all those assholes who were mean to be in High School.  
Another thing they say about revenge, however, is that the best revenge is living well, and the more wisdom and life experience I gain, the more I realize how true that really is. This is why I’m not going to my high school reunion.  And that’s why I have every intention of making sure that I leave work on the best possible terms—instead of ripping off my clothes like the incredible hulk and flipping over desks on my last day.  Because I don’t need to exact revenge for all those times I was made to feel like a child, or the late hours I worked without so much as a “thank you”, or the times I was yelled at over something for which I had no responsibility.  My revenge will be living well.  And in a little less than a month I’ll be in Baltimore.  And I’ll be living well.     

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Create Your Own Story"

As a kid I used to read those "create your own story" books.  At certain points in the story you had to chose between two plot lines and then turn to the appropriate page.  Sometimes the choice you made would cause the story to end abruptly, whereas other choices would lead you to a happy successful ending.  This was a stressful exercise for me.   It felt like too much responsibility and I always ended up looking ahead to make sure the choice I made would be "the right one."  This is probably a good metaphor to how I make decisions in my adult life.  There is that same panicky feeling under the weight of expectation and certainly the same desire to cheat, look ahead, and make sure I pick the right thing.

Similarly, I play the "what if" game a lot of the time.   I was talking to my friend Ryan last night, and he said he would allow himself to ask "what if" until he had to say it three times.  At that point, he felt he could confidently label it a pipe dream.  For example, "what if I had said x that night" followed by "what if when I said that she said y," and finally "what if when she said y we got back together and then got married."  Three "what ifs" probably not going to happen.  Reasonable strategy.  I, in stark contrast, give myself 500 hundred "what ifs" before there is even an inkling in my mind that what I'm aspiring towards might be irrational.

People generally have two distinct attitudes about life; either there is an order, a destiny, which even free will cannot upset or cause you to deviate from or life is a series of cause/effect situations completely determined by our free will.   I do not want to believe the second circumstance, because if there is no one in the driver seat of my own life but me, I am fucked.   I couldn't even create my own story in a book I read in second grade, how can I possibly create my own life?

I've been grappling with this whole concept recently because I am slightly paralyzed with fear at the thought that I am making wrong decisions.  In the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind, one incorrect choice can alter my life irrevocably--so the decision to sign the lease on this apartment vs. that one might be the difference between being successful, happily married and living in the suburbs or dying from a heroin overdose on a smelly mattress in the projects.   Seriously.  So obviously, I cannot chose the wrong one.  

I don't know why I visualize it that way, but for some reason I have the idea that there is a path my life is supposed to follow, and I must follow concrete steps in order to get there.  Except I don't know what they are, and I won't know until I'm on my deathbed and everything turns out to be shitty.   Like I'm baking a cake with no directions but I better fucking figure it out or my cake is going to end in wasted potential, abortion, drug abuse, and general malaise.   That may be a bit of a mixed metaphor. 

But still, I really would prefer if someone else would create my story for me.  It's 2012, I'm all about outsourcing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My tire

I don't remember very much about eighth grade health class and most of what I do remember is about someone asking what "snow-blowing" is and my teacher being a lesbian.  I do, however, remember a diagram we were forced to look at during school.   It was a tire, a simplified version of the "wellness wheel" with divisions for different areas of your life.   Categories like, "home", "friends", "work", "school", etc.  And the point was, when you put too much or too little emphasis on one area, your tire won't roll.  When one area of your life is shitty, all areas of your life become shitty.  I think conversely, the opposite is true--when something starts going well, even the parts of your life that aren't ideal seem suddenly less shitty.

The proof of this was staring me in the face this Thursday when I had dinner and drinks with Claire and Sam.   The three of us have been enjoying nights out since July, right after I started my current job.  The phrase, "what a difference a year makes" doesn't even begin to cover it (and lest you assume I have the counting skills of the guests at a shotgun wedding--I know it hasn't been a full year).  Claire, Sam, and I all had really tough situations this year.  In all areas; family, work, love, housing, etc.   Interestingly enough, as soon as Claire and Sam left the office for their new jobs, everything else seemed to line up.    Like one minute everything is terrible, the kind of practical joke terrible where you get hemorrhoids and a puddle splashes up on you as a passing car drives by.  The only thing they're clinging to is the prospect of a new job and then BAM!, great new relationships, renewal of old ones, ten pounds lost, and for emphasis, a magic dewey glow.  During this period, while it was great to get together, after a while it was difficult to hear about how life had turned around and was fabulous for everyone else when I wanted to do nothing but pull the covers over my head and listen to Matchbox 20.

Last Christmas, in the midst of this, I was so dismal and depressed, I had started going through the stages of grief for my own life.  Denial:  There is no fucking way that it's Friday and I can't stay up past 10pm.  Anger:  I did all the right things; good grades, moral decisions. How can this be my reward?!  Bargaining:  Ok, if I focus really hard on work and a diet, life will give me happiness, yes?  Depression: Matchbox 20. Acceptance: I actually skipped that stage.  Instead, I started looking for my exit strategy.   Happy to say, I found it.

So when I walked into dinner and saw Claire and Sam sitting there--instead of being secretly jealous with grey skin and an even grey-er disposition.  I got to be happy too!   I did some weird pinup shit with my hair, I put on red lipstick...I even made jokes!  And not all of them were self-deprecating (most were, I'm still me).  We laughed.  I told them the story of a lady at my work asking if one of my areas was "diverse" in a stage whisper and how I responded, "Not much diversity, the area is pretty much all black".    Further proof that I have my sense of humor back and don't take myself as seriously as I did a month ago.

I'm pretty much full of all the hope and optimism that has alluded me for the past couple months. Things are going to work out.   That is hippie bullshit I've never believed, and instead I've operated on the assumption that "no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse."  But I believe it now.   I'm going to start completely over, for the second time in roughly a year, but this time I'm not doing it because it's what someone else wants and I don't know better than to argue.  It's because I know what I want. And I genuinely don't give a shit any more.   As I said in the self-indulgent picture I posted of myself with my cool fifties hairdo, "Shut up, bitch.  I'm fabulous." Now if you'll excuse me.  I'm out to get a massage.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My own private Oz

I get nostalgic about very few things.   I'm not one of those people who is prone to romanticize things that happened in the past, so walking around my old elementary school for example, does not invoke a longing for an innocence long gone by but instead the memory of spoiled milk and being teased for needing a training bra in third grade.   While my peers cried at graduation and wished, "college would never end" I snuck sips from a flask full of vodka cranberry and made fun of the masturbatory aspects of the ceremony with a classmate from the INS program.  I have thrown away all the old love letters, but kept the old gifts from past relationships.  I am not often accused of being sentimental.

One of the few things that does make me sentimental, however, is Washington D.C. My time spent there a few years ago was one of the few times in my life I felt like everything was coming up Annie. That city is my fucking Oz, and I was pretty damn happy not to be in Ohio anymore.   I made professional contacts, great friends, and on more than one occasion, stupid mistakes that I should be too embarrassed to talk about but I'm not because, firstly I have no shame and secondly, they make hilarious stories.  I typically think of myself as someone who plays it safe, so it was fun for once in my life to get giggly and sloppy at Happy Hour on a Tuesday or to have to ride the metro in last night's clothes while the hip moms were on their way to their morning yoga.   When I went back to the Midwest, I said goodbye the the yellow brick rode and settled back into the day to day drudgery of adulthood, but it gives me a huge amount of satisfaction to know I used to be fun an wild and that few who know me now would ever suspect. 

So driving into D.C. Friday after my interview in Baltimore was quite literally like coming home.  As soon as I got to Chevy Chase I started to get tingly with excitement, and seeing the Capitol building in the distance is every bit as thrilling for me as it is for an adolescent boy to see a woman naked (I can only assume).  Adding to that excitement, I had roughly 24 hours jam packed with seeing some of my favorite people.  Friday night I met up with an old friend, to whom all my other friends from D.C. refer to as "my kryptonite".  This is a man I find both irresistible and vaguely terrifying. I get strangely coquettish and tongue-tied and I do this really charming thing were every time when he asks me a simple a question I forget any word I've ever heard in my entire life, and stutter for a while, which probably means his friends refer to me as "that retarded girl". Then Saturday morning, I met up with my old roommate Emily, to tell her all about seeing my kryptonite the evening before, which is exactly what happened almost every weekend two years ago.  She's naive, wholesome, and beautiful to my obnoxious, cynical, and inappropriate and every time I see her I think, "this is what I want to be when I grow up."   She does really adorable things like ask policemen for directions, whereas I got chased down by an angry Samoan parking attendant for neglecting to pay him (I thought it was free on weekends!)

My lovely sister and brother-in-law were also in D.C. visiting a friend of theirs from the Peace Corps, and we met up finally on Saturday afternoon.  Nothing makes me happier than seeing my sister with her friends.   They're all hilarious and I never would have guessed there were others like my sister in existence, but when I was invited upstairs to find Jeanie's friend Kyle in a towel, and I started to apologize for the intrusion, he just waved and Jeanie told me, "We're all very accepting of nudity here, Annie."   So there are more like her.   And what can I saw about James? I used to really not want to like him (because basically I was the adult equivalent of the child who screams to their new stepdad, 'I hate you, everything was fine before you married my mom!') I now adore him with cult-like devotion because he does things like carry me around piggy back so I won't step in dog poop.   

I am excited to (hopefully) be leaving Dayton soon, but I'm more excited at the prospect of being a mere hour from D.C., able to pop in anytime and see my friends, relive my glory days, and just generally be single and in my twenties.  I think my weekend in Oz may have made this ulcer die down a little.