Leaping

Last week I gave notice at my job. This May would have marked three years there—my title is Vice President, Marketing. Which means nothing except perhaps that I’ve put a lot of energy into work for fifteen years, the entirety of my “career.” I’ve always thought that was a funny word, “career,” because I’ve never identified with having one. The word feels like it’s overstating the consciousness of my work path when in reality I mostly stumbled, sometimes got lucky, and often made decisions based on office vibe, drinking culture and social opportunities. In 2010 I took a job for a good $50K less than I should’ve because both my husband and I were unemployed and we had $110 total between us, a new baby, and the economy was…you remember. Huge bonus that the place I landed kept wine in the fridge (!).

I don’t regret any of this; all my decisions, bumbling as they were, were made based on what I valued at the time and what little I knew about my own skills. What I cared about in my 20’s is not what I care about now. Because the work itself was always the sideshow to the real goods—people, social life, money, travel—the stakes were never really that high.  It’s no surprise then that almost immediately after I woke up from a 20 year alcohol-induced haze, I realized I could not actually stand my “career.”

I supposed it could’ve gone either way. I could’ve realized I loved the work and found a new, unclouded passion for it, but instead what had always plagued me in the most quiet, sober moments became undeniable and loud: I wanted something else entirely.

In my office bathroom a few months ago with my David Byrne "How did I get here?" face on.

In my office bathroom a few months ago with my David Byrne "How did I get here?" face on.

But now I'm almost 40. Single. With a young daughter and a mountain of debt. My relationship with money has been about as toxic as my relationship with alcohol and it although it’s getting better, there’s a long road of repair in front of me (and if I’m most honest, it is the subject that I’m most blocked about; it terrifies me cold). I’ve created a semblance of stability for the first time in…ever? I’ve got peace in my relationships and peace in my heart and I can pay for therapy without using a credit card and things are like—good. Smooth-ish. Calm.

And yet. I’ve been waking up early every morning for the past two years to write because I can't not do it. I’ve created a podcast with Holly because we wanted to. This week will be our 40th episode and we’ve only missed one week (you guys, I haven’t done something consistently for 40 weeks ever, not once in my life) and it is hard, hard work, but it is perfect because we love it. I have regular brain explosions about the possibility of…everything. I have some idea of what I want to do, but it’s not totally written, and that feels scary but okay also.

There were many, many reasons for me not to leap.

But I’ve been leaping every day for two years or more.

Maybe I’ve been leaping my whole life?

The few nights before I walked in to give my notice were sleepless. Despite sleep-aids, they were sleepless. I had a dream that I was evicted from my home and put on trial because I had drank. I had real, actual thoughts that banks stopped working and cell phones stopped working so I couldn’t get my money or talk to anyone who could help. My mind left no possible stone of destruction and peril unturned. But I also had the same sensation—I’ve felt it only a few other times in my life—when I knew my marriage was actually ending and when sobriety became real. Life-ending fear right alongside possibility.

I still can’t find the right words for the sensation. It hovers far above “good” and “bad” and “happy” and “sad” and all the regular words we have to explain things. It’s an elemental and sub-gut-level place. You know those tether balls we played with at recess? If you stood as far away from the pole as possible and pulled the ball to your chest so the string is as taught as a trip wire, then heaved it to spin around the pole in as wide a circle as possible, but then just as the ball releases from your hands, someone cuts the string at the point where it meets the pole so that the full velocity of your strength is behind the ball as it hurtles off into the air. That’s about as close as I can get.

A few days ago a friend texted me "How do you know when enough is enough?" I assumed he was talking about his relationship, but he could've been talking about work, or Netflix, or caffeine. I didn't ask. I replied immediately, as if it was something I'd been considering for years, just waiting until the moment he asked:

"When you're more afraid not to do it, whatever it is."

Laura McKowen

Laura McKowen, PO Box 315 , Swampscott, MA, 01907