Today I dove into a lake whose depth I don’t know.
I do know that it’s not the shallow (100 meter) depth of Lake Titicaca, whose name tickled me as a child when my mom told me stories about her travels in Bolivia.
I do not know if it’s as deep as Russia’s Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake. (Being an estimated 5,387 feet in depth, I believe Baikal is a mile deep.)
The depth of the lake I’m treading is as yet unplumbed.
What I did is I quit my job.
Over my [huge benefit of having had an office job] extended paid holiday weekends, I decided to finally do it.
You will think that my job must have sucked. You will think that it must be like the job I had during the summer when I was 14, where I worked at a boiling-hot dry cleaning place that reeked of chemicals and had weird people in their 30s working there who invited me to go see Richard Marx with them.
You will think that when I quit my job today that it was like when I quit the dry cleaner’s.
I still remember being in the backseat of Farmer Dan’s Chevy Blazer, barreling down Oakland Avenue at 65 mph and stoned AF, Dan yelling over the wind, “Should I stop here?” and Kelly and Matt echoing my feeling that “The place is fucking lame”….but me being undecided about whether Dan should pull over and let me out for my 2:00 shift……until I yelled “Fuck it–go–drive!” and we barreled past the dry cleaning place, further down Oakland Avenue at 75 mph, and peeled over to Farmer Dan’s to smoke a bong.
Today I was sort of in a weird state of mind, but I haven’t smoked weed in years.
So it’s not like that.
And this will shock you:
My job didn’t suck at all.
Not one bit.
In fact, throughout my 7 years at what is a fantastic company doing serious good for more than 10 million people and counting, I have had some of the most fun, enjoyed hands-down the most professional growth, and reaped unlimited opportunities to work on and drive some of the coolest shit I’ve ever done in my life.
I am deeply proud of what we do (I’m still there for a couple weeks, and I’ll still be consulting for them), how we do it, and the people I work with.
Today also happens to fall during the week that we published one of my favorite long-form content pieces and two of the eBooks I’m most proud of.
I love working on big, spectacular, awesome, helpful projects, so you can imagine …
It was not an easy decision to leave.
It was a long, confusing, stressful, certain-and-then-not-at-all, painful decision to leave.
Because I love my job.
So why did I leave?
For the last 3+ years, the quality of my life has been shit.
For one, I’ve had a grievous physical ailment.
For another, my mother, who I told you used to regale me when I was growing up with stories of her journeys in South America, has had dementia for nine years.
NINE years. I say that like the principal in Ferris Bueller.
Except it’s nine YEARS.
Over the last three, I have had to move her three times–through I can’t tell you how many catch-22s, how many heartbreaking tragedies, and how many downs and downs and downs.
Coordinating every detail–packing every box–groping for every resource–dealing with every crisis–making every confusing decision in a sea of shitty choices–handling blame, guilt, grief, confusion, helplessness, you name it–all while giving my all to a job that fortunately I loved.
But day after day I had to drag my carcass around to get to work, where I could only work.
Many people don’t know this, but I couldn’t fully engage or animate because I was only barely alive.
This all resulted in me ending a 20-year romantic partnership something like two years ago. (There has been one strain after another after another for so long these last years that I’m not even clear on the timing of the dissolution.)
The dissolution was ultimately good for both of us and I knew it at the time, but the parting was painful. The complete antithesis of our two decades together.
One of the things that spawned that was that I had lost joy–and the ability to imagine, to bounce back, to do anything beyond basic survival, to have any vision that things could ever get better, to even remember that things were ever OK.
It was a living hell for a long time.
But last summer, I finally started to heal.
Enough suffering had elapsed, I suppose, that the universe deemed it fitting to let up.
And since we worked remotely on Fridays, I had a little more time to heal.
That’s when I had the space to discover what I need.
On long, late walks on hot summer nights three times a week, I rediscovered the healing space of time.
And I rediscovered the wonder of discovery, as I took in every detail: the majesty of oak trees twice the height of houses, the marvel of a mini garden with tiny lamps like fairies’ lanterns, the luscious feel of balmy night air on my skin, my new requirement that every doorway on earth should be arched.
These walks gave me a taste of what I need.
So for months I wrestled with what to do.
How do I make money?
How do I give up a job I love?
It was impossible to imagine that there was actually any other job out there for me.
But I needed to work remotely–all year, and more than one day.
So I searched.
And over the holidays I enjoyed more of what I’d learned during the summer.
The importance to me right now of space and time.
And my God, did I feel well.
It was glorious.
To not get home at 7 p.m. and think, “I’m so tired, and I only have 12 hours before I have to be up again. But first I have to make dinner. Then I have to clean up. Then I have to make lunch. Then I have to shovel the snow, take the garbage out, finish my laundry, get gas tonight because we have an early meeting tomorrow, deal with the mail, call the care place back, all while the cat is screaming at an ear-peeling, nerve-shattering pitch, everyone in my life is ignored because I have no energy to live or speak or do anything but work and cry, and before I know it it will be past time for bed–with no opportunity to unwind or write or meditate or thoroughly decompress or do anything that I really, really enjoy.”
So over my long holiday weekends I had time to rest and not have to give a fuck about what time it was. To not have to be anywhere, to not have to skip breakfast or fly out the door, 94% dead, late as always–but to read and learn and write travelogues and meditate and walk and exercise and heal.
Even my cat was quiet. All he did was sleep, and occasionally step out to explore.
So when we all came back for the new year (all of us “office professionals,” a group I considered fortunate when I worked in the service industry, in which one works on holidays)…I knew I was ready for the change that I’ve been ready for for a long time but was only recently ready ready for for real.
So today I jumped into the lake of returning to freelancing.
I have an idea of its depth because I’ve treaded it before.
But I got out of its murky uncertainty as soon as I could–as soon as I landed the dream job that, Holy Fucking Shit, I just gave up.
So it’s frightening.
But after much thought, I’m gambling that it’s worth it.
Because day after day of sure, doing what I love, but on the wrong schedule for my soul, is not living.
And it’s like this:
I am a writer because words flow from my brain, into my fingertips, and out into any medium possible. I am a writer because words are my life. My career is a chosen one, but I chose it because there was no other choice. Ever since I could fashion the shapes of letters with a pencil, I have been compelled to express myself through composition.
I’m also a writer for another very important reason:
I have a meditative mind.
My lulling, creative mind needs fluidity to be, and to feel at ease.
Add to that my body’s need to heal from the hell of being a premature caregiver–trying to be a good one and never feeling good at or about it–for nine years.
Add to that my soul’s need to travel and be in and experience the world and all its many majestic glories.
Remember–my mom raised me on stories of what she described as the fairyland of the Andes.
So there’s nurture.
And with all that, I’m a writer because you can be a writer anywhere.
You always could, from the dawn of hieroglyphs and papyrus, back through the time of runes and stones, and into the age of charcoal and cave walls. (If pictographs are writing, which they are.)
I have a deep soul need to get out and see the world again. The writing in the pyramids, the stories in the Chauvet Cave.
And I have a deep soul need to write about what I’m compelled to write about. To get back to The House on the Lake. To fix its first chapter, and then finish the rest.
I just turned 40 for fuck’s sake.
Time keeps on tickin’ tickin’ tickin’.
Now I know the lake could be the ocean, 36,000 feet deep (6.8 miles).
Treading it will not be easy, whatever its depth.
It will be nothing like my long holiday weekends.
And I will still lack time, because as long as we bind ourselves to its illusion, time will always be a problem.
But I should have a bit more of it.
Certainly more space, working from wherever there’s wifi and a great cathedral or temple nearby.
It’s like when I went hang gliding and took a look at what I was suspended by:
That struck me as no more dangerous than anything in life.
Because life–it ultimately kills you no matter what.
Which brings me back to Bueller.
I think I might have read this question at some point in a Medium post about working remotely. If not, then I take credit for this ponder:
Did you ever notice that this is one motivational quote they do not plaster in offices?
Wish me luck.
I wish you the best too.
Especially if you’re a beloved and esteemed work chum from my greatest job ever.