On June 1, 2018, this girl happily traded in golden handcuffs for golden experiences in my not-so-golden years. I walked out of the workplace that has given me job security, health insurance, and fringe benefits. Crazy, right? After three and a half years, it was time. That day will go down in my history as a liberating, empowering, electrifying day.
In my imagination, I pictured a sexier exit with “Take This Job and Shove It” (feel free to play it now for effect) playing over some loudspeakers set up in my honor and a line of people making a human bridge for me as I walked down the grand staircase. My romanticized version of a breathtaking departure was foiled only by my introvert nature and hatred of being in the limelight. I’m sure someone was planning this glorious exodus for me but wanted to respect my wishes.
This year, I turned 40. It was a sharp turn from same-ness into a space Dusty and I are creating of different-ness.
After a few years of planning, some struggles with Dusty being well on his way to an unshackled life, and the continual building of courage to cut the umbilical cord from mother society, I joined Dusty and made my final walk.
When I was 19 years old, I had my first baby so I have been adulting ever since I left high school. Admittedly, I haven’t always adulted well and have made mistakes, but nonetheless, when most of my friends were playing intramural sports, travelling to cool places over spring breaks, and testing the limits of their livers, I was married to my first husband, having three babies, working on my Bachelor’s degree, and working full-time. Yep, I crammed all of that into six years. While my school friends went out for lunch together, I dropped by the babysitter’s house to breastfeed my babies. When my friends were just passing out at 3:00am after a hard night of partying, I was already showered and showing up to work for a 12-hour shift.
I made a choice to be a mother and wife at a young age. Well, I’m not gonna lie — my first pregnancy was definitely an accident; the marriage a consequential one. But I made a choice to [mostly] focus on adulting. There were obvious hints of my yearnings to be like my classmates, but I was quickly reminded by my then-husband that responsible wives and mothers don’t do ‘that kind of thing.’ Those born with non-conformist natures have trouble being told what to do or how to do it. Even by a spouse. While I watched friends having fun, I consistently and gladly went home to hug my babies and comply with the responsibilities of motherhood and spousal duties. Most of the time. Being an adult at such a young age wasn’t always easy. I was not spared the costs of fallibility.
And I wouldn’t change any of those experiences, or lack thereof, for the world. I’m only 40, and I have so much time to go live. I don’t want a life that just reads like a resume. Instead, I’d rather share my mistakes, be vulnerable, experience new things, take chances, calculate risks, beat down the status quo, and challenge rules set for me by someone/something else.
What I don’t want anymore is to drone on and blend in with the white noise of other people’s boxes — ticky-tacky houses in housing developments, zombies on the bus going back and forth every day to the same job, working for the same employer for decades. Some people are made for such things. My mother is retiring (finally) after celebrating her 50-year anniversary with the same employer. Commendations are certainly in order — for people who feel served and purposeful with that kind of dedication.
I am not made for that.
Over the last 25 years, I have worked for someone else, never feeling fulfilled in my own self-purpose. All of these jobs, by design, have given me exactly what I needed to support my family while making me feel tethered to my reliance on them. That sense of tethered reliance has always been in such strong opposition to my sense of independence, but I couldn’t really put my finger on the specifics of this antagonistic struggle until I articulated to Dusty what was so clear about what he needed to do. Walk away.
Regardless of the circumstances, I am thankful I had my kiddos at such a young age. My vibrant energy could be given to them while maintaining equal energy at school, work, and at home. And now, I’m only 40 with so much life ahead of me, and the kids are [mostly] independent. At least they can brush their own teeth.
So, in the true spirit of the child coming out in me in my 40s, I made a chain of construction paper links to count down my final days of being handcuffed to corporate rules, bureaucratic barriers, boxes of all sorts, and societal pressures. Started only as a marker for counting down days, the paper chain representing six weeks of short-timer syndrome was ironically (and unintentionally) symbolic of the chains that bounded me. Dangling gallantly around my office door, adorning the daily efforts that fulfilled at least some part of me in this job, the chain links got torn off cheerfully one-by-one.
I can’t help but think about how much we work toward these shackles when we’re younger, how important they seem, how integral they are in our self-identification. They’re sold to us as necessary evils for survival. Why do we do that to ourselves? I feel like I’ve missed years of ingenuity and realizing dreams in exchange for meeting someone else’s definition of success. I’m not so sure I’m up for missing out on late-night parties, but I’m willing to try! I don’t feel like I missed out on my youth, but I do feel like I owe it to myself to live this life for myself in my own way.
My smallness does not escape me. I appreciate the opportunities I was given during the end of my time with CSU. I cherish the kind words in appreciation of the impact I made, as well as the abnormally large bottle of tequila people sent me away with. But Monday morning is going to roll around and, just like any workplace, the wheel is still going to turn without me there. I’ve been a cog in someone else’s machine for 25 years. I want to build my own machine.
Onward ho to an escape from the claustrophobia of four walls, shackling by the golden handcuffs, and bureaucratic barriers! Ah, to experience the sunshine instead of wishing for the experience through an office window, to fill myself with purpose, to serve myself and others with more direction and individual design. To be in places instead of reading about them. To be confronted with real choices like A) Do I risk trying balut for the sake of immersing myself in culture? or B) Do I play it safe and spare everyone from my vomiting? instead of just discussing the hypothetical situation with work friends. [Spoiler: I will never eat balut. Ever.]
I’m fully prepared for the lack of direction I’ll experience before I find my own way. In fact, I welcome it! I’ll finally be able to dedicate time to uninhibited flow of ideas and the work that comes with having those ideas. I can pull out the ole invention notebook and re-visit things I’ve dreamt up in the past. I can start things and feel like I can maybe even actually finish them.
Leaving was bittersweet. 2% bitter, 98% sweet. While I’m grateful for the opportunities I was finally given and the people with whom I had the privilege of knowing, I was also relieved to flee the daily, repetitive micro-stressors that are admittedly quite small, but I can’t imagine dealing with them every.single.day for 40+ hours a week, all year round, for the rest of my adult life. Even though I submitted a letter of resignation on December 1, 2017, I put my all into this job until the very last day and believe I left on a high note.
In reality, my bow-out was not sexy at all. In fact, I was giggling at how non-sexy and anti-climactic this prolonged goodbye was turning out to be. As I ghosted out of the building to avoid the inevitable, awkward goodbyes, I wondered if I would catch the bus. I had timed it perfectly, but there was that one last small hallway conversation that took seven seconds. Damn! So close! I watched the bus pull away without me. Not only did I miss it by seven seconds, but there it sat, painfully disallowed to take on new passengers at a stop light 30 yards away. For six minutes. So I waited unceremoniously at the bus stop, bottle of tequila in hand, for ten more minutes. With my normal everyday level of grandiosity, I talked to a very nice homeless man and contemplated life while posting to Instagram.
‘Tis a fond farewell, CSU Health Network!