So, I’m quitting my job tomorrow. I have a very professionally worded resignation letter folded into a crisp white envelope in my purse and my nerves are going crazy, unsettling my stomach. The real controversy of this is that I have only worked at this position for a month. My best friend got me the job at her office; a successful mid-size engineering firm with it’s own stainless steel cappuccino machine and fingerprint-scanning time-clock. It’s been a good place to work—I’ve learned about graphic design, marketing strategies, and was part of a team of highly motivated people. In the afternoons my friend and I took walks around a charming little neighborhood with rosebushes and horse trails for our 15-minute break. The last minute deadlines, hour commute, and gossip in the lunchroom were not idyllic, but easy enough to overlook.
Until, that is, I got an email with the subject line, “Employment Offer” from a company I had originally interviewed with in June. I didn’t even want to open the email, mess with my contentment, yet somehow I ended up in a Saturday meeting with my soon-to-be boss asking questions and exploring this new opportunity.
As you’ve probably guessed already, I accepted the new position. A 15 minute commute, more money annually, a mini library in the back of the office to help with research, a line of work that's both quirky and interesting, and I was sold. It was a hard decision, navigating between being content vs. taking a risk, not hurting a friend’s feelings after they had gone out of their way to help you. Let’s just say there was a fair amount of over-analyzing, anxiety, indecisiveness, fear, doubt, impulsiveness, hesitancy, and begging people around me to literally just make the decision for me. And no one would.
I came home one night from work, in the midst of the confusion, took off my heels and landed hard on my bed, ready to watch Netflix and forget the day. Maybe out of guilt or habit I spurted out a short, automated prayer. As I began muttering “Lord, bless…” something hit me. Hard, and between the eyes. I had been on complete autopilot for weeks. The stress of starting a new job, then this decision, all the change, had left me feeling numb, disconnected, running from task to distraction to task (and did I mention that right before the engineering office I got a long-term sub position for a six-grade class that was supposed to last until June and then ended after 1 month when they decided they needed someone with a Special Ed credential?—yes, that is 3 new jobs in 2 months. There’s got to be some sort of record…). And it was in the middle of that cold, stale prayer that I realized how desperately I needed a pen and a sheet of fresh white paper—a place to be present in my thoughts, to be right in the middle of a poem, fully aware of myself and my life.
So now, I’m doing my best, even when things are busy and strained and hard…to provide space to be creative, to remember how valuable time with a pen or sketchpad is for my heart, my soul. I want to push open time in my day for beauty, art, expression. Because if I don’t what is the point of all this? To be productive all day pressing keys on a computer, make a little income, repeat the next day? That’s not enough for me—I want to live deeply aware of the world. So I’m learning that, for me, if I want to be present in friendships, in quiet moments throughout the day—I need a few moments with a pen, a good book, a paintbrush. The focus, freedom, challenge, and sub-conscious awareness in those moments of expression force me to get back in tune with my heart and then I find myself listening more patiently to friends, staying outside looking at the stars a little longer before I walk to my front door at night, being gentler with family, more willing to linger over a cup of tea in the morning. So art, for me, these days is not a luxury but a necessity—getting me back in touch with my life, allowing me the focus and really see the people and things that matter, helping me be in tune with all the wild beauty in my day, even if a lot of it does include a computer screen and coffee mug.
I guess this is another way to put it; when all this change started occurring I started being really lazy about cleaning my room. Laundry got left in little piles on the floor, shoes I changed 3 times before work got left like fallen soldiers around my mirror, coffee cups began making my nightstand look like a kitchen sink. After a few days I noticed the mess less and less—even as it grew. Time passed swiftly and one morning I woke up fully aware of all the de-cluttering and straightening that needed to take place, scared at how unaware I had been. For weeks my emotions, fears, shadows, bad attitudes were piling up like dirty mugs on a nightstand—the longer I stayed on autopilot, the less I noticed the mess. And then right there in the middle of a dingy prayer I saw the mess in me. Certainly poetry, painting, beauty are more than tools (like a vacuum or Windex) that we use to clean out our minds at the end of a long week. I believe in art for art’s sake. But they do help to de-clutter, sort, become more in tune, tidy up, expose when our weeks have left us broken, hidden, and messy.
After a few days of writing poems, of sketching and doodling I found that I had a new peace, a refreshed ability to connect and focus—like being in a tidy room—that puts your whole body at ease. And I want to carry the habit all the way through this new year.