Something they don’t tell you when you decide to quit your job at age 26 is that there’s going to come a time when you feel like a real fuckwit.
Yes, a fuckwit.
New York City, as I’m sure you know or have heard, can be a real bitch of a place. It’s a city where what you do defines you, whether you want it to or not. You’re a lawyer. Or work in finance. Or in advertising, or maybe you’re an actor. One of the first questions out of someone’s mouth when you meet them for the first time is, “What do you do?” So when you have the pleasure of telling someone that you’re “in between jobs” at the mo, it either means one of two things: you’ve just been fired or you’re a real loser.
I’m serious. People are so quick to jump to conclusions. And me, being the oversharer that I am, and also quick to defend myself. “OH NO YOU SEE, My mom died so I had to quit my job because I couldn’t deal so I went home to the middle of the country to mope and be a shell of a human being for a little while, but I’m OK now do you know anyone who’s hiring?!”
….Yeah maybe not the best first sentence to yell over the roar of a bar when you’re meeting your friend’s cute coworker.
But I am doing this! I am apologizing for my choice to be unemployed! WHY. Why have I become so caught up with defending myself and my decisions?
Comparing myself to other people has always been one of my favorite pastimes. I truly could do it all day long. And yes, I know this is extremely unhealthy of me and I say “favorite pastime” with complete irony so get off my jock. When it started out it was mainly a physical thing. That woman is really beautiful, I wish my skin was as good as hers… Oh wow she has a great waist, I wonder if my waist looks like that… I will never be thin enough to wear that style dress… and so on. But since I’ve stopped working, I’ve crossed over into areas that can’t be cured with a facial or a few more trips to the gym or an unfollow on Instagram: I’ve found myself obsessively comparing where I’m at in my life to those around me.
Wow, she’s a year younger than me and is already running her department…So and So is already making six figures, why am I not doing that?… This is my third wedding invitation of the year. Should I be getting married? Am I really that behind?
JESUS it is SO EASY TO DO!!!! For the first 21 years of my life, I was a student and a performer. Things were black and white. I didn’t struggle with the sense of identity that so many young people do (however my body image issues are another fuckin story). When I left school, I became a publicist. And yes there was a weird transition when for a while I was an actor/nanny/bartender/hostess/intern, but it soon became easy to identify myself with my new occupation. It was very much a “respectable” job, and usually gained lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” when I told people about the kind of work I did. I was proud of it!! I was proud to say, “I’m a publicist.” So four years later when I left my position, it came as somewhat of a shock that all of a sudden I no longer had something to identify myself with.
HELLO. I’M AILSA. AND I’M UNEMPLOYED.
It just doesn’t have the same ring, ya know???? JK. Fuck the ring I’m kidding. And then I realized wait a sec: If someone asked me to describe myself, what would be the first few things I’d say?
It wouldn’t be my job.
I would tell them about the kind of person I am. I would say I’m a fiercely loyal friend, I’m brave and not afraid of a challenge, I do my best to face my problems head on, I love and protect those I care about at all costs, and occasionally I think I’m pretty funny. And yes, I would also admit to drinking a bit too much and being a textbook Leo and tell them that my biggest fear is spiders (*shivers in disgust*).
But I wouldn’t talk about my job !! My job is not who I am. My lack of a job does not make me a loser. Or a fuckwit. I am a fuckwit all on my own.
So why oh why are we so obsessed with judging people based on their jobs and not who we are? And why can’t I stop comparing myself to the girl from high school who is already a PR Director for a major beauty brand at the age of 25???
I just can’t get it out of my head that I’m supposed to have all this STUFF. Like a big fat savings account, and maybe my first house, and well. All of it.
Perhaps my insecurity comes from a simpler place: what if I’m letting her down.
That thought haunts me every single day.
Would my mother be disappointed in me?
To be completely honest, I think she would. I don’t think she’d be happy with the choices I’ve made in the past 10 months. And that terrifies me.
Since I’ve known she was sick, I’ve also always known that after she passed I wanted to go visit a medium. And just see what happens. I’m very much a believer in spirituality. But it’s been months since she’s passed and I am afraid to make the appointment. I don’t know if I can bear to hear that I’ve let her down. I hope to God that she understands why I’ve done what I’ve done, but she was just so proud of me, ya know? She was so proud that I had gotten my life together and made a name for myself and started a career, and that I had done it all on my own… And now I’ve thrown it all away. At least for now.
And more than anything, I know that she would feel so horribly guilty. Because let’s face it, if she was still here, I wouldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have had the need to do it. I would be OK. I would be sitting at my desk right now instead of at my kitchen table, wiping the tears as they fall. I wouldn’t have this hollow feeling my chest 24/7; I wouldn’t have lost my sense of self.
I so desperately want her to be proud of who I am right here, right now. I want her to be able to read this and see that I’ve found solace in writing just like she did. I want her not to be mad that I dyed my hair blonde, just like she did when she was 26. I want her to be okay with me leaving New York and putting my life on hold so that I could get better. I want her to agree that it was what I needed. And God Damn I want to hug her and never let her go.
And I want her to know that I can smile. That I can laugh. That I can still have fun, and that I haven’t lost hope. That I have plans and dreams and I’m making them come true, on step at a time. That I’m still fierce, and loyal, and brave, and funny, and smart, and most of the time outgoing, and that I’m still me, even if I feel like I’ve lost my way a little bit. And that I miss her every day but I’m not mad at her, and that I hope she is happy.
And I hope that she knows I’ll be happy too. Even if I’m a bit of a fuckwit.
“Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery. And of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.”