I need advice.
It has been 6 months and 17 days since I ended up in the Emergency Room. It has been 3 months and 28 days since I left my job and I am about ready to burst from the fear of not being able to pay rent and, to be honest, stifling boredom. I feel ready for the next chapter of my life and my career to get started, but there’s a stagnation that has refused to lift.
When I sat in that ER room I felt alone and lost. I also felt done.
I was done with my job, I was done being exhausted, I was done being sick all of the time, and I was ready to let go of it all.
So I resigned from my job. I dropped my crappy eating habits. I took all the naps my body had cried for since 2015. I developed a meditation practice and lit a lot of candles. I prayed – something I hadn’t really done since my first Communion. I created a vision board and wrote down affirmations. I went to therapy. I went to career counseling. I signed up with a manifesting coach. I soul searched and dove into parts of my past that I don’t enjoy. I traced my way through old memories to see if I could find parts of myself I’d been denying.
I finally watched Downton Abbey and cried for a week.
And when I finally felt healed, energized, and ready to go back to work, I thought the doors would easily swoosh open. I thought I’d be rewarded for all my hard work, for the intentionality, for digging into my past, for meditating all the time. And yet, the doors have not swooshed open. They have stayed firmly shut and now, after months of healing, soul searching and strengthening, I feel closer to the girl lost in the ER than the confident girl from my yoga mat.
When I moved to the DC area about 3 years ago I was ready for a new start and new experiences. I had grown out of my Connecticut life and felt stifled by the limits of my small town existence. I had also decided that my dream job of becoming a Collections Manager for one of my favorite museums wasn’t in the cards for me (I was too sick to go to school).
I pivoted and jumped onto the first job that responded to me and joined the nonprofit arena, focusing on climate change. I was excited to be in a new city doing meaningful, impactful work. I patted myself on the back for doing work that widened my perspective and theoretically helped others. Yet, for a myriad of reasons, it wasn’t a good fit and so I then pivoted again and began working on a different issue: immigration reform.
I loved the organization, I loved my co-workers, I deeply believed in the work I was doing, but I never lost the sense that I wasn’t in the right place. Despite those feelings, I ploughed through and dug deeper into my responsibilities and was rewarded with promotions and raises.
In these 3 years, I have dedicated myself to my work, pushed myself to be the first one in the door and the last to leave, to answer emails and requests at any hour, and ensure that all systems run without error. I was pretty damn good at my job, but there were some costs. There was an emotional cost. And then there was a physical cost. And then there were some literal costs in the form of hospital bills.
When I crashed in October, I saw it as a gift. I finally had the time and the space to reflect and to decide where I wish to direct myself. There have been many ups and downs, moments where I felt absolutely certain only to feel completely lost days later. Today I am still grateful for that day and for these months of self-care. I needed it, but now I need my life to get going and it still feels stalled.
As you may see from this blog, I started out strong with my wellness practice and then began a reading project to help me reconnect with past versions of myself. The hope was that I would essentially re-trace my footsteps along the books that had most impacted my life to see if any hidden versions of myself would reappear. Although I largely dropped the ball on maintaining this blog, I did in fact get through all 16 books as I had intended.
My literary journey was like watching old family films recorded on my dad’s camcorder. I reconnected with feelings and reflections that hadn’t crossed my mind or heart in over a decade. I fell back into love with the books on my bookshelf, lining my walls, and stacked on my dresser and all the adventures they had taken me on. I’ve reconnected with my love of history and the degree I earned back in 2013. I also began to miss that museum career I had once imagined myself in.
It may seem obvious that I re-steer myself and go get my Master’s in Museum Studies and become a collections manager.
But I struggle with this: I cannot erase the work I’ve done these past 3 years nor the perspectives that have opened up within my mind. I was deeply sheltered before those experiences and understood very little about existences beyond my own. To walk away from immigration or climate change or really any of the other critically important issues, feels selfish and as if I’m allowing myself to sidestep the responsibility of helping others.
There is also the fact that I’ve grown quite a bit. Not in size, I am forever the size of a 10 year old.
For even though I continue to be as introverted as ever, the idea of sitting in a lonely, quiet museum cellar sounds dull and I worry about becoming bored and unfulfilled. Thus, the collections manager job no longer seems right. I want to do work that is (slightly) more engaging but the only other side I see is becoming a professor which doesn’t appeal to me.
When I graduated in 2013 with a degree in history, I believed that my role in life was the preserve the past, to share stories, and ensure that the lessons learned from previous generations remain known. I still want to do that, but I no longer know the avenue to take.
My thought has been to return to the world of academia. I want to work in an environment that motivates curiosity, supports intellectual diversity, and welcomes open inquiry.
For about 2 months now, I’ve applied to what feels like zillions of jobs in higher education but have received no responses. Is it worth it to keep banging at an unanswered door? Or is that just the cost of living in Washington, DC? Long lines and a constant stream of new competing applicants?
If anyone out there has any thoughts, ideas, or advice on directions I might explore and how to unhinge some doors, I would greatly appreciate it.
Thank you for reading all the way through; if I had a trophy, I would give it to you.
Reflections of a Philosophically inclined Fitness and Lifestyle Blogger