I started a new job this week. I left a job that I have held for the last seven years in various roles. The old job was simple, not because the work was light, but because I knew what I was doing and how the people around me operated. It was familiar, and that familiarity made it easy on my mind. The new job is hard. There is a lot of work. Which, I guess, in the grand scheme of employment, is a good thing. But it is hard on my mind for this reason: I realize that in the effort required of me to learn new systems, new people, new work, even new traffic patterns on my commute, that I am giving  a significant amount of time and energy and heart towards a goal that is not what I ultimately want, being good at my job.

Sure, I want to be good at my job. And there is integrity in wanting to be good at a job, in putting forth your best. I think that’s a right thing to do. But, ultimately, I want to write. I want to be creative. I want to give words to people, words that will help them. Starting a new job makes me feel like I’m actively working away from that goal.

I have moments where I realize how self-centered and small my world is. These are rare moments. Often they come to me from the middle of my most self-serving sadnesses. Like when I sit at home alone on a Friday, and I scroll through endless Netflix options, through all my friends on my cell phone that I could message and (if they’d have me) hang out with. Channel flipping in a dark room, not bored, but feeling like I’m wasting time. Or worse than wasting time, feeling like I’m missing out. Other friends fill news feeds on social networks with their exciting weekend plans. I’m always comparing.  The world with me at the center is one of constant comparison.

I get afraid to even communicate.  To send that text or make that call and say, “Hey, wanna hang out?” I’m afraid the veil will be paper-thin, that my friend will hear instead: “I need someone to go commiserate with me, because my world is all about me.” I have friends that are good enough to do that. To spend time with me knowing that I would be self-consumed. But in the moments where I recognize what I’m doing, I realize that, at best, I would only be spreading my sadness. Somehow, I’m so self-centered, that even withdrawal can become transformed into some sort of heroic way to spare my friends from spending time with me.

I think sometimes: “Other people must feel like this.” I say it aloud to myself, like some echoing mantra that gets absorbed by the flickering blue light from the television. “Other people must feel like this.” “Other people must feel like this.” Other people must…

I know that it’s narrow to think that I’m giving my energy to a job instead of a passion, and that I’m somehow the only one doing this. It’s absurd. We all grow up wanting to be astronauts and ballerinas, doctors and police men, actors and writers and artists, but we settle into the necessity driven roles. Titles on business cards, numbers on paychecks certifying our value, which is, of course, intrinsic.

You’ll probably be sorry you read this, because I don’t have an upswing to end on.

I am so tired.

I am one obscure man in an apartment somewhere not too far away, and I don’t know why. I don’t know how we become the people we are. How do we alter our perceptions so that everything is spinning like a solar system around our own personal sun, and still feel anything but surrounded by meaning?

I hope, someday it will change–both my self-centeredness and the mandates on my efforts. But for now, I’m not doing what I dream of doing, and there is no one stopping me but me.


P.S. I’ll be posting a new poem soon, been working on it for a while. Thanks for sticking around.

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5 thoughts on “Commiseration

  1. I come around every once and awhile to see what you’ve written about. I have been on decline as of late also, but maybe that will change. I found myself relating to your post all too well. I thought I should say Thank You or Hi, or I liked your entry. So, hello. Also, I believe the ones of us who are open and do think have these kinds of fears, ambitions, and detached world views. Sometimes though, I think some people find what they are looking for….I think it’s just hard work. I hope you find whatever fulfills you, and I hope I do, too.

  2. Thanks Joana for sharing your story. And thank you especially for this: “Penlights and lighthouses are still lights, but they serve different purposes and work in different ways. And no one asks the one why they aren’t more like the other.”

  3. Marty-I spent 3+ years in a job that paid well and was intellectually challenging but was emotionally destructive. I would come home so spent and so angry I wondered what I was doing there at all. I had many nights like the one you describe, thinking how selfish I must be to place security over passion, to know that the sum total of my life was focused on educating and entertaining myself, with no one else in the picture. What a miserable existence.
    Even the relationships I made during that job that were taxing and added little to my life. Except after a few years I realized they actually added quite a bit. I learned more about people, about counseling, about really loving the impossible individuals, about my own limitations and weaknesses. Their sandpaper lives rubbed me into something different, a little softer, a little wiser (I hope).
    And, unfortunately, it’s those moments that shape us into the people we are. I don’t want to be the optimist in this picture because I hate optimists 🙂 but sometimes we need a good sanding to reveal and understand own hearts. Sometimes there’s a timing to things that we can’t explain and we hate to be subject to, but it controls us nonetheless. I keep finding out these incredible opportunities that existed to help me pursue my own passions over the past few years but never did because I was so focused on school. Do I regret it? Yes. But a lot of my current work draws from the experiences I had during those self-centered years. Those years taught me discipline. They gave me time to stew in my own thoughts and perceptions. Netflix, for all its destructive power, gave me stories to consider and learn from and enjoy. And I think it’s influenced my work for the better for it.

    Besides, our small lives are incredibly large. One of my favorite ideas from The Fault in Our Stars is the idea of having “a forever within the numbered days.” You still have time for your life to unfold. There’s really no telling where you can end up, and no telling what impact you can have even though things seem so small and “self-centered” and meaningless. Now is not always.I’ve been moved and challenged by your work and even though it may never quite feel like it to you, I hope you understand that your life has already been meaningful and other-centered. We reach people in different ways. Penlights and lighthouses are still lights, but they serve different purposes and work in different ways. And no one asks the one why they aren’t more like the other.

    All the Best,
    Joana from Colorado

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