Waiting for My Real Life to Begin

The life and times of a girl named Swishy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The story of my life

(for the past few days/weeks/months, anyway. Buckle up, kiddies, it's gonna be a long one!)

"So," he asks, "if you were creating a reality show starring any celebrity, who would you pick?"
"Brad and Angelina," I say. "Or ... wait. Actually, Jennifer Aniston. A dating show starring Jennifer Aniston! Can you imagine?"
"I'd pick Michael Jackson," he says.
"Ooh, yeah," I say. "Good call. He's a freak."
"What?" he says. "He's the king of pop!"
"He IS the king of pop," I acknowledge. "But he also calls his kid Blanket."
"True," he concedes.

I'm on a phone interview with an entertainment website. In 16 hours, I will quit my job.

* * *

Four months (almost) earlier

I'm at work, and an email pops in. There will be a meeting at 10 a.m., it says. I look at the clock. It's 10 a.m. We all get up and walk to the conference room, whispering and shooting looks at each other.

Our owners are in the room. They cut right to the chase: They're moving our office to Charlotte in July. Some people will be asked to go, some people won't, some people will be asked to live in other cities so our resources will be better spread across the country. All costs, including a moving bonus, will be paid by the company. No one is surprised, necessarily, but at the same time, everyone is shocked.

I'm the only person who asks a question. "When do we have to decide?"

The answer: end of April.

* * *

I visit Charlotte at the end of March. One of my college roommates lives there, along with two other friends from college, plus a whole bunch of coworkers who moved there the year before. It's lovely and fun and it makes me feel ... nothing. Nothing great, nothing terrible. I feel like if I moved there, I would be fine. The only problem is, I don't know if fine is enough.

Two weeks later, I go to New York. It makes me feel a lot of things: stressed, excited, motivated, overwhelmed.

I don't know what to do.

* * *

I'm having a hard time breathing. I walk around like normal, I talk like normal, I act like normal, but all the time, I feel like there's a rubber band wrapped tight around my lungs. When I go home at night, it gets worse, because then I HAVE to think about things. I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing with the time that's not locked in stone: Should I should be cleaning out my closet, looking for a new job, finding a place to live, calling the movers ...? I don't know, and it's paralyzing.

One night, I stay late at work because I'm not ready to go home yet. I'm listening to my iTunes, and different lyrics keep jumping out at me:

"Are these times contagious? I've never been this bored before ... is this the prize I waited for?"

"And if I die before I learn to speak, can money pay for all the days I lived awake but half asleep?"

I start reading my blog, going back a month at a time. I don't know why. Maybe I was subconsciously looking for a clue, maybe I was just trying to kill some time. But as I read, a definite theme emerges (aside from, you know, the fact that I get pulled over a lot and stalk innocent bystanders):

From this one: "I kind of feel like I'm waiting for ... something. I don't want to be one of those people who always talks about doing things and never does them. So I guess in 2008, I want to be more of a doer. More proactive instead of reactive. Blah blah blah."

And this one: "I thought, well, why don't we all live like that? Why don't we all just go for it more often? And I think it's because you have to be incredibly brave. You have to put yourself out there, you have to take risks, you have to be the one taking accountability for your own happiness, and it's scary. If you're told your time is limited, well, then you have nothing else to lose. But otherwise, you can tell yourself you have forever. Or at least 30 more years. Or 20. Or 10."

A few days later, I write this post.

* * *

Making the decision a little bit (or a lot) more difficult is that everyone's jobs are going to change, but we're not being told HOW they'll change until after we commit (because, they say, they need to know what staff they're going to have before they make those decisions). I am adamant that if I am going to move for ANY job--whether it's my current job or a new job--it needs to be a better situation for me. Am I going to get to do more, am I going to be able to grow, so on and so forth.

My current job includes writing and editing. I can do both, and I like to do both. I'm told, though, that the way things are being restructured won't allow much room for someone to do both--it's pretty much one or the other. Writing is more in line with what I want to do long-term, and (after a very good pep talk or 10 from my Semmy) I call our CEO to tell him so. He says he had no idea I felt that way, he's so glad--make that thrilled--to hear it, and we'll work out the details the next time he is in town or I am in Charlotte.

I feel like it's the best of both worlds--I stay with my job, I get some flexibility and I get to do something a little bit different, something that is a natural next step in my career. I sign the paper.

* * *

I trade emails with the CEO a few times, but we can't lock down a date for me to go to Charlotte. In the meantime, another guy is hired by the owner and CEO to oversee our particular area of the company. (My new boss. N.B.) I send N.B. an email filling him in on what I do and include some links to stories I've written. A week or so later, N.B. starts calling people to tell them what their jobs will be. He sends me an email: "I'll call you tomorrow." Tomorrow comes and goes. Another email: "Let me know how late I can call tonight." No call. Another email: "Sorry, ran out of time ... I'll call tomorrow." No call. Five more days pass, and I start to wonder if maybe they're changing their minds on what they want to do with me. Finally, he calls.

It's a long, sometimes tense, conversation. N.B. says my job will be senior editor, based in Charlotte. It's completely different from what I had talked about with the CEO. I ask why it changed. He says because he doesn't have anyone else to fill that role, and I'm versatile. I tell him I understand, but I need to look at what is best for me and for my career. He says, career? How old are you? He says he doesn't know very many people my age who care about their careers. I ask him if that means I should just call him back in 10 years. He says, well, no, but his point is that there is plenty of time for me to do what I want, and basically, I can take one for the team for a while.

I tell him I have to think about it. He's surprised to hear that. It's a great job, he says. I agree that it's a great job for someone, but maybe not me.

It's four weeks before the move. I go home and I cry.

* * *

I start having panic attacks. One night, I literally cannot breathe for four hours. I leave the house because I feel claustrophobic, and I still can't breathe. I drive to the grocery store and sit in the parking lot, and I can't stop crying long enough to get out of the car.

* * *

N.B. comes to town to meet with everyone individually. Before my meeting, I go into our local bigwig's office, shut the door and ask if I can still get severance if I decide not to go. He's very surprised, but says probably. I tell him I will let him know after my meeting.

My meeting lasts twice as long as it's scheduled to. Some of it's good, some of it's not so good, some of it's somewhere in between. I start to realize that it's less about the specifics of the job and more about how I feel ... and something about it doesn't feel right. I feel like going would be the easy thing to do, but that it also might be taking a detour I'm not sure I want to take. All of those things I talk about, those big idealistic things? I want to BE those things, not just talk about being those things. And if there's any time in my life I'm going to take a risk, any time in my life I'm going to take a chance, it's now.

* * *

Friday morning, I walk into local bigwig's office and tell him I've decided not to go. We talk for a few minutes, and then I walk out. My friend is standing there, wide-eyed. I pull him into the hallway.

"You really did it?" he asks.
"I really did it." I pause. "Oh, my gosh, I really did it."
"How do you feel?"
"I don't know," I say. "I think I'm in shock. I don't do things like this. It's the kind of thing that's good in theory, or for other people to do, or ..."

And then I take a big gulp of air, look right into his eyes and start to cry.

My last day is July 6, and then I will write and look for a job I'll love. It's the scariest-as-shit decision I've ever made, the hardest decision I've ever made, but also the first decision I've ever made that has been completely for myself.

So ... here we go.


At 3:18 AM, Blogger House of Jules said...

I am elated for you... ELATED, I SAY! This is just the start of something great for you, and you'll never look back and regret going with your gut feeling. Really, truly, totally happy for you, Swish!
House of Jules

At 3:59 AM, Blogger Barrie said...

Ya gotta follow your gut feeling. And your gut was telling you that something didn't feel right. Congrats on being brave. xo

At 7:44 AM, Blogger DeeMarie said...

I think you made a great decision!! I'm sure there is something out there that will totally be perfect for you (and still give you time to get pulled over and stalk innocent people!)

I wish you the best... can't wait to see how it all works out.

At 8:08 AM, Blogger cubmommy said...

I agree you have to go with your gut feeling. You are so brave and you will find something you love!

You have a great support system here and we are rooting for you!

At 8:53 AM, Blogger Little Ms Blogger said...

If you have the money, then follow your heart. I let others dictate my career and now I'm in my own personal mid life crisis. You'll be so far ahead of the game if you follow your heart and considering most of your waking hours are at your job, why not enjoy it?

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Ree said...

Sweetie - I'm soooo proud of you. I wish I had the nerve to do what you just did.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Trish said...

Good for you!

*high five*

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Bina said...

Holy Crap! You just wait and see, this will turn out to be very exciting for you and I can't wait to "virtually" follow along!

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Lori Ann said...

Good for you! I'm sure you will find a job you love, and if it takes a while you can always go stay in Clinton with S and her family cause they adore you!

At 12:17 PM, Blogger J... said...

Go you! Making the decision to follow your heart and do that something big that you have been wanting is a very big decision indeed and you proved that you have the "kahonies" to go through with it. It will all work out in the end and this will be what's right for you. Just you wait and see. :)

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Cecily R said...

I admire you. You have more guts than most people I know.

Find a job you are proud of and that is proud of you.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger THopgood said...

That's awesome! Good for you!

CHEERS! To new adventures!

At 3:19 PM, Blogger Dizzy Ms. Lizzy said...

After 30+ years in the same career field, I took a chance and completely changed to a different field. Scary? Oh hell yes! But I am happier than I ever imagined I could be! I finally feel as if I'm right where I was supposed to be all along.

You gotta listen to that little voice inside you, and do what FEELS RIGHT for you.

You will be fine - - and good luck with your new endeavors!

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Sometimes following your heart is the way to go, even if it does seem down right scary. Best of luck, and congrats!

At 3:43 PM, Blogger CelticBuffy said...

Oh, Congrats!!! I know how scary it is but you did it!!! Yeah!!! I'm so thrilled for you. Don't you feel like a weight has lifted now that the decision is made? Woohoo!

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Eileen said...

Yay! Full speed ahead to the next adventure. You can't embrace something new if you're holding on to something old.

At 5:22 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

I'm proud of you for listening to your gut and not going just to go. Your dream job is right around the corner. I wish you luck finding it!!

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Angela Williams Duea said...

HURRAY! Speaking as one who made the not-so-Okay detour, I feel sure you have made the right choice. Even if it's hard...and scary.

At 8:21 PM, Blogger Kristabella said...

Wow! Good for you! You know what? You'll be MORE than fine. It will work out. There are plenty of opportunities and you are talented. I'm excited for you!

At 8:33 PM, Blogger Andie said...

VERY VERY VERY Proud of you.

and I can't wait to hear what else is on the horizon in your life!

At 9:52 PM, Blogger TTQ said...

Wow. You jumped the bugee cord of life. wow. You are a rockstar.

At 11:33 PM, Blogger Mary Ann said...

N.B. sounds stupid. Can you imagine working for someone like that? I think you made a great decision. I hope you've stopped crying and started breathing again!

At 12:09 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Wow. No wonder you haven't been quite as active.

I'm so glad to know that you've done what you know is right for you. When something has you starting on panic attacks, that's probably a few red flags down the path labeled "wrong way."

Definitely scary, but it sounds like it's right. Good luck, and enjoy the interim!

At 12:46 AM, Blogger Swishy said...

You guys are SO FREAKING AWESOME!!! I seriously need all the validation I can get ... I am still a little in shock about the whole thing, like, did I really ...? I appreciate all of the nice and positive comments so much. Thank you SO much.

At 2:41 AM, Blogger JenKneeBee said...

Wow! You are so brave! Good luck!

At 9:30 AM, Blogger shopgirl said...

I'm both happy and completely jealous of you!! I think you made the right decision - go for it girl!
Best of luck and can't wait to hear all about it . . shopgirl

At 9:59 AM, Blogger flea said...

holy girl and I thought I had a lot on my mind. I got nothin on you. I can't believe you stuck to your gut and did it! (i can't say that I would've). i'm so happy and excited for you and I know u did the right thing. i just got one more thing to say...


At 10:50 AM, Blogger Patti said...

gave me chills. the risk is huge, but so is your talent. you have just set your course for new waters. you are like columbus! be nice to the natives when you get where you are going. i hear they have cool trinkets to trade...

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Beth said...

SWISHY!!!!! you DID it!!!! Girl!!! You will be fantastic at whatever you do...and you're doing it for YOU! It may be scary but you will love it...

I'm so proud of you and so excited too......congrats girl!!!

At 1:07 PM, Blogger Melek said...

wow!wow!wow! i got chills at the last sentence of your post. holy crap, Swishy. good for you!!!!

im jealous that you're getting to be a Doer :)

sorry you had to go thru such tough times to get it all worked out,but i think that's probably what you needed to do so you knew later it wasn't a mistake.

keep us posted. are you staying where you are or moving for the new job?

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Melek said...

and as far as not being sure if this was the right move then going back and reading your blog for clues... All you had to do is read your title: "Waiting for my real life to begin". I think that was your answer :)

At 1:47 PM, Blogger Trish Ryan said...

Swish, I'm so proud of you. You won't regret this. Okay, you might for a few fleeting moments when things seem uncertain, but overall, you'll be SO glad you made the brave choice. This will add some pretty cool facets to who you are. And you're already pretty great :)

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Jenster said...

Holy moly, Swish!! That's HUGE! You're that person you were saying you wish you were. The brave one!

I'm very proud of you for following your instinct and I can't wait to see what's next for you.

At 8:41 PM, Blogger michelle said...

having just gone through the whole drama of being unemployed and job searching, your post gave me a flash of post-tramatic-stress disorder ... but i have to agree that the gut feeling is the one to go with (i am a huge believer in my gut feelings ... when i ignore them, i usually regret it), and i know that there are many fabulous things waiting for you! and i can't wait to read all about them! :)

At 11:41 PM, Blogger Eileen said...

I loved how you went with your gut feeling. That inner voice knows the right thing to do. So many of us don't listen to it. I'm glad that you did, I know that this is the start of bigger and better things for you. I am happy for you, don't look back!

At 1:34 AM, Anonymous dimples said...

congrats, it is good to know you did what you think will be what turns out great for you. you are super talented and we both know that what you were doing was fun, but what you can do in the future will be more fun and something you love to do as well. anyways, i just wanted to say hi and good luck with your next job, swisher sweets!

At 3:54 AM, Blogger AlaneM said...

I am so proud of you!! You did it and made the choice - now don't look back, just dive in & go for it. I am sure doors are going to open for you all over the place.
I got all teary-eyed reading your post.
You GO girl!!

At 8:27 PM, Blogger Vanessa said...

And biggest congratulations to you for doing it for you! The exact right job will come your way, kudos to you for being brave enough to stand up and go for it.

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Monnik said...

I know it's scary, but GOOD FOR YOU! This is the perfect time to take that plunge.

Good for you!

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Sara Hantz said...

Hey, Swishy... good for you. I'm sure it will be the best thing for you. Good luck!!

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Manic Mom said...

OK, I just read the whole thing.


I am sooo completely utterly so very very very proud of my BBFF Swishy.


I know you will!

At 7:48 PM, Blogger LaskiGal said...

You knew what was best for you and you did it. Do you know how many people never do. They are frozen in indecision. And then, the life they longed for passes them by.

You are on the right road . . . how exciting!

At 7:29 PM, Blogger Tanya said...

I'm late to your post, but I admire what you're doing. You are a brave girl, who is going to do an awesome job in whatever you go for next.

At 6:17 PM, Blogger My boys are Army Brats said...

Woohoo good for you! It's scary to change and brave of you to take this giant leap into the unknown. I'm along for the ride anxious to see what happens next.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

I'm trying to catch up on all your blogs. I've been wondering what you decided to do. Congrats! I'm know things are going to work out great for you.


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