[cue the Chicago song, “Beginnings”]
It’s hard to know how to say what’s on my mind, how to package it, where to begin and which frame to offer as a means of giving shape and boundaries. Yoga offers the structure of the yamas and niyamas as a starting point: tell the truth, show up, burn with passion, be content, wash your hands, pay attention, and lay it all at the feet of God. I volunteered to be laid off and my offer has been accepted by the administration. While I guess last minute changes are possible, at this point it does not feel premature to “come out:” as of January 1, 2012, I will voluntarily join the ranks of the unemployed. Given the state of the job market and the coming Catskill winter, add the specific issues my profession faces, factor in the fact that I am not independently wealthy and have 2 kids’ college educations for which I am responsible… and you cannot help but come up with the incontrovertible conclusion that I have finally, completely, lost my mind.
I don’t hate my job. In fact, I have been truly blessed to have this job in particular, and more generally to have held one job or another in my chosen profession for the past 16 years. When I am laid off from this job, it will make the fourth time that a position has been eliminated due to budget cuts while I’m in it. Yeah, I sucked at musical chairs as a kid. I’ve had this job since 2007 and while it has been increasingly challenging, in some ways I still love my job and my work. This is one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” break-ups.
There is something in the air. For me, I think it started in the summer of 2008 when gas prices rose very sharply. I said it then: “We’re living in end times.” Not sure of what’s ending and what’s beginning, I started to feel an imperative to “be the change” I wanted to see in the world. It sounds as new-agey and cornball as it gets, but the more that I have been doing what conforms to that imperative and jettisoning that which does not, the better I feel. Not like emotional “feel good” self satisfaction, but like muscles and bones and organs. My stomach hurts less when I spend a weekend working with other volunteers on a free daycare for flood victims. My stomach hurts less when I raise money for farmers by hiking in a ballgown. I have more energy and feel physically stronger and younger than I have in decades. I feel a trust in my own abilities that I haven’t ever really had before. It’s partly physical: I know what I can handle because I’ve handled quite a bit. The residue of confidence from hiking the 35 alone is still very much with me.
So I’m being the change. As of the first of the year, it will be pocket change. I’ve lived fully committed to the belief that I had to have a regular paycheck, with regular benefits in order to survive. I always said that being self-employed would be too stressful for me. Too risky. Gradually, over the past year or so, the stresses and the sense of risk at my ubersafe agency job has increased to the tipping point: I now believe that trading the stress of the job for the stress of no job is a reasonable trade.
Of course I plan to work, but not necessarily in my field. I will be piecing together a patchwork of gigs, teaching yoga, freelance writing, and whatever else makes sense (cleaning houses, walking dogs, but not babysitting. I am not good with children.). I might get more deeply involved with search and rescue work, either with or without my dogs. I might foster more dogs. I might do more to help at our CSA, or become more involved with our beekeeping, beer brewing, or bread baking efforts. I might start roasting our own coffee. I’ll probably paint our kitchen.
I am scared. The anxiety hits at bedtime, and I am damn near paralyzed with doubts and fears about the future. Sometimes the view of the next peak can really psych me out. Standing on Cornell looking over at Slide, or on Sugarloaf looking across Pecoy Notch at Twin, the view is daunting. The col is staggeringly deep and the next peak rises sharply with exposed cliffs and seemingly miles of “up” to go. After already climbing one mountain to get this view, it feels downright demoralizing to see what lies ahead. All the work I’ve done to get here is nothing compared with what lies ahead of me. I can stay with that thought and freak out, or I can enjoy the effort, using the alchemy of spin to transform intimidation into exhilaration. Either way it is happening. I am climbing that next mountain.