I’ve had this quote by musician Aimee Mann posted on my cork board for over a year. It was torn from a page out of O Magazine last summer and served as my mantra during the past months when my anxiety levels rose above sea level.
“If it’s not happening right now, it’s not happening.”
(Remember this as my story will circle back around.)
Last Friday, I quit my job. Quit. Quit. Quit. It was the second time I quit. In March of 2011, I had kinda quit. Kinda meaning that I asked to transition from a full-time role into a contract position. I would keep doing everything I was doing, but on my own time and my own hours.
The plan was to figure out what was next. In the beginning, I wanted to find more clients and phase myself out of my existing role with a boss whose management style centered on being overly critically and habitually unresponsive. But, by the middle, I had eased into the cake schedule and discovered we could more than survive on my less-lucrative billable hours.
After taking on a few outside projects, I agreed to work exclusively for my former employer in my new contract role. So what if my career satisfaction had sunk to an all-time low? I was still getting a paycheck.
“If it’s not happening right now, it’s not happening,” I would say aloud in the car on my way into an office so suffocating that I often had to remind myself to breath.
Meanwhile, I grew more anxious. What was I doing with my life? My career? My writing?
Another goal had been to spend more time creating a writing life that paid-paid. (Paid things like mortgage instead of a sushi lunch every now and again.) But a few short months after I “kinda” quit my job, I 100 percent quit my only serious writing gig–a weekly, nationally syndicated column.
My anxiety over my career was fighting for mental space with my anxiety over everything else in my life.
I had pissed off members of my family after writing about what it was like in my house growing up. People I loved called me selfish and insensitive. I was being asked to stop writing about my history. I was getting emails telling me I had remembered things incorrectly. (“If it’s not happening right now…”)
It was too much and I buckled. I deleted a blog I had been writing for years. I changed my writing name, doing my best to delete what I could of my former writing self.
“I need a new beginning,” I thought.
But all I created a was more of an end.
My writing slowly, quietly drifted off. As my creative output sunk lower and lower, my emotionally-paralyzing anxiety clawed its way to the top of some of my highest interior walls.
Until last week.
Last week I accepted a full-time role at a new company. The excitement I feel around this new position is beyond measurable. It’s as if the world has split wide open and instead of falling into a crack, I am being buoyed by the sunshine shooting out in every direction from beneath my feet.
My giddiness is out of control. When I told my current employer that I was leaving, I literally had to leave the office—I didn’t want my big cheesy grin to cause any hurt feelings. “I quit, I quit, I motherfucking quit,” is all I could sing in my head as a skipped from my office out the door.
To celebrate my new job, my husband and I went out last Sunday night. We had tickets to see Louden Wainwright III at a free concert hosted by the Louisville Free Public Library.
He was so good I could have listened to him the whole evening through. He sang and told stories and read columns his father had written for Life Magazine years before. And like I always do at concerts, I wept and laughed and squeezed my husband’s hand.
After the concert, we made our way to my favorite restaurant, a tiny, $28-an-entree kind of place with perfect lighting and fried oysters so delicious they make me shiver.
Upon ordering our oysters, in walked Mr. Wainwright with the library’s director who were seated at a table not too far from us. To say thanks for the free concert (and, I’m not going to lie, a shot at meeting the extraordinary singer/songwriter), we asked our waitress to put their first round of drinks on our tab.
The plot worked. Louden and the Director stopped by our table to say thanks and we returned the gratitude. My heart skipped a beat when I got to shake his hand.
It turns out, Louden Wainwright is in Louisville making a movie along with a few other well known musicians and actors. That night, in that tiny restaurant in Louisville, with Louden at one table, and my husband and I celebrating my escape to a new life at another, there was a table of four seated in the far corner of the room.
Directly diagonal from me, at that table, sat a woman with blonde hair and black framed glasses.
When she got up to leave, she stopped by Louden’s table and I heard him introduce her to the library director, “This is Aimee, she’s working on that movie I’m doing.”