Facing my second worst fear

A really scary thing happened

Not my worst fear, but close — my second worst fear. My real self was briefly on display to the public. In particular, a very important audience of one: my boss.

Because yesterday he sat me down for an unexpected meeting.

And he asked me quite directly, Do you think you’re motivated to do your job?

And I couldn’t say no, but I couldn’t say yes, either.

I didn’t break down and cry. I tried to stay present and be honest and invite him to say all the things he wanted to say. I tried to be curious rather than panicky. Even though I didn’t want to hear it and would have preferred to run far, far away, I frequently said tell me more during the rest of our conversation. This is helpful, I said; because it was, but also because I wanted to convince myself.

Anyway, now that the Scary Conversation is over, I just don’t know what to do.

I mean, I know what I’m supposed to be doing: more work. Better work. Harder, more involved work.

But there’s this other part of what I’m supposed to be doing: getting over it. Getting over this crisis or instability or unhappiness or whatever it is. Figuring it out and so I can move on and succeed, or else decide that it’s time to leave.

And the idea of making this decision is freaking me right the fuck out.

Maybe it’s because I really, really want to leave. Not just to run away from this scary thing, but because it would also be a lot of fun to stop commuting in and out of Bolivia, renounce my dual citizenship once and for all. Yay! Funtimes! Except: money is in the way of that dream.

And the ridiculous thing is that “should I stay?” question is the exact same one I came to, on my own, before the big Scary Conversation. And yet, it’s still scary.

And that’s because it’s so hard to figure out what the hell to do in the meantime. Do I look for another job? Do I just buckle down and make this one work?

But those aren’t even the scary questions.

Because I’m not even sure who I am, or what I want.

What do I want my life to contain?

I don’t know if it’s the din of all the shouting monsters, but when I ask myself what I want, I can’t even get a fix on the answer.

I’ve had one trusted advisor recommend therapy, or a life coach, or both. I’ve been journaling my heart out (but not too much, because that steals from “real” productivity) and getting things done, sure, but it feels like I’m in stasis. Like I can neither move forward nor dwell enough to have a full-on breakdown. (And besides, didn’t I do that already, last Tuesday?)

There’s just…so much stuff tangled up in this. It’s been such a big, weird, odd, changing year:

So in one sense, perhaps a crisis is the only thing that makes sense?

But who the hell has time for an identity crisis?

Not me!

Panic says: You have no choice but to stay in your job and fix it. To use this fear and adrenaline to your advantage. To work so hard all doubt is erased (for them and for you) regarding your fitness for this position, your commitment, your passion and your ability. To stuff every doubt away, to bury it so deep you don’t need to think about it any more and all you’ll do is work work work work work.

Tired says: It takes so much energy to do this. Why? Isn’t this a sign that we’re doing the wrong thing? That we shouldn’t be doing this job at all? Or that we’re not good enough in general?

Panic says: We don’t have time to take care of the self. We have to take care of the job, or else it will go away and then we won’t be able to take care of the family! We don’t have time for your ridiculous Shiva Nata shenanigans and all that journaling! That is what got you into trouble in the first place!

Curiosity says: This is connected to so much stuff. That list up there is huge! Monumental! Necessarily life-changing! So maybe it’s time to ask for help and find new perspectives, open up space to deal with this instead of running in circles trying to please other people. How can we know what is true and what is false if we can’t even find enough peace to answer simple questions?

I think I get it.

Help is needed. Now I just have to…do it.


About jesse k.

Writer. Mama. Spy in the house of self-awareness. Occasional crafter, letterpress geek, and academic snob.
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7 Responses to Facing my second worst fear

  1. sarra says:

    Oh love. Oh love.

    There is one thing I can say. I have had big, big, self-crumbling wurgles in the past when I’ve tried to ask myself that big question ‘what do I want?’. (I don’t even bother with ‘who am I?’!) And it unstuck (in the bad way) and destabilised and crumbled foundations and was horrible.

    I’m not sure if this is the whole story, but I stopped asking, and it stopped mattering. I did some things without thinking too hard about why, and ended up in a better place where there was more stuff behind me to show me what I wanted. Now I’ve made some massive steps toward it, this very week.

    It could be very different because I was making steps up out of nothingness, while you’re having to make sideways steps and renounce-y steps (all I had to renounce was safety, comfort, familiarity, and the depression of stasis). Is there any option, though, to have all this settle for a little while? To create time as well as space. And if not – are you thinking about Bolivia as a bounded space and work as the familiar open? Could you reverse those two? Work is confining you, that’s why you feel the rotten pressure; Bolivia could be, if you put particular specs on, a open-ended, ever-expanding world of possibility, just perhaps…


  2. jesse k. says:

    “Self-crumbling wurgles” is my new favorite phrase! So awesome.

    Wise words as always…sometimes the big questions are not-answerable, even when they seem so pressing and important. Even if it *seems* like I need to answer it in order to move forward, there are probably (as you say) a lot more sideways steps to take before I get there. Thank you for this good reminder!

    I think part of me also wants there to be a big, shining, clear answer hiding behind that big question. Like if only I could say, “law school!” or “start a business doing _____” or whatever, it would be so much easier than saying “um, figure things out over time and gradually achieve a better relationship with your work,” you know?

    I think I’m dealing not so much with whether the whole Bolivia/commuting thing is about limits as about how our household finances simply don’t work if I don’t, um, work. It would require my spouse finding a more remunerative job — not out of the realm of possibility, but things do move slowly in this economy and he likes his current job a lot — so in the meantime I guess my only choices are 1) deal with where I am, or 2) search for a new one. And it would be pretty sad if I tried to go job-hunting but was completely unable to “sell” myself. I mean, I need to like myself before I can get another organization to like me.

    Anyway, that’s the rather long and boring background 🙂

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