November 7, 2009

There was a time when all I wanted was my ice cream colder...

Little Cream Soda

Well every highway that I go down
Seems to be longer than the last one I knew about
Oh well

And every girl that I walk around
Seems to be more of an illusion than the last one that I found
Oh well

And this old man in front of me
Wearing canes and ruby rings
Is like containing an explosion when he sings
But with every chance to set himself on fire
He just ends up doing the same thing

Well every beautiful thing I come across
Tells me to stop moving and shake this riddle off
Oh well

And there was a time when all I wanted was my
Ice cream colder, and a little cream soda
Oh well, oh well

And a wooden box, and an alley full of rocks
was all I had to care about
Oh well, oh well, oh well

Now my mind is filled with rubber tires
and forest fires
and whether I'm a liar
and lots of other situations where I don't know
what to do at which time God screams to me
“There's nothin' left for me to tell you”

Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well

Much dukkha these days.  Another Hallow's Eve has come and gone and I feel that I barely acknowledged it.  I celebrated, to be sure, reading M.R. James all month, then heading up to Philly for some cemetery exploration and Haunted Poe with a buddy.  But I didn't feel the day the way I normally do.  Why not, you ask?  Well...  It would seem that a mid-life crisis is brewing.

I've whined incessantly about work in this blog and unfortunately it's one of the root issues of my current batch of bitching.  The recession forced a second batch of layoffs at the beginning of this year, and our marketing director was one of those to get the axe.  The president of the company took on the PR mantle and the decision was made that I would assist him in keeping track of all the myriad contracts and schedules and minutiae that goes into marketing a high-end jewelry store.  My existing responsibilities were to be delegated as necessary amongst my compatriots on the administrative staff (all two of them, and both as fed up with, yet still grateful for, their jobs as I am), but that really hasn't happened.  This has been the pattern at most of the jobs I've had--  I'm apparently viewed as being capable and conscientious.  So when there's work to be distributed, my name seems to be the only one in the hat.   

This has been both a good and a tremendously bad thing.  With business slowing down due to the economy, my duties as inventory manager slowed down along with it, leading to days filled with irresponsible intarwebs surfing.  So having to quickly get up to speed on what's involved in marketing was stimulating and activating, even if it wasn't particularly interesting. But this type of work goes against my nature.  The things I've always been good at, that were noticed by my supervisors, have been my attention to detail, thoroughness, focus, and efficiency.  I work best, and happiest, when I have a single task to focus on with minimal interruptions.  I can apparently handle having multiple, varied responsibilities, but doing so drives me crazy.  I become stressed and scatter-brained, and lose the very qualities that got me stuck with all those responsibilities in the first place.

The result is that I begin to make mistakes.  After a potential doozy the other day, the boss gave me the "I think you're doing a great job" speech and then began to gently lecture me on how I need to learn to handle the stress of dealing with shifting priorities and last minute, deadline issues.  It took all my will to not roll my eyes at him.  I believe he sincerely meant to be supportive, but he forgets that I've been in the retail business for a long time, I've understood for years all of the things he was telling me.  The sticking point is whether I want to learn these things.  I don't, for the simple fact that I don't enjoy such chaotic situations and that I don't feel they're necessary.  If I did, I would've developed the required skills a long time ago.

Even worse is that this situation is sapping my confidence.  I've felt for a while now that I'm becoming a "jack of all trades, master of none."  Being involved in so many aspects of the business has taught me a variety of things, but not with any depth.  I don't know what I'm good at anymore.  I feel that I'm at a loss to assess my skills.  If I were to try to break out of the retail industry to do something more meaningful, how would I present my abilities on a resume, how would I sell myself?

On its own, the job situation would be stressful but tolerable.  As I've said before, despite not loving the work I do, I'm grateful to have a job at which that work is appreciated, especially in an economic climate in which so many people can't find a job at all.  But that issue's been compounded by the recent realization that I'm going to be 45 in a few brief months.  After that, it's only a few brief years to 50.  That thought has scared the crap out of me.  I'm a single woman with two cats and a minuscule 401k who, on her days off from a job that she just kind of ended up with, lives for riding her bike and going to museums.  It's like I've got some form of Peter Pan syndrome-- I take care of the most basic necessities and then all thoughts turn to play-time.  And,
aside from grousing about my job, I'd gotten to a point at which I was happy with this arrangement.  But I don't think I can be anymore. 

I can remember as a teen sinking into depression, thinking that I probably wouldn't live to 35.  Coming into my 30's, having survived thoughts of driving my car into a jersey wall along the highway, I instead began joking that the day my brain got soft and my joints got stiff would be the day I'd put my head in the oven (yeah, I've always had that morbid streak).  Growing old has always been one of the few things I was consciously afraid of.  But the fear of becoming senile and stiff-jointed has been joined by another-- How will I take care of myself?  Hell, how will I take care of my parents, who're edging up on 70, before I even get to the point of taking care of me?  How will I take care of my handicapped sister who lives with my parents?  Will I need to take care of all three of them?  

I've never known what I wanted to do with my life.  There were lots of lectures in my younger years, lots of being yelled at that "You have to go to college!!"  But no one ever sat me down and said "Hey, let's figure out what you enjoy, what you want to study and make a career of."  While I was an intelligent student, I wasn't a committed one.  Always at the bottom of the smartest class, when I wasn't skipping those classes to go play.  And there was never any discussion of how to choose a school, much less how to pay for it.  The assumption must've been the same my employers have made, that I was smart enough and capable enough to figure it out and no one needed to give me guidance.

Graduation led to an ultimatum:  Go to college or get a job.  Since I'd hated high school, had no idea what I wanted to study, and no clue how to pay for it, I got a job.  And I kept on working.  There have been a few times when I tried to stop and change course, but each time ended up derailed.  Even at those moments, though, thoughts of the future were vague at best, it was more a situation of "What do I want to be doing now?"

So here I am, at the mid-point of life and feeling my heart race at the thought of giving up playtime and buckling down to figure this shit out.  That thought makes me so tired.  I'm tired of doing it on my own.  I want help, but that's a problem in itself.  Back when help was free and available, I didn't know enough to reach out for it.  Now that I want it, it's still available but I'll have to pay for it.  But, thanks yet again to our current recession, paying for anything is becoming sketchy these days, as I didn't get a raise this year and things aren't looking good for one in 2010.  Which brings me full circle back to being dissatisfied with my job and feeling that I should be doing something else, but not having any clue of what.

Do I really have to grow up? 

Two songs have been bouncing around in my head in conjunction with this mood, so y'all get a two-fer:

 Disappearing Act

Come on now, the curtain is drawn
And tomorrow stands before you.
Dressed and draped in a coal black cape
Like a crow, he ignores you.
Look again, there's a beautiful girl
Covers sin in a Holy Land shroud.
It's the great disappearing act
Done once again for the marveled crowd.
As we're chasing our tails,
And biting our nails,
So strong and frail.

And we build and tear down,
Build and tear down,
Build and tear down...
With barely the time to say
How did it get so late?
I'll never know

Step outside now, the door's open wide
And the minons are eager to find him.
Put a million miles under your heels
And you're still behind him.
Cover your clocks with your chains and your locks
While the seasons get hotter and colder.
Stretch your faces and lie about your ages
And still we're gonna get older.
As we're chasing our tails,
And biting our nails,
So strong and frail

And we build and tear down,
Build and tear down,
Build and tear down,
We've run out of time to say
How did it get so late?
I'll never know
I'll never know

Hang on 'til your fingers bleed
And your hands unwind...
He will escape you every time,
From under your pillows,
Through open windows and out on the rails...

And we build and tear down,
Build and tear down,
Build and tear down,
With barely the time to say
How did it get so late?
I'll never know
I'll never know
I'll never know

Seriously, if anyone out there has any ideas to help me, let me know.  If not, then please excuse this moment of weakness and just enjoy the music.


Stargazerleo said...

Here are my thoughts, for what it's worth. I don't think there's any thing wrong with doing what you want to be doing now and "playing" on the side. After all, the future is uncertain and all we really have is the here and now. I've come to terms with the fact that I want to do with my life changes with the wind. On the other hand, I completely understand your concerns. I've got less than 5 years before my life completely opens up and that scares the hell out of me! I can only say not to put the here and now on hold for the unknown. Talk to your family, make the changes you want to make, the key is to keep having fun and to play along the way, otherwise it ain't worth it. Maybe take a class on how to put together a resume? I bet you can be real creative and present yourself in a valuable light. Not much in the way of advice, but you know I'll help any way I can :)

KaliDurga said...

I actually have been thinking of taking a class. Reading both Chrys' blogs about school and that Temple Grandin book I picked up Halloween weekend got me thinking that maybe I need some mental challenges that would be more interesting and fun than those I get from work.

And I've told my parents a couple of times now that I want to go over their finances with them, so they need to get their shit together. Hopefully they finally will.

And thanks :D

human being said...

And we build and tear down,
Build and tear down,
Build and tear down,
With barely the time to say
How did it get so late?

ahhh... so beautiful... this reminded me of a line by an Iranian poet:

at times
it gets late
so soon...

KaliDurga said...

Always so perceptive, hb. That's exactly the feeling. Who is the poet who wrote that line?

human being said...

Gheissar Aminpour

thanks my dear friend...

KaliDurga said...

How interesting. A quick google search brought up videos of him reading his poetry, but nothing that I could read for myself. I'll have to research more.

ArtSparker said...

What a beautifully written and well-articulated post about your dilemna. It sounds as if you probably have skills to draw on, and a class - as mentioned in the first comment- can be a way to new skills, as well as to making contacts with people in a new - or tangential- field. The situation you find yourself in - I think this probably true of more people than not - as relates to retirement. A cliche, I know. I do sense possibility in your confusion.

KaliDurga said...

Thank you for the encouragement, ArtSparker. You're right about the retirement situation, of course-- I keep trying to remind myself that there are people out there who lost every penny of their savings in the recent financial debacles.

The problem continues to be that I'm tired and have just gotten off-track, which leads to these moments of self-pity. If I can get my head together, the rest will likely follow. Thank you again.

The Crow said...

KD: I work for a historical society that owns two houses, both of historical importance to the city. We are always looking for volunteers to act as docents, to serve on committees. You mentioned that you live to bike and to visit museums. Perhaps if you volunteered at some museums you are drawn to, it would give you a chance to see if you could enjoy that venue. Or, how about starting your own bike tours company, that leads groups on outings to museums and other great spots?

I don't think you are feeling sorry for yourself in the least. You sound not only intelligent, but creative as well. Perhaps something that will let you take on new challenges as often as you want, in directions that appeal to you will be the answer.

Contact career counselors at local high schools or colleges and go through their varried tests, unless you've already done that.

It is easier to reinvent yourself at almost-45 than it is at 62+, like I am doing right now.

Let us know how you are doing with this search...there are others of us who might benefit from what you're learning.


KaliDurga said...

Thanks very much, Martha. I like the docent idea.

Part of the problem, really, is my inherent laziness. The idea of putting effort into figuring everything out and taking action on it is just so damned daunting. The whiny aspect to all of this is that I want someone else to do it for me, or give me an easy solution. Any progress I make will likely be slow, so don't count on any insightful updates any time soon ;)