Golden Handcuffs

Colorado

So I went to Colorado to be with family and fresh air, and it was wonderful. Maybe a little too wonderful, because as lovely as it is here in Raleigh, I’m having a hard time settling back down to this ordinary life that I honestly resent living sometimes. That isn’t a complaint, just the simple truth. Life is about compromises, and that pretty much always means we’re left wondering about our choices.

Every big decision I’ve made has been fairly well thought-out, and yet when I look at the path I walked to get here, it sure seems random and strange. Like everyone, I enjoy the What If game, even though time has tempered the urgency of it all. I understand on some basic level now that things are the way they are and that’s more than okay. I love life and find many things to enjoy every day.

But on a less basic level, I sense that my life is passing me by while I spend most of my waking time sitting at a computer writing about things I don’t care very much about. No, not this blog, that’s different! This is about work.

We all need some kind of work. I’ve done a bit of everything from fast food to corporate fancy. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, a home-schooler, an advocate. Some jobs were incredibly fulfilling, some soul-sucking. And honestly, the best ever was while I was recovering from a severe bout of depression and my first marriage was falling apart, which is pretty hard to explain even to myself. But I here’s why.

It’s because I was writing. I was still home with the kids, who were in school. I wrote every day as soon as they were on the bus, and watched as most of a novel stretched into life. I had an active writing partner who kept me going and tossed ideas my way. I wrote and we reviewed, and then played games until the kids got home. I drank coffee out of giant vessels and refilled frequently. I laughed every day. It’s kind of crazy to me now that I was even able to pull that off for a little while. Yes, my house was messy. But hey it still is anyway, and no new novels so far.

In this new(er) life, I get up early, but as late as I can manage, and get ready for work while my wonderful husband makes me coffee (coffee is my soul-mate). I go to work and think about what I’m paid to think about, and try to squeak out the rest of my thoughts the best I can around that. Often I feel stifled, rushed, panicked, and always insufficient. I’m basically suffocating myself creatively so that my family can have food, clothing, shelter, and most of all, health insurance. I don’t come cheap in that regard; doctors find me fascinating. Health insurance is mandatory.

Years ago when my career was just beginning and I had no children yet, the direct employees where I worked referred to the Golden Handcuffs. This meant a job they didn’t love with benefits they simply couldn’t live without, a captivated style of working. I remember thinking that those problems seemed a million years off, but I suppose I was off by most of a million. And here I am handcuffed to my desk by ideas that weren’t my own.

And so now, back home and noticing my patterns, I’m faced with trying to either find peace with this arrangement or change it. I’m not a tree, and I don’t have to bloom where I’m planted. Eight years ago I started life over with almost nothing. I traded my slow and lovely writing days for the career I’d left behind. I’d left it happily really, thrown out my watch and my badge and walked on out. Walking back in was hard as hell, in spite of the amazing luck of a fast hire into a great team. That was two companies ago, and I work for an amazing company, with amazing benefits, and a great team yet again. It’s all amazing. So many people I know want to be where I am.

Now, how do I convince myself that I do as well?

4 Comments

  1. JG Lucas

    Honestly Liesl, I could have written this. Not as well, mind you. I know a lot of people would be thrilled to have my job, to write for a living and get paid a reasonable salary for it. I get to telecommute a couple of days a week, and the work is interesting. I have great coworkers (terrible insurance, but you can’t have it all). And every day I feel like I’m suffocating. My body is starting to react to my relatively good job the way it used to to the horrible hellish jobs I’ve had in the past, with dread and despair. What do we do?

    Reply
    1. it's nothing, really... (Post author)

      Well, my long term plan was to buy an island. That’s looking a little *too* long term though. I’m open to ideas!

      Reply
  2. Wendy

    I could have written parts of this, Liesl. Maybe I will try to write the other parts that you didn’t. :)

    Reply
    1. it's nothing, really... (Post author)

      Do you happen to have an island, Wendy?? :)

      Reply

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