I’m less than 20 days away from my next trip to Portugal, and two work weeks away from being unemployed for the first time in 12 years. Since I made the decision to leave my job to “to try a life of freelancing and international travel” — as my editor in chief characterized it in the monthly company notes when she announced my departure — I’ve managed not to have any major emotional meltdowns and have for the most part kept my big-girl pants buttoned up tightly.
My state of mind has started to unravel in recent days, however, and today was Meltdown Central. I decided to take my ire out on someone in my personal life rather than face the emotional complexity of what’s really going on: I’m bloody terrified of what comes next.
If I am to be honest about it, the freak-out started in my former home city of San Francisco, where I spent five days last week visiting friends — including meeting one couple’s new baby and celebrating the impending birth of another’s at a baby shower.
Many of my people there all seem to be in various states of transition, so there was a restless and uncertain energy that permeated the trip. Aside from the baby couples, two friends are unemployed, neither really voluntarily (one chose to leave her job rather than accept an unattractive position, the other was, to put it succinctly, sacked), and another just broke up with a girlfriend and is grieving the loss of two grandparents.
Changes abound for people there, and as I reflected upon my own forthcoming transition — and worried that rather than spending my time and money on holiday, I should be figuring out what I was going to do with the rest of my life — the anxiety that ruins my normally amiable personality began to set in.
It was my grieving friend — one of several I have in my life right now — who noted that I wasn’t really in a happy place, and though I took umbrage to that comment at the time, I guess there is some truth to it. Because what human, really, is happy in uncertainty?
Well, perhaps some folks are, some folks who are happy to live as completely in the moment as possible and not worry about what’s gone before or what comes next. I’ve never been so good at that, although the older and more deeply I get into a Buddhist practice I have done far better at staying present rather than engaging in self-recrimination about the past and worrying about what the future holds.
But there are some very real worries in my present right now that are killing the buzz and excitement I would like to have about my impending transition, and are making me quite uneasy about whether I’ve made the right decision.
One is that not one is interested in subletting my apartment, which is a pretty integral part of The Grand Plan to take off for two months, travel to Portugal, Morocco and other parts unknown, surf, write creatively and meditate on what my next act of gainful employment will be. I can’t really pay for my little house in Portugal and my apartment in Brooklyn at the same time (with no job or means of income, no less), so if someone doesn’t commit to renting my place, and soon, I may find myself in quite a serious predicament indeed.
Another is that the U.S. stock markets have been going down, putting a slight dent in the very 401k fund I plan to use to fund much of this adventure, while the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar versus the euro is pretty bloody appalling: it takes about $1.50 to buy a euro these days, which is even worse than it was when I was there in April, when it was an expensive-enough $1.30 to a euro.
On top of all of this, the two weeks I have left of work are likely going to be the busiest I’ve had all year — with events to cover and feature stories to write — and my social life is proving a bit hectic as well, with friends wanting to cram in time to see me before I’m off. (I certainly can’t complain about the latter, but the social butterfly in me is far more tempted to hang out with people than to complete the work I have to do for a job I have mentally and emotionally checked out of, and I’m worrying about that as well!)
Things being what they are, I am trying to stay positive and visualize a good outcome to all of this, but I’m not surprised right now that it all seems a bit emotionally daunting.
To calm my frayed nerves, I’m thinking of a quote by her favorite author Henry Miller that my roommate sent me recently: “I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.”
I’m a little better off than Henry was at the moment, but if things don’t start falling into place soon, that advantage won’t last for very long. And I am fairly certain “happy” will be nowhere close to describing how I’ll feel if I don’t get a few things sorted out soon.