Do Your Own Thing!

The other day I calculated that it will take me only one year to finish school. That is no time. Already I’m thinking of the new car I’ll buy and maybe the place of my own I’ll rent at first, and then one day I will buy my own place. Nothing fancy, maybe just another Honda Civic 2-door coupe, because I’ll have so much debt I will need to live fairly simply, which is fine. I’ll probably stay in my current living situation for a while to save money. But it will be so nice to get mani pedis again, and maybe a personal trainer, and regular massages. Those are all luxuries I afforded with my old job in marketing, which seems like a hundred years ago to me now. Everything seems like a hundred years ago to me now, except what’s happening in my life today. Did my mom really die less than a year ago? Did Steven break my heart only five months ago?

At my current job I’m training to be a “manager on duty” which means I will act as store manager on one or two days of the week. The managers  and the owners at work have always liked me, which is a good feeling. I love being teacher’s pet. Especially because they are good people, and I’m so comfortable there. Maybe I could be a nutritionist there. They have a nutritionist who gives free consults in the other store once a week—it’s her way of getting new clients, I think. She has her own practice in a town outside in the country, closer to Baltimore, while I’m closer to DC.

The comfortable feeling I have at my current job is so different from when I worked at a marketing agency. The last company I worked for was owned by a really good guy (and quite good-looking), and my manager was also a great guy (also a hottie, not that there’s neither here nor there… and both were British so they had those sexy British accents… just saying), but most of the people in the office were recent college grads, who were hard for me to be around. Though I looked near their age, and they thought as much, I’d already been divorced once, had gotten sober, and was going through my second divorce, and had no interest in marketing, no interest in becoming a manager there, no interest in spending my free time on marketing, or working late. They were interested in moving up, making more money, and they actually liked commercials. I never knew anyone actually watched those, on purpose, not even the Super Bowl commercials, because I hated football (still do), and could not understand why the general public liked the things they do, like pop music, for example. Though I get it now. It’s catchy, fun, and happy, and some of those commercials are pretty funny. But I’ve just never been that interested in selling stuff to people, until now, and it’s only because I believe in where I work, I believe in the products, and I don’t try to sell people something they don’t want or need, nor would I want someone to risk their health just to buy an expensive vitamin they think will help them lose weight. At the time though, it was hard to be around so many college graduates willing to work harder for much less than I, who operated under the work hard play hard basis, which was what I used to do, especially the play hard part. I just wanted to collect a paycheck after doing a good job for no more than 40 hours a week. I’d be lying if I said I wanted to work more now, and quite honestly I think we should all work no more than 32 hours a week. Or do something you love so much it doesn’t feel like work. I am hoping that’s how it will be for me. Though right now it would behoove me to be doing homework instead of writing this blog. Too bad no one’s paying me to just write what’s in my head all the time. But that’s another topic for another blog post on another day. In short, I wouldn’t want this to become work.

I remember once I had to work with a young woman who was the account manager for the ads I wrote and managed and finding out that her mom was only a few years older than me. This particular young woman I think of often because of the way my career there ended, and I must say it’s because I get this feeling that she had some part in my demise, though obviously it was ultimately my responsibility, my attitude, that got me there. I’ll call her Kennedy because that’s a good millennial name. Kennedy seemed to hold both respect and awe for me, particularly for the fact that I was willing to leave a high-paying job to explore what I wanted to do with my life. At the same time, she was very driven, ambitious, and quite bossy. For someone who was almost 40 to be bossed around by a girl young enough to be my daughter in an environment where I already felt uncomfortable and out of place, and that being my first experience like that, ie, the knowledge of getting older, and having such experiences like that, such as having a doctor who looked like he just got out of high school (though to be fair, I look younger)—well, it’s a weird experience.

At work I have a similar situation with a friend I’ll call Barbara, except that now I’m in Kennedy’s shoes, and Barbara’s at the near-end of her career stage. Barbara feels that the company is full of politics, all they want to hire are young people they don’t have to pay much, and the young are willing to work harder for less, and Barbara needs a job she can stay in for the next five or 10 years, a good place to retire. She’s been working for 40 years or so, and she’s tired. She takes care of her autistic grandson in her “free” time, lives with her dysfunctional daughter and the daughter’s moocher boyfriend. Barbara has a hard job of being buyer for my department, and some young woman has stepped in as her not-boss-but-boss, ie, and unofficial boss—so technically that’s the one who’s in Kennedy’s shoes. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s hard getting older in the workplace. Barbara doesn’t make enough money to live on her own, and her grandson is the light of her life, but she deserves her own life.

That’s why I am studying nutrition. So that I can do something that I presumably will enjoy in my later years. It’s a big leap, borrowing all this student loan money for something I’m not sure I’ll like, because you never know what something’s truly like until you’re in it.

For the longest time I had this (subconscious?) idea in the back of my head that I’d most likely meet some man who’d help me, maybe who’d even support me while I was in school. Maybe I could work part time at my job so I’d have more time to study and do what I wanted. When Steven left me, I felt like I had nothing, no one. Mom had already died, so who was going to take care of me now?

Guess how empowering it is to realize that is not how it has to be? You can’t really know until you go through it. But I can tell you this: I’m doing this all on my own, and I feel pretty friggin fantastic. Not only that, but I’ve been doing this on my own. I borrowed money for my undergraduate and master’s in creative writing, I pay my own bills, I pay my own rent, I paid for my car, I pay for my student loans, I make my own money, and I have been doing this since I graduated high school. Never once have I done anything illegal, immoral, or degrading for it. I almost became a stripper once, but after this geriatric dude waved at me while I was “auditioning” for the other strippers in the back room, I realized, That old man is waving at ME. I was 21 years old at the time, and I thought, How lonely must his life be to be in a strip club in the middle of a weekday, waving at a girl young enough to be his granddaughter. And how I’d have to flirt with men like that who were potentially child molesters or just very sick, lonely, broken, depressed, lost souls. And I don’t mean to judge anyone out there who is a stripper. You do what you think you have to do, and more power to you, sister. If I could’ve done it, I absolutely would have, and maybe I wouldn’t have so much student loan debt. But that would mean emotional bankruptcy for me, and I was already there at the time. No need to add to it.

Here’s what I want to say to all the young women out there reading this: follow your heart, do your own thing, take care of yourself, do not rely on someone else to come rescue you. Think about what you want your life to look like, and if you’re dating someone right now who you know in your heart is not who you want, please find the courage to leave. It can be so hard on your own sometimes but it is possible and it is worth it. Nothing in my life has ever been more empowering. And you will find the right one, eventually. I believe it for myself, and I believe that there’s someone out there for everyone. Be who you want to attract. That’s what I learned. I wanted so badly for my ex-husband to make more of his life, get a more meaningful (yet hopefully better paying) career. Those were things I really wanted to do for myself. It’s not my job to fix someone else to be who I want them to be. Instead I can focus on my own dreams.

I need to get ready for work now, so I’ll leave you with this favorite of mine, on my list of empowering songs I compiled on a playlist a few months ago:

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