Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Running Away

I am running away from my problems. Literally. It has been almost three months since I took this new job at the Company. And I have driven to Indiana every single week, except for one week where we had 10 inches of snow. But it is more than the commute that is wearing me down. The amount of work to be done is absolutely insane. I am at the core of this project and everyone is relying on me for all the answers.

In addition to my customer, there are five subcontractors on the project. And I am the lead contact for all of them. Plus I have to work on interviewing and hiring new staff and I need to give direction to our project manager and the rest of the team back in Michigan. I probably receive about a hundred e-mails a day. After working all day at the State offices, I go back to the hotel and work all night just to keep up.

When I am home on the weekends, I barely have time to see the Boy, visit my family and get a few things in order at home. Then it's back to work so I can handle the next crisis. I find it amazing that the Company has absolutely no respect for my personal life. Everyone knows that I am driving down here each week and that we do not have enough resources to get the job done. But no one ever asks how I am doing or if I need any help. They just leave me down here to fend for myself.

Yesterday my new boss, who lives in Georgia, was visiting our office in Michigan so I delayed my trip to Indiana so I could meet with her. As soon as I walked in the door and she asked me how I was doing, I told her that I am miserable. Actually, most of the conversation is kind of a blur, but I distinctly remember saying this: "Every day I wake up and wonder how I can make it through one more day. I miss my house. I miss my boyfriend. I miss my family. This job has ruined my life."

Yes, that is what I said to my boss in the first face to face meeting we have had in almost two months. I think I also mentioned something about how I haven't been able to go to the gym and my health is suffering. Which is code for I have gained five pounds and I am really pissed off about it. Then I worked for another few hours and left the office at 4:00 to embark on my five hour weekly commute to Indianapolis.

As I drove the familiar route along the highway, I contemplated the conversation with my boss. As much as I should feel regret about what I said, I really didn't. In fact, it was a relief to be honest about my situation. For me honesty is the great absolver. It is a way to purge all of the evils by acknowledging them and publicly stating my disdain for the corporate way of life.

I decided to call the one person who might understand my situation. My Mr. Big. Even though he is different now, there is a sense of comfort I get from talking to him that no other person can provide. He knows all of my history - or at least the parts he can remember. But more importantly when I talk to him it helps me remember who I was and what my life used to be like. When I was with him, I felt like I could do anything. I was the most confident and happy version of myself. And even when I was stressed out, he knew just what to say to make me feel strong again.

He picked up the phone right away and I could tell that he was already in bed - at 7:30 PM. But he perked up long enough to carry on a conversation. I told him all about my job and driving to Indiana and how I was feeling completely lost.

"You used to know me better than anyone on this planet," I said to him. "You always knew what to say or what I should do. So tell me what you think." I waited anxiously to hear whatever pearls of wisdom he might have left.

"You always hate your job after about two years," he said. At first I started to laugh. Then I started to cry. "I just don't think I can do this anymore," I sobbed.

"Look," he continued. "I don't want you to be unhappy. If you don't like it there anymore, then quit." If only it were that simple. We talked for a few more minutes and then I let him go back to sleep.

When considering the laundry list of things that are bothering me about my current situation, I decided to focus on the one thing that I can control. Every week when I leave for Indiana, I pack my work out clothes and my running shoes. And every week they sit in the bottom of my suitcase while I work at the computer for 15 hours straight. This week, I promised myself things would be different. This week I would run.

It was a beautiful day here in Indiana. For the first time it felt like spring might be on its way. I had an interview with a potential project manager at 4:30, so I left the State offices at 4:00 and headed over to meet him. He was nice enough, but I knew within the first fifteen minutes that I wasn't going to hire him. Every time I tried to wrap up the meeting, this guy just kept on talking. Finally by 5:30 I scurried out of the building and walked briskly back to my hotel as the sun started to sink in the sky.

I changed into my work out clothes and snacked on a banana for a burst of energy. Then I headed out the front door of the hotel and into the real world. All I had with me was my hotel key and my I-Pod. No longer tethered to my computer or blackberry, I had this immediate sense of inner peace. I crossed the street and discovered a park with walking paths and bridges that go back and forth across a large man-made canal.

There were tons of people walking and riding their bikes, but I felt like the only person out there. Connected with humanity, yet completely in my own realm. I walked at first and then I started to run. The sun was shining on my face and eventually I took off my sweatshirt and felt the cool breeze on my skin. I kept following the path and expecting the canal to end at some point, but at every turn it continued to unfold before me.

The path was filled with signs of new life. The daffodils were already starting to bloom and there were ducks swimming in the canal and sitting on the rocks basking in the sunshine. I wanted to keep going forever, but eventually I stopped and turned around to make my way back to the hotel. I logged into my computer to answer a few e-mails but then gave up and started to write this blog instead.

In the midst of all the chaos, I carved out a little time for myself today. I should be happy that I was able to take a break. And now I need to accept that the break is over and it is time to get back to work. But somehow, it just makes me want more time. And it makes me resentful of this job and all of the burdens that come along with it.

I don't want to "steal" time away just to live my life. I should be able to go for a run or go to the grocery store any night of the week. So I have started to contemplate my options. And one of the things I am considering is just running away from it all. I am not sure I can wait until I find another job. In fact, I am not sure I can wait another day.

I keep asking myself what would happen if I just quit? Maybe that would help me figure out what I really want to do with my life. Or maybe it would make me feel more lost than ever. I am not sure what the answer is, but I might be ready to find out.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like the run was a relevatory moment ... but perhaps one can "quit" mentally without having to actually walk out on your income. I can totally relate to the feeling of having to "steal" time for yourself. Maybe the trick is to see the time as ours to begin with, and we are just "lending" it to our bosses, families, etc.

Anonymous said...

I pictured you running with your blackberry, but it is like the end of the Devil Wears Prada and you start running and then you throw your blackberry into a fountain and keep running. . . then the movie turns to Forrest Gump and you keep running and running and running. . . life is like a box of chocolates, you know.