Trying to figure out what’s next is hard. I have long figured that I was not capable of maintaining your standard 9-5 job. Yet, I continued to work towards it, thinking if I could find the right position, right boss, right company- I just hadn’t found the right fit.
I think, after having to take some time off because of deteriorating mental health for the third time in my working life, I can be pretty confident in saying it has nothing to do with the fit.
I have the greatest job. I work in public disability policy and advocacy. It is my dream. I just completed my Master’s in Emergency Management and have been given some freedom to incorporate that into my work. Yet, the anxiety I feel at going back into the office tomorrow makes me want to hide away and put it off forever.
I strive under pressure and stress at work until I just don’t anymore. My brain stops engaging, my depression blooms, my health and sleep decrease, and few things-whether in or out of work- bring me joy. I am just too exhausted to function at even several levels below my traditional pace.
Still, I can’t shake off the societal pressures that that’s what we do. Why else spend all this time in school? Why else rack up student loan debt, however minimal? When my husband says, “Just stay home, we can figure out living on one income.” I can’t get passed the imagined stares and judgments at a ‘stay at home spouse’ with no job when we have no kids. When people say, “You’d probably qualify for Disability.” I can’t help looking at my body (though I can’t see my mind), and thinking, “I’m just not disabled enough.”
So what next? What now? I’d love to write but I don’t know what about. I’d love to do research, but I find little available in a field I am passionate about. I’d love to work remotely and travel for a while, but doing virtual assistantships or survey jobs seems like letting everyone that supported my academic journey down.
I don’t say this to just complain. It causes me honest mental/emotional anguish, whether real or created, to determine my next steps. Like I am stuck on this precipice of change but any decision I take just leads me to step off and fall to my death.
How do we determine what’s good and right for us? When do we stop trying to force a ‘normal’ that just doesn’t work for us? I thought it ended with high school but maybe that was just the start. This workforce game is just another monster and I am still trying to figure out how to beat it.