The un-faceable thing

Anger is such a useful emotion sometimes. I can be anxious over something for a long time, but if ever I get angry about it instead, then things start to move.

Yesterday I got ambushed by anxiety again. Most unexpectedly, because the last few weeks have been so full of good work and change. But a friend wrote something that restarted all my anxiety over not having a job, and not knowing what to do about it.

That’s a lie. I know full well what to do about it: go find a damn job. I’ve known that forever. I haven’t done it, and I tell myself I don’t know what to do. Because I couldn’t face what was really standing in the way of “go get a job.”

Sometimes fear is so big you can’t even see it. You can’t let yourself see it, because of how massive and overwhelming it is. You’ll use any kind of dodge to get away from it, and the best kinds are the ones where you never even catch a glimpse of the thing you’re running from. The kinds that involve a type of doublethink, where you forget something, and then forget that you ever had something to forget.

That’s the sort of fear that feeds constant anxiety. Because you can’t ever really forget. You can’t totally lie to yourself about the mountainous, cavernous fear. It finds ways to leak through.

I’ve double-thunk my way out of facing it for a year. For a few days now, I’ve started to get the feeling that I have been tricking myself, that there’s something I’m deliberately not looking at, and it’s feeding the contradictory situations that make me anxious: not having an income, not “knowing how” to find an income. Today anxiety finally slid into anger. I’m sick to death of this being a constant thread in my life. If I am putting off getting a stupid job because I’m afraid of something, I bloody well want to know what it is.

Finally, finally I set my best tools to unearthing it: my notebook and a pen. I scribbled out all the old, tired excuses I’ve rehearsed to myself, about everything wrong with office jobs. Impatient, scrawling letters dashing across the pages, not getting to the real thing, but chipping away at my self-imposed blindness. At the part where I threw the pen across the room and screamed, I finally had it.

Alone. Alone. For eleven years, going to work and feeling utterly, horribly alone. Isolated. Excluded. Different. Misunderstood. Alone. Alone alone alone.

I started that job as a scared, thoroughly unbelieving-in-myself kid who didn’t know how to make friends, and the weird partial segregation of open-plan offices meant I always heard conversations and connections between other people but was never confident enough to break in and join them. I never learned how to belong. I never really felt like I did belong. Even when I got to know some people (far too few people, for a decade of working at the same place), I never knew how to feel like I was part of something. That hurt me every single day for 11 years. Feeling alone. Desperately, desolately alone.

I can’t face that again. I can’t make myself do it. I can’t face another stupid office job, where every day I go and sit only feet away from people, people I can’t not hear, like it or not, and still always feel alone. That’s the silent looming thing that’s sabotaged all my half-hearted efforts to find new work this year. It was all looking for something I didn’t want to find, couldn’t bear to find — more of the same pain that I escaped from a year ago, and never want to experience again.

Alone. The scariest, worst thing. I finally know the fear-monster’s name. Alone.


5 comments so far

  1. Kim on

    You are an incredibly brave person; staring that fear down & refusing to let it lurk in the shadows is so hard. You are so much stronger than you think you are – that you did this is the evidence of that fact, just in case you need evidence. I think you’re also facing Alone’s evil twin, Lonely.

    I don’t have a fix, but I am confident you will push through this. I know jobs are scarce, but maybe a smaller environment – a smaller business – may help you avoid hiding/not getting close to people. Small companies mean less people, less specialization, more interactions. It’s a thought.


  2. Cidrolin on

    You were indeed at a place you didn’t belong. But you will find your own place. Smaller company, different people, different setting, different tasks : sometimes it takes very little to make a job good or bad for you.

  3. Cidrolin on

    Also, isn’t it interesting how in order not to face that loneliness you stayed alone at home all this time ?

  4. jana on

    Wow…just wow. I am amazed that you were able to do this for yourself. The courage it then took to post this revelation publicly is even more amazing to me. You’ve got what it takes, Crissy. People like you. You are smart and talented and funny. I’d venture that your love for knitting and your gift for writing could open a wide world to you….

  5. melanie on

    It has, sometimes, taken me years to find a place in a bunch of strangers, so I know what Alone means in a workplace. [The paradox is that I am (and I believe you are) the kind of person who needs quality alone-time – but alone in the workplace is a completely different animal.] I hope you can find a job that isn’t so painful, or a job that doesn’t trigger this pain again –

    And, I echo what others have said. You are one brave woman.

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