Someone I cherish called to check on me yesterday. First question, “How’s your fourth day of freedom?” Social convention dictates that I respond positively, because the dominant paradigm considers for-pay employment a form of captivity (*a subject for another day). However, as I have resolved to stop acting my way through life, I answered honestly, “I don’t know.” Because I don’t.
I don’t feel free. Right now, I don’t really feel anything. Without the distraction of work and other professional responsibilities, I am unmoored. When writing my bio for this blog, I had to resist the urge to make my job title my primary descriptor. It was reflexive, pure muscle memory. My sense of self is tied up in my career. I identify first by my job, then by my social labels—wife, mother. Although I am on a break from my job, it is still how I principally define myself. Despite the unpredictable schedule, my job gives my life rhythm and structure.
The ritual of my daily working life is suspended and I am struggling with that. Am I recovering on schedule? Am I making progress fast enough? Will I ever be perceived as reliable in a professional setting again? Absent the political and social capital that comes from my position, who am I? Would anyone listen to me if I was anything other than what I am professionally and/or socioeconomically? Although people may celebrate me for my transparency, when the time comes, will they trust me with their professional capital? These are a few of the questions ricocheting around my brain right now.
Instead of free, I feel detached and set adrift. What I’m working on, at the moment, is sitting with that sense and finding an authentic way forward. I’m floating out in space, looking for the lights I know are out there, the ones that will guide me to a safe harbor.
Song playing in my head right now: Do You Realize?? by The Flaming Lips.