Thursday, March 20, 2008

I did it

I've walked around slightly elated for the last two days, listening to music on the ipod (rather than podcasts) and knowing why I'd lost some sabbatical enthusiasm. Guilt. I was carrying around a lot of guilt about the decision to leave the job--specifically guilt over the obligation to the two men in my work life: TR and Larry.

I wanted to write immediately, the instant I told TR, but I didn't. I'm not sure why it reminds of the night I went out, alone, for a drink to celebrate the completion of my PhD (I had a party later, but this was the day I got the final word and knew it was 100% done). I wanted to buy a round for the bar, but I was too shy to do it.

I was too shy to write that I told TR I wanted time off and got the best possible reaction: dismay, bewilderment, acceptance, understanding, encouragement and appreciation. It couldn't have gone much better if I planned it, which, despite non-stop mulling, I hadn't actually done. Well, I did plan, but I didn't script, so I wasn't sure how, exactly I would convey the message, "it's not you, it's me." Because even though it is, sort of, TR, that's not at all the point.

I was in there on Tuesday, talking to TR about something (probably condo stuff), as is my won't. I wasn't planning on telling him then, but I was nervous, anxious and feeling the burden of my secret. So I said, "Are you working on anything important?"

He said, "No."

I said, "I need to talk to you about something."

TR said, "Should we close the door?" I was already on my way there.

I assured him it had nothing to do with Mandy (that situation is resolved). I said, "I've been unhappy with the job for a long time. I need to take some time off to pursue personal interests. I also need the job to change. I'm not giving it my best and I'm not happy about that. I'm also not happy about how we get along, but that's not the real issue." And on like that.

TR listened, nodded and said, "I'm the right person to talk to about taking a leave!" Since he, early in his career, left our department and came back a few years later. We also talked about what other kind of work I could do around here, if I should move to a different division, or even work on detail for another organization for a while. It was good. It was clear that he values me and wants me to come back. He seemed to understand. He made a joke about me writing the "great American novel." I said, "I may or may not actually write a novel, but I want to try."

Obviously, I don't need to quit my job or take time off to write a novel. But I need to take time off. I don't care if I don't do any writing at all! That's the idea--to write. But the real idea is to get away from here and have some different experiences. To get out of the DC routine and into another, novel (heh), routine. Hell, if I spend most of my time reading novels and going to the movies I'll consider it a well-spent six-to-twelve months, but, yes, I plan to write too.

TR is gone for the rest of the week (traveling for work) and has left me in charge. Oh, irony, how I love thee.

The next day, Larry (old boss), came by and stood in my office door. Looking at me, silently. Finally, he said, "TR told me you wanted to take some time off...I don't know what to say."

I said, "Um, yeah, um. I...I don't know what to say..."

He said, "No, you don't have to talk about it..."

I said, "No! I want to...I just. I wanted to talk to you about it. I just need some time away."

He said, "You're really good at this."

I said, "But I'm not engaged any more. I can't make deadlines. I like to think that I still do good quality work, but there's really no excuse for how long it takes me to finish things."

Larry nodded grimly. We talked a while longer but he never stopped looking lost and unhappy. You should have seen the expression on his face. So sad! I swear, I thought he might cry.

I tell you what, it makes me extremely grateful that TR is now my "boss." (He's not the boss of me!) I don't think I could have quit on Larry, ever. We have such a tight boss-worker bond. I don't think I'll ever feel that way about someone again and perhaps it's just as well. It's part of why there's so much emotion around this decision. As I said to Larry, it's not just a job. It's my only job. It's the only real, professional job I've ever had and I have a lot of identity tied up with it. My job goes a long way towards identifying me to other people, if not to myself, and even when I've hated it, I've managed to give a good impression about it to the outside world. Many people think I love my job. I've convinced many others that it's important. I don't know that it isn't. I do know that it's sucking the life out of me and I have to get out--at least for a while.

I want to write some more about work, career choices and the boxes we put ourselves in, but that will have to wait until tomorrow because I'm going to a g-ddamn happy hour now if it kills me.

Grateful for: TR. Who knew?

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