Tag Archives: moving

Choose Your Own Adventure: Career Burnout or Mid Life Crisis

I resent being called middle aged because I plan to live much longer than seventy eight. But, I am almost thirty nine and a half years old, and we do expect to have figured some things out by now right?  Like, by forty, as a friend said, perhaps we’ve achieved some of what the future self who’s “got this” has been expected to accomplish.  That seems a middle aged proposition.

Or, maybe it all (life) seems to fall around us, repeat predictably, exhaustingly, in patterns we think we can alter for so long.  Then, we give up.  Give in to our unshakeable shortcomings, or stop trying altogether.  The boyfriend we keep dating, over and over, we just want to date that guy for the rest of our life, in all his incarnations, eat his copious servings of not quite till we’re unable to move.

I want to live in my painfully flawed way in peace, be released from dealing with the endless bullshit of my adult professional life.   Released from being asked, no expected – to care about said bullshit.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t care anymore.  I’ve been shown it’s not worth it.

Part I: Career Burnout

I, like many creative professionals, work in an extremely competitive industry driven by both brand whims and dwindling budgets, consistently recalibrated by evolving technologies and consumer adoption.  However, the people willing to both work in the industry and do so for low pay hasn’t changed at all in my 18 years in the workforce. Hence, the hamster wheel.

You build your career to the point of somewhat comfortable money and boredom, and then you realize: the money never really came, the artistic satisfaction never really came.  And people are still asking you to care.  And you don’t want to work that hard for shit you don’t care about, and money that’s disappointing.

And your reasons for not caring – they are basically the answer to everything you ever wondered about.  They are the answers you have been waiting for your entire adult life.

Part II: Mid Life Crisis

Now that you have these answers, (see Part I), you realize that everything you expended your time and energy on (i.e., building a career, your urban professional lifestyle, paying rent that increases yearly making your pay raises inconsequential) was complete bullshit other than the connections you made with other people, who were everyone from the random people you laid to the guy on the frontage road you yelled at for trying to wash your windows to your EMDR therapist (who you miss).  Everything else was noise, though some of that noise accompanied emotional highs and lows, provided an atmospheric soundtrack to those moments.

But mostly you can’t remember what you were doing.  There were these boring stretches in between the joy, the sadness, the flashes of the best parties you ever went to when you felt like you were holding hands with the universe.  And other ones when you were just really high.

So, why are you doing this?  And why is anyone else doing this?  And why are some of your friends doing it better than you or at least making the money to justify it?  Or having the children to justify it?

You don’t have anything left to justify it.  But you’d like to justify something.

Post Script: Money and Furniture

A current fixation is asking someone I’m engaged in conversation with about taking money from my 401K.  In practice, it’s just getting them to agree with me, that it’s a good idea.  “It’s my money that I worked for, and why shouldn’t I use it?”  I’ll ask.  “I deserve to be able to take a break. I’m almost forty years old and I’ve been working for eighteen years.”  That money is waving at me from its tax free prison.  “I know you’re not retired yet or buying a house,” it says, “but it seems like you kinda need me.”  How on earth can I learn how to apply the lessons of adulthood, without a mere few weeks to absorb them and choose the next step?  Maybe a couple months.

In 2011 I bought a couch from West Elm.  It was slate grey and called Henry.  I researched and prepped for the couch in the three months I spent between my Mom’s and a friend’s after a break up.  I had the cash for the couch.  I was magically moving back into the same apartment I had moved out of nine months earlier, because the new tenant was looking for a subleaser.

On the day it arrived, the delivery men called my cell so I could drive to the apartment to let them in.  It didn’t fit through the doorway.  “See this ma’am,” the man kept saying as he stood wedged between Henry and the door jamb.  “See ma’am, I can’t do the butterfly move to get it in.  Everyone who orders this couch has a small apartment.”  I fucking hate being called “ma’am”.

The couch had come to represent the new, more grownup life I was embarking on without my ex, who still had the futon we had been gifted by friends.  In its failure to fit within, the couch proved my new life to be as lame and sad as the kind of cheap couch I ended up with, that you can put together in your garden level flat.  I had just turned thirty three.

A move to accept a new gig at thirty eight meant starting over in a very adult way.  Again, I picked out my couch, this time a different one from West Elm, who offers financing.  I had money in the bank.  But, unsure of my new position, used the interest free credit.   The couch was set to arrive when I did, as a welcome gift to myself in my new life.  It was two weeks late, and beautiful.  It moved through my normal sized brand new doorway with ease into my brand new luxury apartment.

Months later, I count my dwindling funds and stubborn debts and desperation about future plans and I look at it and think: did I never really deserve you?  Am I just not the luxury apartment sofa-owning type?  I consolidated what’s left of what I owe on it to a friendlier credit card, and now consider it my only sellable asset.

My future plans include things like avoiding rent for a few months by visiting family and helping a friend remodel his house.  Then, choosing a home.  Being okay with laying down there.  Being available for a relationship in that actual zip code.  Putting that couch in the place I live there.  I’m at mid life, I should be able to manage something like this.

I really don’t want to sell that couch.






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Cutie the Blind Horse

When I was thirteen I caught the horse bug for real.  I can’t remember how it started – I had always loved animals.  But I started riding horses (English, so I could jump) in Andover, Massachusetts, and my sister and Mom soon followed.

By the summer after my freshman year of high school, my Mom had found a very odd barn on the north side of town owned by “sisters” who seemed unlikely to be from New England.  Mom, who is on her third horse just since moving to Colorado in 1995, first attempted horse ownership with an unfortunate mare named “Call Me Cutie”.

I don’t think I had quite realized yet how my mother’s involvement in my hobby (and my first boyfriend) were affecting my interest in riding, but Cutie did not fit my ideal of who my horse would be.  Mom had explained that Cutie wasn’t very pretty, but she was very sweet, and Mom had ridden her and she was calm and a great first horse for us.

Cutie was anything but cute, the poor thing – the horse equivalent of being forced to buy all my clothes at our town’s Marshall’s.  I can best describe her now as some sort of dappled Roan.  But then, I rode her, as Mom urged her daughter with the great seat (that’s a riding term for sitting a horse nicely) on our new mare.  And someone started the tractor.  Cutie bolted across the arena, terrifying me and herself.  I really didn’t like her then.  She was homely and scary.  Cutie was a nervous wreck.

I don’t remember what happened next, but Cutie must have been returned to her previous owners, who discovered that she was blind. Cutie had never revealed this as she was ridden on the same familiar paths daily.  Only the new surroundings showed her less obvious flaw.

Our next horse, “Wayward Wendy” was a beautiful dapple gray with triple crown winner Seattle Slew in her blood.  Like most thoroughbreds, she was “off the track”, having committed a few slow races before being dressage and hunter jumper trained.  Wendy made un-asked for flying lead changes and would squirt at the boys when she was in heat, halting in front of them in the riding arena no matter who was waiting for her to move.


We moved barns when we had her, and she lived a couple miles from our house.  In one of the loneliest and most picturesque summers of my teen years, I would run from our house to the barn and ride Wendy bareback at dusk.  Wendy reared up and bronced when under the saddle, (yes, just like a bucking bronco), and I miraculously never fell off her until the day she spooked when I was walking her cool and my feet weren’t in the stirrups.  I almost broke my neck in an irrigation ditch and would never ride her again.  I’d still run to see her and sit in her stall, she’d kiss me as I’d trained her to, and I could cry with my head on her neck.  I loved Wendy, and I never stopped being her friend.

Wendy had back trouble (hence the broncing and rearing up) and was likely drugged when Mom met her and bought her.  I mostly relate to her type – striking, misunderstood, and passionately in love with a bad boy (the Palomino Billy – so much so that she rushed a gate and opened the skin on her chest on its corner to get to him).  But I’ve never felt more like poor Cutie than my first weeks in a new city, at thirty-eight, and not on vacation.

I love to travel, and normally, I love getting lost.  It’s the best way to find new places.  But, being someplace new when you have work to do is a whole different story.  I never moved someplace for a job before.  I always moved someplace to find a job – and finding a job is filled with all this desperate exploring and not having money and filling out applications and learning the landscape of a city… as you worry it’s going to spit you back out to its environs, dumb broke loser that you are.  I’ve done that one so many times, and mastered it a couple at least.  I fought for my place in those communities, and felt like an earned member.

My last city – I knew how dialed I had it.  Yes, it was blowing up and changing all around me, I couldn’t stand my new neighbors, but I had my super cheap place (and the broken garbage disposal that came with it) in a fantastic location a mile away from my primary place of work.  I knew where to go, where to park, bartenders and CEOs and artists and pools and back roads and dog sitters and free eyebrow tints and comedians and every brand of locally available kombucha and tequila.  I had pick up dry cleaning service for God’s sake.  And could barely date a guy who hadn’t slept with one of my friends.  But then again, access to verified reviews on the same.

My new city is a life I’ve never lived.  It’s very grown up, and that’s scary.  I feel I’m already destroying my brand new apartment for the simple fact I’ve never had such a nice place to live before; I don’t even know how to care for it.  Destroying it includes chipping a baseboard and scraping paint from the walls in separate mirror and poster hanging incidents.  I already spilled a Campari Soda on my brand new couch because I am a boisterous, unfiltered, and clumsy girl.  My daily disasters range making a wrong turn or exit at least once to forgetting my wallet and having to Venmo someone money for our meeting and my gas, to being on the wrong side of the fucking highway for the bank.  Everything is new and I have so much more to deal with other than just that new stuff.  Like my career.

I’ve been embarrassed by how flummoxed I am by the combination of Siri’s bad directions (Austin’s roads and highways are weird, they really are, and she just doesn’t get it) and the complexities of entering someone else’s apartment building garage.  I pride myself on my organization and efficiency.  I really do believe in minimalism.  I really never forget my license or lose things.  Except lately.

Lately I’m the opposite of efficient because I literally never know where I am, have no idea how long it takes to get places, am always late, am always overheated (Texas), and forget to pay my bills (overhwhelmed).  Therefore, I feel like a child who was dropped in a grownup world, and just can’t take care of her shit.  Because I really did stretch my adolescence into my late 30s, I’m struck by how much fancy apartments and taxis weren’t a part of my old life, even in a rich white people town like Denver.

I had no idea how used to my old city streets I was – I was so anxious to get to a place full of people I hadn’t met yet.  And that part is nice, but I’m surprised how my self esteem plummets with the part where they don’t know me.  No matter how far away I get, I think I’ll always be that small town New England girl with the shitty outfits from Marshall’s.

Wayward Wendy was sold as a companion horse and got to live out the rest of her life on Cape Cod.  The day they picked her up and took her away, she whinnied loudly, desperately, as the trailer pulled out of the drive.  It was painful.  My Mom and I were crying.  Mom called the new owners and was told “she is such a nice horse”.  That was all she wanted to know.  I hope she lived a long and happy life near the ocean.

I am not quite ready to retire yet.  And also don’t want to be sent back home.

I still haven’t had the “big night” I associate with myself as I’ve always known me.  The first thing I’d do in a new city was to find the very hippest bar I could attend and stay at it as late as I could.  I haven’t had time for those kind of high jinks.   Though I do experience the world through my work and the friends I meet through it:  restaurants, venues, swimming pools, and the like, my favorite inroads to a new place are the grocery stores (where I’m wandering around looking for syrup) and the outdoor spaces, where it actually feels different than where I’ve come from.  Texas to me is swimming holes, butterflies, mesquite trees, these lizards I keep seeing, the surprisingly charming crickets of September, the country music on the radio,and oh, the six dollar negronis.

Yes, a fucking six dollar negroni and butterflies.  I may be blind, but my eyes are open.

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