The title of this post was actually snagged from a line in the Barenaked Ladies song, “Who Needs Sleep?” It’s just one line, but a very powerful line that takes on a different context in the song than how I am using it. For me, this marks the end of my dalliance with a high-paying job.
It’s been a week since I last wrote. I couldn’t bring myself to write about work and unemployment last week. Things were still too raw. At times, I am still stumped about the whole thing. I feel like I should be more angry or sad than I am. I simply feel resigned to my fate. Mix in a little terror and self-deprecation when I think of my situation and the lack of funds that will be coming in. Basically, I’ve been spoiled while out on medical leave. Sure I had a lot of healing to do, but I didn’t worry about not being able to pay my bills.
Chapter Read refers to an ending, the ending of my employment. Part of me is dying to work, to earn money, to be useful. Another part of me never wants to work again. Mostly, I just don’t know what I want to do with my life. It was pointed out to me once that my resume looks like someone who spends a lot of time running away from things. Is that true? I am an expert in one specific field, a high-paying field, if you can get the work. If the job isn’t taken over by a bachelor’s degree technician. How could they possibly know what I know? Probably fairly easily. (Or am I being self-deprecating again?) I’ve been overeducated and probably forgotten more than I ever knew in the first place. You hire a PhD to run the lab, to take care of the helium tanks, track the standards and chemicals… yuck. All the things I hate about working in a lab. But all my experience puts me in a lab with a (hopefully high-paying) yet utterly boring job containing droplets of excitement when you happen to work in collaboration on something that is patentable or publishable. That is, if your work isn’t being questioned or stolen. What’s the point of being good at something if everyone thinks you suck? Or thinks your opinion is worthless? Or questions your conclusions? Maybe I am better off with this chapter closed, but what will the next one bring?
Lesson Learned refers to what I’ve learned from this job. Money is awesome but it’s not everything. Right now, I am unemployed with limited funds, thus once again, I must take what I can find, be it industry or academia. What I learned from this job is that after the original “honeymoon phase” where I am learning and being challenged, this job is downright boring. And when I get bored, I get lazy or I watch how others work, and some part of my brain thinks it’s OK to do X or not do Y if other people are doing X or not doing Y.
For example, I watched as lazy Dr. B (short for Dr. Bastard) get away with everything. He swears he has something in his personnel file that says he shalt not be fired. Who knows? Maybe he does. He must have done something valuable for the company at some point because they let him get away with all sorts of things that no one else can. He would stroll in at 10am. He would leave at 6pm. (Core hours are 9am-3pm.) Sure we are salaried and have flex time, but you were expected to be on site for 8.5 hrs a day, excluding lunch. He would ramble all day long to anyone who would listen – not getting an ounce of work done. He brags about how great he is and how the company has wronged him. His stories are 20 years old, yet he tells them like it happened yesterday. He brags about how he got his revenge on people by getting them fired. (And now I am one of them.) He is mean to people who report to him or work with him if they don’t do exactly as he wants. He is insulting to anyone he doesn’t like. He is bigoted and reeks of harassment. But the company thinks he is some sort of god in the field and that they can’t part with him. Not everyone does, but enough people to keep him around. Some people see him for what he truly is: a narcissistic ass who is not always right (scientifically) even though he is trying to BS you into thinking that he is.
My other lesson learned is that I need to admit when I need help. I needed to have this surgery a year earlier. I needed mental health help a year earlier. I went through hell because I didn’t seek the help I needed. I thought I could control my bipolar, my OCD, my PTSD all through sheer willpower. It’s taking me 5 prescription drugs a day to control all that and still I have to contend with symptoms from my mental health problems. I need to have a psychiatrist. I need to have a therapist. I need healthcare coverage. I am jealous of people who can get away without coverage or who just need the bare minimum or people who only have to take two or three pills a day. I have in total 11 prescription medications per day and I am barely into my forties. I have to learn to admit that sometimes I need help. I am too damn stubborn for my own good.
So where do I go from here? Without my six figure income, how do I live? How do I get to travel? Take my photographs? Do the things I enjoy? How did I ever survive on $40k/year? For starters, I didn’t have a 4 bedroom home with a formal dining room. I didn’t get to travel. I didn’t have an iPhone, an iPad and an iMac. I didn’t eat out that much. I thought a little bit more about what I spent money on. I didn’t spend hundreds of dollars on steel swords for renaissance costumes. We didn’t have an Xbox or a Wii or a flat screen TV. I certainly didn’t have this many pairs of shoes. We never remodeled the house and I didn’t have nearly the wardrobe I have now. (Some of which I no longer fit into – thank you meds.) Still, I am at a loss. I don’t know where to go from here. My mortgage is too high. I have too much junk. This house is turning into a money pit.
Some days I am good – I can handle the stress, focus on the tasks ahead, and move forward. But always in the back in of my mind is: Where are you going? You aren’t going anywhere. You spin your wheels wandering from job to job. Sometimes making money, sometimes not. Always banging your head on some wall. Always allowing your illness(es) to encroach on your life. Mania or depression coloring your view, affecting your productivity. Like a hamster on a wheel, I am forced into running through these cycles, never getting anywhere. I never get a productive hypomania like other people do. I’m either constantly distracted, fidgety, talkative and flighty, or touchy, angry, and easily set-off. My depressions are laden with anxiety, sadness, and a lack of energy and focus. How the hell did I get through school???
Well, there’s my emotional core dump. (For now.) Where do I go from here? That is the biggest question on my mind. Everything else is details.
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