Walking usually boosts my mood, but today the walk is a mistake. My forehead glistens with sweat and my skin feels like a droplet of icy water might sizzle on it, like a searing griddle. The temperature makes the air seem white, as if bleached by too much L.A. sun.
One minute I am walking my dog around the neighborhood, trying to smother the invasive thoughts with an inspirational podcast that I listen to like it’s my daily dose of Zoloft. The next minute I am drowning.
My chest constricts and the memory of advanced pneumonia covers my vision with its wet fingers. I slow my walk to a halt and the dog keeps pulling along, unable to understand why we’ve stopped when we’re having such a good time. There are so many tree roots to sniff and electrical poles on which to piss.
But the drowning is insistent, and it does not give a fuck about tree roots and electrical poles or the need to keep moving ahead. It is indifferently rational, calculatingly cruel.
You are a loser and you will never amount to anything fills the air I breathe. You fail at everything you try squeezes my trachea. You bring everybody in your life down with you waters up my eyes.
You are so stupid and worthless. The longest running playlist on my mental audio causes my knees to shake. I hear that voice so clearly I can almost reach out and touch it, razor edges inviting me to challenge it, see what happens.
– – –
After ten months of unemployment speckled with freelance gigs, I have reached a new low in my job-search. 50% pay decrease. Not in my field. Minimum-wage service sector jobs. Administrative grunt-work for non-living wages. I see among the “clerical” positions a solicitation for phone sex operators, preferably speakers of Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese. Sadly, it offers the highest available wages in this sector, and sadly I speak none of these languages.
I whack my Master’s Degree off my resume, followed by my B.A. My writing experience goes too, as does my salary history. Whack. I become someone I don’t recognize, a square-shaped, polite woman with a friendly voice and a can-do attitude.
Over the past few weeks, I have looked into how much schooling I’d need to become a psychologist (too much), a doctor (too much), an IT Manager (too much), a graphic designer (too much). However, the most insurmountable problem with all these careers is not that they require too much schooling, but that I do not feel one iota of drive toward them. Ten years of sacrifice and study taught me how it feels to have a calling on your life.
I didn’t even get to practice the career I trained for, and now I am supposed to switch gears for a second career? It feels like I broke up with someone I haven’t even started dating; someone I don’t really want to break up with, but have to because they are allergic to me. Or they simply disappear.
After updating my job-search spreadsheet this morning, my face feels like it is filled with lead shavings. Knowing I have to do something, I put on my shoes and grab the dog’s leash.
– – –
After a short span, my eyesight returns. My chest remains tight, but I walk on, legs feeling waterlogged and sluggish.
– – –
I wish I could say I’ll take the day off, enjoy a cold shower and read a book, maybe, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I’ll look for work again, under compulsion to silence the voices that drown.