Big announcement: I got a job.
Yup, that’s right, for 6-8 hours a day, a couple days a week, I get glammed up and run the reception at the hair salon I have been going to in Montreal for the past decade (whenever I was in town at least).
But Michelle, why aren’t you writing/teaching/life coaching/winning an Oscar when that is what you have been training and working toward your whole life? Well, the truth is I needed to, and I could not be happier about it.
My generation was probably the first to be brought up to think we were each individually special. While we were expected to go to school and pick majors, we also had the freedom to choose what we wanted to do. And, for lots of us, when we didn’t want to do what we thought we did, we were allowed to change our minds. But even with this freedom I was having a harder and harder time answering people’s “But what exactly do you do all day?” Let me tell you, those questions made me dance so fast my head would spin off. (And I never really felt like I was getting away with it, no matter how honest or imaginative I was with my answers.)
At the end of the day I’d find myself starving for human interaction, a conversation, a fight, a drink, a meal. I was spending so much time alone during the days writing and thinking, that I would literally beg friends to meet me out, or invite me over. I wasn’t meeting new people, unless you count the food delivery guys. I wasn’t dating anyone that I hadn’t met virtually. And when I did go out I sometimes behaved like a caged animal that had just been set free.
A huge part of my decision to leave the piazzas and pizzas of Italy and head home to the snow-capped mountains of Canada had to do with a deep knowing that it was time. Time for me to take all the things I had learned I could do and use them in real world ways. Time for me to step into myself, and back into the world. And, as much as I enjoyed living la dolce vita, I also had to face the fact that if I stayed there I’d wouldn’t be able to do any of those things — I’d be living someone else’s life, again.
After the move I made a personal deal with myself to focus on getting a career going. But suddenly that same old cycle began of “what?” and “how?” and the infinite mountains of not-knowing — which, if you can read through the lines, was my genius way of keeping myself stuck in the same place, in a different town.
One day, as I sat and stared at the empty spaces in the empty room of my empty apartment, imagining all the things that could fill it, I finally got it. Waiting to figure out the career was not going to fill the space. Trying to figure out what to do and how to do it was exactly what I had been telling people not to do through my writing. Not only that, but by now I knew very well that trying to solve a problem from the same place it was created never works. Somehow, I had to move myself out of that place. And since I had already moved so many times I knew the solution wasn’t geographical, the solution was everything I had in me.
I started refining my needs and using my communication skills. I began to put some thought and care into my appearance (because, let me tell you, the life of a writer involves a large collection of carefully curated sweatpants). I yearned to be surrounded in a creative environment with creative people — to not simply be stuck behind a desk in an office.
I had seen that they were looking for someone at my salon on a friend’s Facebook page a few times and never really gave it much thought. But when it popped up again I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was the next step. I wrote to my friend who worked there and asked if they were still looking, and by the end of the week, I was in. And not only that, they were excited about me.
They like my energy and enthusiasm. They like that I am willing to work any shift — even if it means closing at 9:30pm on a Friday and opening at 7:30am on a Saturday. I’ll perform any task asked of me, and can easily handle the drama and stressed out clients. When I was younger, not being able to do these things are reasons I would lose jobs. Now, it’s like standing outside myself watching how my life has led me to be able to do this. It has filled me with a confidence and sense of independence I have been craving and missing. It gives me something to get up for and it quiets that voice which searches for something outside of myself to feel fulfilled.
Is it my dream job? My be all/end all? Am I making enough money to furnish my apartment? Heck no! But will this small step take me to the next, and then the next, until I arrive at that place I’m ultimately headed? I am 100% certain it will.
Maybe you find yourself in a similar-feeling situation. That dream job was a nightmare and now you’re back to square one. You’ve had a baby and need to reconnect to the outside world on your own terms. Or you find yourself single and in a new place, just a little bit stuck. If there are more problems than solutions, it could be time to make a change. Skip the needle on the record by taking a step — however small — towards something that, deep down in your heart, feels like it might make things a bit more right. And then let go of the reigns and allow it to take you to where you need to be!
Illustration by: Juliet Romano.