For months the fear and countless explicable nightmares had been mounting. “I’m going to grow old and die here,” I’d think to myself while on the verge of hyperventilating. That corner cubicle. My waning social life. All of my dreams and aspirations to do great things, to make the world a better place: suffocating.They huddled us all into a training room in the basement. Nervous chuckles came from people telling nervous jokes about how we’d been rounded up to be fired. Others were frantically stating those same words as fact. There were some among us who appeared to be at ease, but I was possibly the only one smiling.
It was dumb, really. My reason for staying, that is. My reason for staying in a job that I hated was dumb, but possibly not unfamiliar to the average person. On the one hand there’s a complacency that is easy to accept, and on the other hand, there’s a fear of what will happen if we don’t accept that complacency. A steady income is a steady income, regardless of the circumstances. Comfort and freedom are a small price to pay, or so we convince ourselves.
To be true, I didn’t have the courage to quit.
This, though. Being fired. It wasn’t my fault that I was losing my job. This was a geopolitical maneuver by some corporate greed machine to move business from an area of high cost to an area of low cost. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault.
I had a scapegoat now, and could take the coward’s way out. At the same time as I felt the weight being lifted from my shoulders, I could feel the bile rising in my throat. Sickening, it was, to realize that I had become so meek somewhere along the lines.
The same man who had brought together a waste management plant and a university to create a program for reusing packing peanuts; the same man who had made a corporate cafeteria provider bow to the demand for fresh, organic produce from our local farmers; this same man had been sniveling—losing sleep, even—over the thought of quitting a job that paid barely a dollar over minimum wage, and where the company treated employees as the broken-hearted use tissues, though with a lot less crying involved.
The economy is broken. People do desperate things.
But that doesn’t make it any less embarrassing.
I believe now that my complacency was fundamentally wrong. Morally wrong. You should believe that your complacency is wrong, too. Life is too short to put off enjoying it. Life is too short to not leave your mark on the world now.
My grandmother was 56 years young when she died. That should have been my motivation, there and then, to get out there and do something with my life. It should have been, but it wasn’t.
The complacency stops now.
November 2nd, I’m leaving for my free vacation in New Orleans. I’m terrified of flying. I’m terrified of travelling alone. I’m terrified of all the things that could go wrong. But fear is the thing I fear the most.
Fear is learned, and so too can we learn unfear. Not a general dissatisfaction, but dissatisfaction with not being our best selves. The motto of an old P.E. teacher, may he rest in peace, still rings in my ears: “Be honest. Be respectful. Try your best.” A simple admonition, but one I have failed to live up to. I have not been trying my best, not for the past year at least, but now is time for me to do those teachings some justice.
I feared quitting my job, but I am now grateful that I have lost it. I am not going to let luck or fate dictate my future opportunities. I’m taking the reins.
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