This post is inspired by Anne Lamott’s book stitches and dedicated to my family and friends who made it better.
I’ve always really admired the Queen when in 1992 she called out her year as annus horribilis. 2017 was for me annus horribilis. For a whole bunch of reasons.
I turned 40, which was not the joyous occasion one imagines it should be. Like a harbinger, it signalled holes starting to appear in the fabric I’d woven together.
I was suffering from burnout from going to hard to long and I was disillusioned by my career and lack of opportunities for progression. And I felt at a complete loss and no longer able to see my way through.
When I ended up unemployed at the end of the year, the material which I had tried desperately hard to keep together in a nothing-to-see-here-I’m-fine way was torn in two.
That loss cannot be understated. Because it wasn’t that I was unemployed and 40 with a mortgage, it was the loss of the life I had imagined for myself.
It was all planned out in my head, I felt sure this was the path. I just had to work hard and it would all be alright. I didn’t know that I’d be thrown a curve ball, or that my plans were just that, my plans and not the universe’s plans for me.
So there I was with nothing but frayed edges and gaping holes in my carefully planned life. It was hard to even know where to start repairing it.
Friends and family were at this moment crucial. They reminded me of my value beyond my job; that despite the evidence to the contrary, I was not a complete failure. Their persistent cheerfulness and support, reminds you that it will be okay, even if right now it doesn’t seem like it.
Sometimes that help was practical like buying you coffee or lunch when they know you need to make your savings last as long as they can. It can even be that they say come round and hang out or send a text to see how you’re doing.
And somehow that rekindles the strange part of you that has this will to keep going (seriously I’d have loved to have just hidden away for a long time). That’s the thing that makes you get out of bed, eat, drink. It makes you accept the new reality and start looking at what you can salvage.
Restitching started by going back to the beginning and re-examining everything. Cutting away what was too damaged to keep or I didn’t like anymore and then seeing what still fit together.
I started to listen to what I was telling myself. For most of last year I’d told that voice to be quiet. I also stopped listening to the well intentioned advice everyone wanted to give me and instead listened to myself and the select few who understood.
The pivotal moment for me came when I applied for a non-library job but using relevant skills. On paper it sounded perfect – working close to home, doing work that would make a difference to people’s lives.
I really wanted this job, was so excited to get an interview. But on the day of the interview as I preparing all I could think was yeah but I’m a librarian, yeah but I’m a librarian over and over and over and over again. I told myself to shut up because right now this so wasn’t helpful.
As you can imagine I was kind of relieved to not get the job because as it turns out in my heart of hearts I’m pretty sure I’m a librarian. Although I’ve got no idea what that really means. Just that I want to do library stuff with library people in a library.
I’m 41 years old and I have absolutely no idea what I want to do. Libraries yes, books yes, but beyond that no idea whatsoever. I’ve never been much of a planner career wise anyway, so why does not having a plan seem so terrifying?
Christian’s believe that ultimately God’s in charge of your life, that means your career as well. So instead of being anxious about it, I’m trying to let go and let God.
I rolled my eyes when I wrote that because I generally want to throw things at people when they say this. It’s trotted out as though it’s so easy to do. But it essentially means stop worrying and trust that you’ll have what you need when you need it.
Now I’ll admit I come from a long line or non go with the flow people. My family aren’t really known for leaving things to chance. So this is a new skill set and something I’m having to train my brain how to do.
And that’s quite hard. I want to know the answers. I’m really not good at waiting. But if I have learnt one thing, it’s that events run at their own pace. Forcing things does not do you any good, worrying likewise just makes you ill and does not change the outcome or how fast it comes.
Things are a bit better now. I have a job at the moment that’s so interesting and even if I’m only there for a little while, I work with people who are my people. It’s soothing to the soul to be in a place where it’s safe to be yourself.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking that not getting the job was the best thing because I was bored, exhausted and heart sick. I needed a break and time to reassess… But it’s still hard and I sometimes wonder if I’m just praying into a void.
The restitching progresses but slowly, there’s no point in rushing it. There’s some lumpy and misshapen bits – I’m not entirely sure what it is I’m making or whether I’ll like it. It feels a bit raw too, like wool trousers that are slightly itchy the first time you wear them.
But the material is sturdy and it does not break. And my friends, family, colleagues continue to let me lean on them as I walk this new path.
One day when I look back I see the beautiful creation that has been stitched together.
Endnote: At least for the next little while, I’ll won’t be writing about these times again. It’s time to let go of what’s past and look forward to all the new adventures I’ll be having.
PS You should definitely read Anne Lamott’s books. She’s a great writer and her books are funny, practical and about real life.