Stepping Up

Well, last Monday was a bust because I was unexpectedly in California, and this week has been largely dominated by the same. That, and a whole lot of painting in our condo hallways which makes my brain get woozy periodically.

I’m preparing for a pretty monumental life change — leaving my company of nearly 13 years to join a startup company in a completely new industry.

My job is the one place in life I tend to show the least defiance and courage, because ultimately taking care of Sarah and making money have to come first — so I have to swallow my personality just to make it work. Or, at least, I did. But change needs to happen and it needs to happen now.

I’ve passed the point at my current position of “busy but with some downtime to take a breather” to “frustrated beyond the point that it is negatively impacting my life” and that’s usually the last sign a person needs to get out. I haven’t been really challenged in a long time, and the more that goes on, the dumber I feel. I’ve always been the sort of person to rise with the level of difficulty — maybe not to the top, but enough to balance the rising waters, anyway. I was never a straight-A+ student, but I was a comfortable A- student at least even when I took the leap from public school to private, and then from high school to college. The difficulty rose, and so did I.

By the same token, when there is no challenge to meet, I sink. And not just with work or school — everywhere. My writing has suffered, and only now am I realizing the impact my job has had upon that besides everything else. My spirits suffer when I spend most days traveling the short spectrum between annoyed and ready-to-pull-my-ribs-out-of-my-chest-with-my-bare-hands frustrated. Spending my workday drenched in mud makes it hard for me to relight the spark inside for anything else.

So I’m making a change, and a big one.

Honestly, I have no idea how this will impact my life. I’ll have to work harder than I have in years, and yet my boss is adamant that he doesn’t intend for this to take over my every waking moment — no 60 hour work weeks or working all weekends. I’ll have to be sharper, more accountable, cleverer. I’ll have to stretch and screw up and try again on a daily basis. I won’t be able to spend my workday frowning at my computer and wandering over to YouTube. I probably won’t be able to spend it writing, either.

But I haven’t spent the last however-many workdays writing in the first place because creativity dies in this morass of boredom and frustration anyway.

It’ll be an adjustment, a big one. If my workdays fill up the way I anticipate, I’m going to have to actively carve out writing time in my evenings and weekends as I haven’t for a few years. I’m going to have to be more careful about scheduling everything from a daily workout to laundry to make sure I’m putting my actual job first in a way I haven’t for the last 2 years. I may even have to get used to traveling for work a tiny bit, at least once or twice a year.

But I’m ready for this. The new company is one whose mission isn’t just “make money,” but in fact rooted in helping other people, in building a better, healthier, more respectful world. That’s something I can actually care about. I’ve never since college had a job that paid money for something I valued, something I believed in, something I could feel. I think that will help me a lot.

But even so, I have reason to worry.

We’re singing a song for this season in the TCWC whose lyrics begin with:

What is the meaning of success?
What does it mean to me?
How do I get there?
Do I have reason to be scared?
Do I?

The song ultimately answers the questions by pushing forward, the refrain being “one step, take another step, step up.” It’s encouraging, and a pretty fun song, but it does kind of gloss over the part about actually being scared. It jumps from the reasonable human reaction of fear to refusing to give up, but there’s a piece that has to be overcome in the middle there.

And, yeah. Something of this magnitude, something that is job-related so it determines if Sarah and I are okay and can afford our lives…

Yeah, I have reason to be scared.

But I read something in a fic a little while ago that has been helping me a lot:

“You’re not nervous, you’re excited.”

It’s actually a real thing — biologically, the sensation of nerves and fear is pretty similar to excitement. It’s all in our human perception that tells us if that jangling in the stomach is a happy kind of sensation or a debilitating one. And while this might not work on generalized anxiety, for me, for a certain kind of fear, it does work.

While I’ve been interviewing for this job, when I was unexpectedly brought to California to meet with the company, all along I have reminded myself that I wasn’t nervous about talking to these people or making this leap, not scared to step way outside my comfort zone — but that I was excited to try something new and learn what I could do. It’s helped more than I can say. I need the reminder pretty frequently, but it’s helped. I found myself in a conversation with the company’s founder and I wasn’t afraid and nervous and unsettled; I was eager and enthusiastic, and that wasn’t false. It was my excitement in the place where nerves had begun.

Next week, I get to find out if this works on stagefright as well.

So there are a lot of unknowns about the coming weeks and months. Nobody knows how this change will impact my writing or my life — but it can only be a good thing, because the current state is damaging. I wish I could say that being stimulated at work would lead to a new burst of creativity and I would get back to writing the way I want. But maybe it’ll be more like CVG and it’ll take spoons I need for writing instead, and my production won’t increase even though my happiness and quality of life will. I don’t know.

But I’m willing to find out. I’m willing to walk away from 13 years of stability (and frustration) for something new and unknown. I’m willing to leap and figure out the landing on the way down.

It’s one step forward. One step up. It’s going to take a lot out of me, but it may give back even more. It’s a chance worth taking and a risk worth making.

I’m not nervous. I’m excited.

And it turns out? I really am.