A Ticking Clock or Ticking Cat?
Do you remember being in a high school classroom staring at the clock for the last 8 minutes to hurry up and end? Didn't it take forever for the big hand to finally make the giant swing to one minute closer to the bell ringing. Like an eternity existed within those sixty seconds and then you had to wait for another whole 7 more eternities? Sometimes it felt psychologically painful for me, like my brain was squirming, my mind twisting in agony.
That bell represented freedom. Sweet freedom. Maybe to the stairwell for a cigarette; yes, our high school allowed us to smoke inside the building, or maybe to a class I liked, one that kept my interest.
A few years ago during a financial panic I decided I should get a job and give up any hope of making a self-employed living. My alimony support was coming to an end and none of my entrepreneurial efforts created any significant cash flow. Unless you count outflow. There was quite a bit of that; trademarks, websites, research and development, classes and trainings and webinars and of course purple Pentel pens, lot's of those.
My therapist told me it was unrealistic to expect to get a starting salary of more than forty thousand for an entry level position. I felt qualified to get paid at least double that. And as a self-employed person it's quite possible but not very likely as an entry level employee. But since I hadn't generated eighty thousand I reluctantly decided to join a company.
I was hired on a part-time status and figured I'd segue into full-time once the last of the alimony came in and I'd truly have to give up my dream of being a writer/coach/anything.
But within the first few weeks, it was back, like Captain Hook's watch in the crocodile's belly; tick. Tick. TICK.
The dreaded clock, ticking away the moments of my remaining life in a cubicle, and on occasion an office with no windows - like a sensory depravation chamber.
Is this really worth it?
This question inspired me to do some math, which I usually try to avoid. The sum of all parts I considered equated to a negative number. At least if I wanted to continue living in San Luis Obispo, California.
The thing I value most; time freedom, would have to be sacrificed in order to earn a steady paycheck. But that paycheck would barely provide enough for me to exist, let alone contribute toward savings for my later years.
I tried hiding the clock in the office drawer. But I could still hear it, or rather, I could feel it, like it had so quickly established itself into my cellular memory. There I was in the high school classroom, my heart rate rising ever so slightly in anticipation of the liberty bell.
Day after day. I became moody and anxious. I devoured more carbs than usual. Company emails came through with congratulations on employees anniversaries; five years, twelve years, twenty years. I grieved for my future self. The one who couldn't figure it out. The one who had to fall in line and do what she was told. The one who gave up on her dream.
It reminded me of a time when I was in my late teens and interviewed to get office work through a temp agency. Somehow I passed the WPM typing test, which I think secretly I was hoping I'd fail.
As the interviewer straightened up my papers in my folder, she smiled at me, "Now, when you get sent out to work, you will need to wear hose, okay?"
No! No, that's not okay with me. When did she examine my legs to see they were hose-free?
The thought of wearing pantyhose for an entire day was suffocating. I might as well throw on a turtle neck and surrender to this bullshit.
Don't I have personal freedom to decide what undergarments to wear?
No. Apparently not. Neither did I have the personal freedom years earlier in private school to select my own footwear. Apparently, backless clogs, of which I'd just gotten a new pair, were not allowed in school. My mother, an artist and budding feminist, was outraged that her daughter couldn't choose what shoes to wear. My mother had a closet floor full of adorable shoes; she took this matter very seriously. Almost as seriously as her defiant rebellion against the introduction of zip codes when my brother was in 5th grade.
His teacher had instructed the class to write letters in the proper format including the recipient and sender's addresses positioned within the inch on the envelope. When my brother failed the assignment because he did not include a zip code, my mother apparently wrote a note to the teacher expressing her strong disdain for putting numbers on people like herds of cattle. I believe my brother sheepishly corrected his address to include a zip code in order to receive a passing mark.
It makes sense that I'd embraced a bit of rebellion against authority.
On one of my errand trips to the 99¢ store I purchased one of those cute solar activated waving kitty cats that sits on the dashboard. I figured at least I'd have an inanimate feline companion for my long-haul journey to the other side.
I set up the waving kitty on the dashboard and went about hanging curtains when I heard a faint ticking sound.
The engine wasn't on - what is ticking?
I moved toward the front seats in the RV and found the culprit. Each waving motion of the cat's paw generated the ticking sound.
I laughed at the irony of escaping a cubicle with a ticking clock only to find myself in a small motorhome with a ticking cat. But the ticking of the cat didn't have the same meaning to me as the clock.
Where the clock said; Your. Life. Is. Ending.
The cat paw ticking said something entirely different; Your. Life. Is. Adventure.
And perhaps my mother would be proud that I'll be zip-code free for the next nine months.