I’ve been harboring something. Like an unwanted parasite, I’ve tried to clamp down my borders, my boundaries, to keep it out. Or in. Because sometimes I’m not sure I don’t need it.
At first glance, it feels like a grudge. Looking deeper, maybe it’s more of a regret, an emptiness, a wasted life.
Okay, maybe that last one’s a little dramatic. Maybe it’s just a normal part of the grieving process when you have to let something go. Something that was so instrumental, monumental and pivotal in your life for so long. Gone.
The thing I keep circling back to and feeling a bit embarrassed about is that it wasn’t a person. Not one individual at least. It was an experience. A job. One I loved and longed for before I even knew it existed and sunk my whole world into for eight years.
When I think of where Katie will be in eight years, suddenly that feels like a very long time. And it was sometimes.
Looking back, I can see my job became my full-time reality. It was like my child. The focal point of every waking thought, every conversation. You get to the point where you’re squeezing in your own wedding, regrettably missing a loved one's funeral or wedding, birthdays and holidays. But the job’s important. It’s bigger than yourself. And it seemed that way, a lot of the time.
Maybe that’s why I feel like it still owes me something. Like I buried myself in that work, sacrificed so much for too little return on investment. Certainly financial at least. Experiential was a different story. Sometimes—most times, really. But as soon as I walked away, it felt like it had never happened. Like it was a mirage. The sheen, the mystique and the pride quickly washed away. You build what you think is a legacy just to learn it was far from it. You were just a cog in the wheel until you weren’t.
All of those feelings are probably compounded by the fact that my former job is still in my face. Turn on the TV, and there it is. So I got rid of my sports channels. Walk through the grocery store and there are posters and people wearing jerseys. Scan through Twitter and there are faces that used to be yours or used to be your family. But they’ve moved on. They’re in the thick of it still. You’re just a blip in the past. ‘What was that Mormon girl’s name that used to bring us those game notes?’
It’s like seeing an ex who’s happily moved on and you’re still single and sucking at the dating scene.
Nobody wants to be discarded or forgotten. Maybe that’s the mirage. Maybe it wasn’t all for nothing and I’m the one that’s discounting any impact I had. Maybe my worries that I’ve become a distant memory—an outsider—maybe those are ill placed. The problem with perception and reality is that a lot of times, they’re not the same. But sometimes they are. And you cling onto that. At least I do.
So what? I’m sitting on and island, a world away with a lot to be grateful for. And I am. So what do I want? What do I expect? Some statue on the arena plaza saying I was there? I mattered? No, it was just a job. That part is gone but the relationships I cultivated aren’t. Or at least they shouldn’t be. Except it feels like they are—just another part of the mirage. People I shared some of the biggest moments of my life with and now I don’t even know where they’re at in life. I couldn’t pick up a phone and call them if I wanted to. I went too far off the grid and lost contact. Lost contacts.
I’ve moved on—physically. Now I just need to move on mentally. Not leave it all behind but stop losing sleep worrying it’s left me behind. There are times and seasons for things and that one’s passed or at least paused for now.
We build bridges in life. Sometimes we walk away and tear them down. I’d rather leave it as it is in case I have a chance to cross it again some day or maybe just to know it's there.
As always, there are takeaways. What are mine? Don’t let a job define you, let it develop you. Let it direct your paths but don't let it become your path. And remember relationships are never one sided. If you’re feeling rejected or out of touch, reach out. It’s a two-way street. And sometimes you just need to learn to let things go. Let the memories shine, not shred you apart. Believe it or not, you can live in the present without forsaking or forgetting the past. Just don’t let it mire you in what ifs and could have beens. Leave it where it is—what was and what has been one heck of a ride.