It’s no secret, I hated my job. Or I did. For years, Ispent most of my energy trying to escape it, feeling it far beneath me andriddled with mundane, repetitive tasks that a robot could do—and probably oneday would. A boring, non-creative, uninspiring, powerless position at the universitythat ran smack into a dead end. Daily. There was no vertical ladder, no lateralrope swing, and certainly no hope of ever receiving a livable wage. But perhapsmost drearily, there was no window in my tiny, tomb-like office and every day Iwas certain the walls would finally close in, securing my aboveground burialwithin the crumbling old building with its’ terrible plumbing that backed up pungentlywith each monsoon season.
I was also getting through a bad luck streak. Badhealth. Bad accidents. Bad lovers. Trauma and mourning and more. I barely knewmyself, my mind scrambled and phobic. Which made it impossible to finishediting my novel, although I had an editor and agent. I’d succeeded at that.But it didn’t matter, I was spun out and paralyzed—my usual transcendentalist literaryoptimism highjacked by surreal visions of dark romanticism. My heart poundedloudly in my ears, while premature burial and talking ravens haunted my fatalisticthoughts. I was seriously beginning to wonder if I would make it out of therealive.
After seven years of biblical toil, little motion inany direction, piles of debt accrued in the name of low-wage survival and dreamchasing, and exhaustion from adjunct teaching in addition to my full-time job,Iput in my two-week notice. I was finally going to leave, not knowing what wouldhappen, but knowing I needed new opportunity, and, most of all, a window. Ineeded a window to the outside world, to see the clouds float by and the sunshining. Or a blizzard beating down without relent, knowing the drive homewould be treacherous but not caring because I had a vision nourished by thechange and flux of nature. A creative inspiration. A glimmer of euphoric lightand a return to transcendentalism, because I was stuck in the dark. I felt soempty, I no longer cared what job I did, as long as it had a window in it anddidn’t mention the words “academic advisor.”
“I’m giving my two weeks. I need a window, and I can’tstand Poe anymore.”
No one was shocked. The real surprise was I’d lasted solong in something I hated from the start. I gazed at the open road for meremoments before it all turned upside down. Covid 19 arrived in the smallmountain town of Flagstaff, Arizona and all of school moved online. A Pendulumswung over my eternal Pit of despair, and while 30 million Americans were suddenlyunemployed, the university begged me to stay. Teachers were laid off, but my thanklessjob somehow remained. I let them beg for nearly two weeks before I rescinded mynotice. I would help, but I solemnly vowed nevermore to return to my mausoleumagain, no matter what.
It’s a terrible excitement, to thrive when the rest ofthe world is suffering. A dirty, guilty relief. But I embraced it. I had to. Workingfrom home and quarantining steadied my heartbeat as pressure to advance andachieve was replaced with gratitude for a paycheck. And freedom. Andflexibility. And the rush—the hysterical rush ceased. The crypt gone. The dailyfuneral dirge silenced. The requiem requited. And the ravens no longer hauntedme but instead, danced and played in the Thoreauvian sunshine outside my window.Yes, I finally got my window, and just in time for spring.
The day they require I return to that catacomb will bethe day after my last as an academic advisor. But this time of healing—ofgratitude and satisfaction—I will remember clearly. It is a meditational exhaleemitting all the waste and poison from the years of academic competition andrepression. It is a purge. A much-needed pause before my next great inhale and busylist of passionate endeavors fills me again. Only this time, I will not allowthe walls to build me in without a window. And my rebirth, along with the restof the worlds, I hope will last a lifetime.