It’s no secret, I hated my job. Or I did. For years, I spent most of my energy trying to escape it, feeling it far beneath me and riddled with mundane, repetitive tasks that a robot could do—and probably one day would. A boring, non-creative, uninspiring, powerless position at the university that ran smack into a dead end. Daily. There was no vertical ladder, no lateral rope swing, and certainly no hope of ever receiving a livable wage. But perhaps most drearily, there was no window in my tiny, tomb-like office and every day I was certain the walls would finally close in, securing my above ground burial within the crumbling old building with its’ terrible plumbing that backed up pungently with each monsoon season.
I was also getting through a bad luck streak. Badhealth. Bad accidents. Bad lovers. Trauma and mourning and more. I barely knew myself, my mind scrambled and phobic. Which made it impossible to finish editing 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 literary optimism highjacked by surreal visions of dark romanticism. My heart pounded loudly in my ears, while premature burial and talking ravens haunted my fatalistic thoughts. I was seriously beginning to wonder if I would make it out of there alive.
After seven years of biblical toil, little motion in any direction, piles of debt accrued in the name of low-wage survival and dream chasing, 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 would happen, but knowing I needed new opportunity, and, most of all, a window. I needed a window to the outside world, to see the clouds float by and the sun shining. Or a blizzard beating down without relent, knowing the drive home would be treacherous but not caring because I had a vision nourished by the change and flux of nature. A creative inspiration. A glimmer of euphoric light and a return to transcendentalism, because I was stuck in the dark. I felt so empty, I no longer cared what job I did, as long as it had a window in it and didn’t mention the words “academic advisor.”
“I’m giving my two weeks. I need a window, and I can’t stand Poe anymore.”
No one was shocked. The real surprise was I’d lasted so long in something I hated from the start. I gazed at the open road for mere moments before it all turned upside down. Covid 19 arrived in the small mountain town of Flagstaff, Arizona and all of school moved online. A Pendulum swung over my eternal Pit of despair, and while 30 million Americans were suddenly unemployed, the university begged me to stay. Teachers were laid off, but my thankless job somehow remained. I let them beg for nearly two weeks before I rescinded my notice. I would help, but I solemnly vowed nevermore to return to my mausoleum again, no matter what.
It’s a terrible excitement, to thrive when the rest of the world is suffering. A dirty, guilty relief. But I embraced it. I had to. Working from home and quarantining steadied my heartbeat as pressure to advance and achieve was replaced with gratitude for a paycheck. And freedom. And flexibility. And the rush—the hysterical rush ceased. The crypt gone. The daily funeral dirge silenced. The requiem requited. And the ravens no longer haunted me 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 be the day after my last as an academic advisor. But this time of healing—of gratitude and satisfaction—I will remember clearly. It is a meditational exhale emitting all the waste and poison from the years of academic competition and repression. It is a purge. A much-needed pause before my next great inhale and busy list of passionate endeavors fills me again. Only this time, I will not allow the walls to build me in without a window. And my rebirth, along with the rest of the worlds, I hope will last a lifetime.