Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Gray Day

I spent my school years as a square peg. Not being bullied or rejected…but just feeling like I never fit in. My way of looking at things was different, even as a teen. I would not do the things that kids do to fit into the crowd, simply because I refused to be manipulated into doing things just to be "cool." In fact, if something was considered "In’ or "cool," it immediately lost its appeal. (I was nothing if not a control freak, even back then.) I would do what I wanted to do, not what teen society of the time dictated. Individuality was my primary objective. I wonder sometimes if I developed that zeal for individuality because I knew that I was a square peg and was never going to BE one of the crowd anyway. Making NOT fitting in my goal, turned the very thing that makes most adolescents the most miserable into a source of pride for me. Which is not to say I was not lonely. People think that loners are the way they are because they prefer it that way. There is a certain amount of truth to that…but, still, there are times when everyone needs a friend. And those of us who have fashioned ourselves into the classic "loner" persona sometimes find ourselves sadly lacking in that commodity.

After high school, I went to work instead of to college. I think I was more in need of what the workplace could offer me at the time… I found a social life outside of the stringent boundaries of high school. I found I could compete against other folks and excel (probably because most kids with my intelligence level had gone on to college…). I had always been high-energy, and a physically demanding job was something that fulfilled a need in me that school never had. I was perfectly happy to be on my feet running around like a crazy person for ten or twelve hours a day. For the first time in my life, I felt like I fit in.

Unfortunately, my chosen profession—restaurant work—turned out to be much like being a professional athlete. It’s definitely for people in their physical prime. By age thirty-five, you are pretty much too old for the game. I was lucky…I latched onto the job of my life when I was 31, and kept it until I was almost forty. But when the team puts you out to pasture, you find that there’s not much available for a forty-something ex-restaurant-manager. The industry is all about young, fresh faces. AND all about starting from the bottom and working your way up through an organization. At the age of forty, after working your butt off for twenty-two years, that doesn’t look too attractive. And you look around you at your slightly-older -than-adolescent co-workers and managers…you are old enough to be their mother. Not much prospect for a social life outside of work with these people.

So, for nearly a decade, I spun my wheels, searching for a position that would restore some of the feeling of confidence and self-esteem I had built at my "dream" job. I could not possibly count the number of jobs I had between 1994 and 2001. My husband and I would joke that wherever we traveled in Eugene or southwest Portland, we would pass people he knew, or places I had worked. But it was no joke. Coming to the realization that you are no longer wanted or needed in the world in which you have spent two decades building a place for yourself…or thinking you had…is no fun. I even tried "changing careers." I wandered briefly into the world of office work. I don’t think I could have chosen a job for which I was less suited. That took its toll as well.

Now I’ve "retired." But only because trying to find my way in the workplace was becoming too painful. It was more painful than giving up the good things that working had once offered me: social contact, a place to compete and sometimes even win, physical labor to satisfy my need to just…be busy. I have my own business now, and from time to time it provides me with what I need. But not all the time. And certainly not during the off-season months, when the specter of depression clings to the dark, wet windowpanes of a Pacific Northwest winter. The days are getting longer, and they haven’t been all that wet this year, thank heaven. But they have been lonely. And the prospects for that changing are not very good. In my mind, I know it’s up to me to "get out there" and live. But my heart is too sad, busted up, and scared to listen to a word my mind has to say.


  1. I totally understand what you are feeling..I'm 43..Took a buyout from a job I had 16 years stayed off 3 years and now back into the working field...Would love to go back to school but not sure if I'm up for it anymore...I went back to work at a office type job ugh!! hate it...They are a different type people very anitsocial I'm used to reatail or sales or heathcare...those people are more social..So I sit here being depressed wishing I could quit riding the fence...and quit this crappy new job and live my dreams...Fear has a way of keeping me from this
    Hope all works out
    Donna in TEXAS

  2. Thank goodness winter is almost over and spring is in the air.  My front yard is full of small purple crocus!  The other bulbs are showing their green!  The skunks are out!  Spring is on the way! That lifts my spirits.

  3. I've had more than my share of job changes, too.  I do find that I need to work or do school or SOMETHING to get out of the house in the winter. Last winter I wasn't doing anything and the days got pretty long and boring and depressing. I spent LOTS of time in bed and I don't mean that in a good way. Knowing what you know about yourself - that you enjoy being busy - what can you do during those long winter months? Work is only one of many ways of keeping busy, right?

  4. You sound like you have the winter blahs.  Not much one can do for that condition except see it through.  Hang in there.  Sunshine is on it's way and when it arrives a sunbeam will find it's way right to you.   Pennie

  5. Interesting entry -- I had wondered how you ended up in your business.

    Maybe it's time to go back to school?  If you studied journalism I'm sure you could snap up internship and job offers.

  6. Along with the winter blahs you may just be tired after that show and all. You just might need a rest for a few days.
    I was never good at making money...never had a "real" job. I get  what you are saying in some sense and understand about the "young" thing. In many ways,I Still don't feel I fit in. So. Here we are. The comments you received seem good. Maybe if you don't feel up to college... Adult Ed. might be fun..a writing class or gourmet cooking...maybe you could even teach something you know. I just applied for a "real" job today...took me three years to get up the courage to do it.
    Take care.

  7. Sunshine and busier months are coming.  Hang in there.

  8. Hi Lisa-
    It always amazes me when I read you entries how much you and I have in common and much we "view life" in the same ways. In school I was also the "loner" type but not lonely and had friends. I never seemed to quite fit in or fit out so to speak. I am also in the restaurant business and have been for most of my life. Either as a food server, bartender, cocktail server and management (which I hated).
    I am now 41 and in college full time for a career change. The goal for me is to be able to work part-time at the hospital, but do most of my work from home. Discovering my love for computers, writing, research and medicine has just made me finally realize what "I" want to do for employment and by God I'm going to do it! My major is medical technology, which really leaves the door open for so many different fields and that's how I wanted it. So now I am in the process of still researching and deciding (soon) "exactly" what my occupation will be. Bob and I will be living in a rural setting so being able to telecommute is vital. This is an exciting time for me and it makes it even better that I have friends like you who support and share in this process.

    Thanks again for a great entry,

    PS: I am still thinking on a suggestion for your journal. One that came to mine and it's kind of a cliche is "Politically Correct....NO". LOL

  9. Love the green.  I think that if you had gone to college, you would have found that it is a far more forgiving place than high school.  I found college to be a totally different world and the fitting in thing never came into play for me there as it had in high school.  I actually admire that you've worked so much and done so many things.  You are a tireless worker.  That says something about you.

  10. dont' you think that the midlife years are sorta like a delayed second adolescence?
    i have a lot of the same feelings you do, as I contemplate leaving my 20 year teaching job & finding something else to do.
    I used to love restaurant work too...the adrenaline rush, the contact woth people and the comaraderie.

  11. I know what you mean about feeling like a square peg.  It sounds like you're now at a crossroads.  It could be an exciting time for you.  Maybe a time to take a college class or two, maybe a composition or creative writing course.  It sounds like you want to attend to your creative life.  

  12. I believe it's never too late for anyting. So long as your still breathing, there is hope and a chance. It's up to you to do it though. I guess that's where that saying "Just Do It" came from. Sometimes that really is all that it takes.
    :-) ---Robbie