On Being Scared (Shitless)

when i told my friends i had lost my job, the first thing they said was, “think of all the free time you’re going to have! you can do all those things you’ve been wanting to do.” and the first thing i thought was: what things? i don’t want to do anything. i just want to get up and go to work and know that i’m getting a paycheck every two weeks. the second thing i thought was: anything i would actually want to do would require money.

for instance: i’d love to go back to school and get my MFA in creative writing. but i already have college loans and lord knows i don’t need any more, considering that money management isn’t exactly my forte. i’d also love to take a course or two in interior design, to see if my childhood habits of rearranging my furniture every six months and building mansions for my barbies in the built-in shelves of my playroom were a clue to my future. i’d love to fly to san francisco and spend a long weekend with two of my relocated best friends, both of whom i know have the power to make this whole thing seem like nothing but a little bump in the road. i’m the sappiest of saps, as anyone who knows me knows – and as i write this, i can almost feel my friend hannah’s arms around me, ensuring me that it’s a) okay to cry and b) that everything will really, truly, be okay. hannah’s the best hugger i know. i, on the other hand, am biologically averse to hugs and any sort of cuddling (though i’ve come a long way!) – but hannah taught how to hug, full frontal. and man, what i would give for a hannah hug right about now. i know that were i to arrive in san francisco, my friend kim would have a bed made up for me, and we would bake cookies and watch bad TV and eat candy in our PJs on the couch and i’d be assured that all was right in the world.

so, those are the things i’d do if i hadn’t a care in the world, and the budget to do it. but i don’t, so instead, i’m sitting in a cafe, typing up a long love note to my fear and how it’s eating me alive. that’s an expression of my mother’s, by the way – eating me alive. she’s convinced that if i don’t get myself under control, i’m going to let this entire experience eat me into a black hole that’ll swallow me and then neglect to spit me back out. and i hate to admit it, but she’s right. in fact, she’s right about 75% of the time (though she’d tell you it’s 100%), which is probably why she’s still the first person i call whenever i’m about to burst into tears (good progress sarah, you’re 26 years old and still blubbering like a baby on the sidewalk to your mother).

but my blubbering nature aside, the fact of the matter is that she’s 100% right in this case. i am scared. paralyzed, even. and really, i need to just suck it up and smack myself in the face and stop letting my fear of being a total failure in life get the best of me. because let’s face it, millions of people have been laid off. and most of them have it way worse than me. i mean, call up lena dunham and tell her i need a guest spot on GIRLS as the whiny brat who’s afraid she’ll have to move back to her suburban dream of a childhood home. i can do whiny brat with the best of ’em.

if i were to psychoanalyze myself, i’d say that my problem is the unknown. if you could tell me i’d be employed again, happy as a pig in shit in a little cubicle at a 9-5, in two months, i’d be off saving all the abandoned cats in the world and baking homemade cat treats in my kitchen to give to all my new babies. the problem is that i don’t know, and no one else does either. no one can tell me i’ll have a job soon, or ever, because no one knows. and that’s the part that’s scaring me shitless.

but you want to know something crazy? part of me feels like this whole thing was meant to be. i’m not one of those people who really buys into fate (but i have been reading my horoscope, which, i should tell you, predicted “a big work event” on the day of my layoff), but i have this weird sense that maybe this is how it was supposed to be. for starters, for the first time since i graduated college, i’m writing again…really, truly, writing. of course, most of it, like this post, is pure word vomit – but it feels good to barf that shit up! sorry, that was gross. but the point is, maybe i wasn’t meant to spend my days writing subject lines and sales promos. maybe i was meant to be a word vomiter!

when i was little, i wanted to be a lot of things when i grew up: first, i was going to be an oncologist (thanks to lurlene mcdaniel’s morbid series of YA novels), then, a famous singer in the vein of fiona apple (you can laugh at that one), but what i always sort of wanted to be, what i always thought i would be, in the back of my mind, was a writer.

so hey, fear? if you could leave me alone for a bit and let me do my thing, that’d be great. because there’s a teeny tiny chance that i’m actually, for once, in the right place.


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