It has been almost a month since I said “So Long, Stinkjob!” and began my “sabbatical” in Rhode Island. These things are never like you imagine them – there are just too many unknowns. So how has my experience been so far? Should you follow and quit your shitty job as well?
Let me preface with the fact that I am still in the honeymoon phase of the funemployment. My finances are still close to where I had them when I quit my job. The weather has been mostly a procession of leftover and imperfect summer days – a TJ Maxx rack of warm, but not hot, sunny days, weekends in the 70’s, and most importantly, no chills, frosts or other temperatures requiring indoor heating.
But what a honeymoon!
Around the house, I have been reasonably, but not exceptionally productive. I spend most of my time working on this or that, and it’s not lost on me just how many weeks I would have to aggregate in my old life just to scrape together a few short hours of project time. I’m practicing the drums every day, but hardly for the ambitious 3-4 hours that I had aspired to – I just don’t have the attention span. I have been doing a decent amount of writing – Especially on this blog, as these posts are very easy and fast to finish and get off my figurative desk. I recently posted a remix I completed, and will doing a few more. I am also trying to get the balls to make a song of my own performance – stay tuned.
Living alone in a town where you don’t know anyone is different. I certainly don’t miss all the headaches associated with having roommates who don’t share my standards of cleanliness, attention to detail or cultural outlook. I don’t really miss all the racket, concrete, visible poverty, competitive vibe and space constraints of the city either. However, when the sun goes down, I do get a little lonely and sad in my big empty house. I usually go to the library once a week to check out materials, run wild on their free internet (I pay by the ½ gigabyte at the house through my phone plan with Ting) and to be around other living breathing souls. However, on the whole, hermetic living during the weekdays isn’t so bad. I’ve talked a lot of shit about wanting to be alone and have time to myself in correspondence and conversation with friends, and thankfully, the shit I talked was fairly accurate. Having time and space at the cost of human interaction works for me at current levels.
And the reason it works is because of the “Weekends in White Satin” I have been spending in Providence. They have been a whirlwind of fun and introductions, drinking, hookah, carousing, biking, eating, exploring, conversing, joking, cat-petting. Perhaps there’s nothing novel about this. I could have had (and probably did at one point have) all of the above in Chicago, but there’s something new and fresh and different here. Something more.
On the one hand it could be me. I have internalized the cliché of the “fresh start” and I can feel it flowering within me. I feel unburdened, no longer in the cold shadows of loathsome jobs, a boring dead-end (soulwise) career, Northwestern and its zeitgeist of conformity and institutional striving (it perpetuates outward via some of the alumni – sorry NU friends), terrifying anxiety attacks, annoying and stressful living situations and the upsetting time competition between my social life and my creative impulses. When I head up to Providence for the weekend, I don’t have to worry about the work I should be doing on beer, or personal fitness, or drums, or remixes, or clothes darning and dyeing, or food preparation (gotta make lunch for work on Monday! Gotta bring food or drink to the potluck!) or whatever else I used to worry about on the weekends. I can give my time freely, to the point that I have to be careful about not hogging everybody else’s.
When I meet people here, the hardest part is explaining that I’m a bum, not working or seeking work, living in a giant house by myself. However, if I can get past that hurdle, I no longer have to talk about my shitty fucking job that I hate and how my career looks from my point of view like a long bleak march out of the city and towards the suburbs, conformity and death. I don’t have to tell the person I just met that sometimes I get so enraged that I put Car Bomb’s “Third Revelation” and Today is the Day’s “My First Knife” on my car stereo and literally SCREAM along at the top of my lungs until I feel light-headed and exhausted, but somewhat relieved.
For the most part I can be myself, a man without a past, looking toward the future. I can try to be witty or well-read or any of the other things I like to do in conversation. I can let the other party handle the work-talk, and sympathize sincerely.
And beyond that I can take on challenges, try to leave the old fears and hang-ups behind. Few people here know me, so what do they know about who I am, how much of a coward and an ineffectual I was? It’s a positive identity crisis. I never biked in Chicago, now I’m zipping through downtown with a deathwish, and it’s a real thrill. I didn’t always dress like a hipster, but now, with all my crazy home-dyed pants, and my writerly glasses, why the hell not? It’s liberating to move with your essence, by your own choice, not beholden to any institution. You get to be the mystery that people want to figure out, the one that takes a little more time and examination. The one that can’t be put quickly categorized by institutional metadata and placed in the array accordingly.
But to be fair, maybe it’s not me at all. I have a feeling it might just be my best friend. He has such an acute outlook on life, and such an iron will. When I’m around him, it’s impossible to see anything but possibilities, voids, niches and malfunctions in the system where a person can go boldly and make hay until someone makes them stop. He has opened his doors and his Providence life to me and for that I am thankful. If I had to come here, or go anywhere truly alone, with no one, that would be a much more frightening proposition. My friend is always propping me up, checking on me, alerting me to opportunities, cultural trends, little bits of insider knowledge that, even if I don’t use them immediately, keep my mind open to the sheer amount of life that is out there to be seized. His very aura boosts my confidence, and I hope that I can (or already do) have some positive effect on him now or in the future.
So in conclusion, so far so good. The weekends are like some wonderful vacation. I feel that I have been allowed to keep any and all earned wisdom in my account, and leave behind the vast majority of the bitterness and anxiety that marred my time in Chicagoland. I still have a ton of work to do if I’m actually going to capitalize on my hobbies, passions and interests, but with the prospect of going back to the office leering at me, it’s not very difficult to stay motivated.