It’s been quite a journey this past three years of “living in captivity” as I have grown to lovingly refer to it as. It’s time for my release back into the “wild” of my natural habitat. The shift came organically, over time and without force or influence from anyone. For the first time in my life I am making a pure, unadulterated choice.
In December 2013, I triumphantly quit my 9 to 5 job in government work (of all things). I had been in this particular job for almost ten years, built up my salary slowly over time, became 90% vested in my pension program (a benefit becoming unheard of these days), enjoyed low-cost health insurance (which I never used) and in general, feathered my nest for a smooth ride for another 15 years before I was eligible to retire. Being so comfortable made me wonder if there was something I was forgetting to do with my life.
I started a side business on my days off. My love of food and cooking was real and abiding from a young age. Eventually I reached a point where I ran out of vacation time and days off I could use for this work. I saw a future in it–so I took the leap into the unknown.
Throwing caution to the wind has never, ever been my style. I prefer the safe bet, the logical conclusion. But, I felt like I needed to give it a shot. I can say this: when it was good it was very, very good. When it was bad it was miserable. It was always feast or famine (no pun intended). I assumed my clients would stay forever, but they didn’t. I assumed everyone communicated the way I do. They don’t. I assumed the power of positive thinking would bring me all the clients I needed to sustain my business. But, there were vast periods of drought.
In these quiet stretches of time I balanced the guilt I felt about not adequately contributing to the household finances with the feeling that this was somehow meant to be–this quiet, contemplative, open space. I embraced the freedom. And I wrote.
I wrote more than I have ever written in my life. My computer is littered with half-completed stories and memories and letters unsent. At this point it is always a conflict in my mind between whether to create more or to go back and edit the existing work for publishing.
I did yoga. I bought a treadmill. I started taking photos of food for my blog and learning to create the look I wanted. I took photos of family and landscapes and seascapes and streetscapes. I captured moments.
I dug out my journals and started a personal blog writing memories of the sexual experiences that have embellished the otherwise mundane landscape of my practical and not-so-adventurous adult life.
A married man reached out to me as a friend. A fellow blogger living in England. We began an email dialogue. One day I timidly shared a tiny draft of an erotic fantasy I wrote based on my first experience having a professional massage.
Then it got complicated. Twisted. Over time, I suffered more than I ever should have. But, I am a sensitive soul and that is my burden. I wrestled with the push and pull, restriction and indulgence. I wrote about this, too. In retrospect, I realize how naive I was and how I never should have shared that story. I know there is no one else to blame for what happened over the next two years.
Ultimately, I cut all ties with this man. For good. Forever. I see he was just another pattern of pleasure and denial in my life. I consumed him, just like a drug. And the compulsion controlled me–threatened to destroy me–just like a drug.
This experience, however, opened a door I never knew existed for me. Although I’ve always written true stories, I found my voice as an author of fiction as well.
Today, if I met the woman I was three years ago I wouldn’t recognize her. After examining myself from every conceivable angle, my perspective on my life is changed. The way I see myself is altered forever. For the better. What I realize about myself is that I value certain things above all else. One of those things is stability. Sustainability. Both in my personal and professional life.
I decided to close the business. Take the label “chef” out of my identity. Now, I’m just me. I like it. I applied to get back into the work I did before, but I’ll be starting over. It’s humbling, although this time it’s on my own terms. I have an interview scheduled this week and I look forward to getting back into the real world.
I think of all the possibilities for my writer self once a get behind a desk again. I imagine a future where I get paid to write my novel. I am making a list of supplies to bring to work: new USB drives on which to store my writing, slick new writing pens and pads and pads of fresh, bright paper.