September 22, 2012

Exhale


My last few posts have been deceiving, to put it lightly. I have loved my walking adventures with Matt, don't get me wrong. But there is an awful lot more I'm not sharing.

Namely, my intensely private struggle with depression.

Part of it has been related to my employment situation, part due to a health issue that has me not only temporarily unable to run but slowly yet steadily gaining weight. It's been a tough year, and it hasn't entirely eased up since returning to Chicago. Things are infinitely better, and there's no doubt in my mind that I made the right choice. But still, there are challenges, and some days, the pressure feels like it could break me.

I try so hard to always wear a brave face and a smile, even when the pain is overwhelming. No one has any clue how much I'm hurting, because I keep it all to myself.

A friend from grad school asked why I left California since things seemed to be going so well for me there. And I don't blame him - they did seem okay when you look at what I put forth, particularly on Facebook: long bike rides, teaching victories, scenic pictures.

What I hid was considerably darker.

"Wow," he said. "I would have never guessed."

And that's how I've wanted it to be, for years, not just limited to California. Fiercely independent, I've always felt the burden of my struggles is mine to carry and mine alone.

The independence extends to my job search. As my savings account begins to slim down, I feel a bit of a panic and wonder when I'll finally get a call back from anyone - even retail applications have gone unanswered. But the thought of letting anyone know how deeply, truly terrified I am is gut wrenching. Almost scarier than the fear itself. I know that even if things were to become desperate, I have people to count on - the promise of financial support from my father, for example. But again, the need to be independent kicks in, and I feel terrible even thinking I might have to borrow money temporarily.

This stuff keeps me up at night. I lay there, staring at the walls, trying to think of what measures I could go to in order to ensure that I (a) don't need to be dependent on anyone else and (b) don't let anyone find out how truly stressed out I am.

Something I firmly believe, though, is that the universe is a wonderful place, and mysterious things happen all the time. At the right time, when you're feeling down on your luck and about ready to throw in the towel, that's when things tend to surprise you and turn around.

I got a phone call the other day for a job interview.

And the next day: another.

I went to both, and after a series of interviews, I was offered both positions. Since the schedules conflicted, I took the one that offered a better salary and more hours. As soon as my background check clears, I'm set to begin training and jump right into working again.

The positions were both in retail/customer service - not ideal, not teaching, but it's work, and I'm intensely grateful. I'm grateful to have an income again, even if it's a wage and not a salary. I'm grateful to have something to do all day besides wander the city and wonder what I'll do when the money runs out. And I'm grateful to have one of my major worries taken care of. I'm still actively searching for teaching jobs, but in the meantime, I'll be busy and making enough money to afford the roof over my head, the food on my plate, the clothes on my body, and even a few little extras.

It feels so, so good to smile genuinely again, and to exhale deeply and let go of this one stressor.