But also because there is far less leaking here. I mean, fewer people so absorbed by any one aspect of their life that they let it leak all over the others. There are less of those people here, and more quiet, focused, work-oriented, friendly, driven, creative, understated people. There are out lesbians. Gay men. There are people with tattoos. There are people who drink coffee. People who have chosen not to have kids. People who go out for drinks after work. People who say fuck. Wear tank tops. Smoke cigarettes. Smoke marijuana. Are pro-choice. People who aren't super interested in pasting their lifestyles onto others, it seems. At least not at work, which is what's important to me. Instead, while they're in the office, they focus on making beautiful things and being appropriately friendly. I know this doesn't mean understated or even good to the culture I was raised in, but it does to me. This means the world to me. To be in a new space. A space to breathe. There's room for me to hang my stuff in my oblong cubicle and plug into whatever podcast I'm listening to and just think. And the guy who has four kids under the age of seven and doesn't sit in the lunchroom because he doesn't like the "racy" (I promise you, it's not that racy) lunch conversation is still a really nice, private, respectful guy.
I think when my environment is calm and neutral—more generally "accepting"—it is easier for me to be calm and neutral.
It was so hard for me to work in Utah Valley. Harder than I expected. I belong there, but also, I really don't. For some reason, when people at work would try and inject their faith, or their (to me) wacky political stances into work conversations, I would try to match their timbre with the reedy, crackly, out of practice (never really IN practice yet) truest hurting wounded depths of my heart. Very clumsily. Because my stances aren't so well-formed yet that I can say them right. But they're there, they're strong, they come in dense pangs—they mean so much to me—when I got out of college, it was hard for me not to throw these in people's faces when they threw theirs in mine, however snow-white their intentions were when they chucked their opinions at me. And if I got big feelings at work, it was really hard for me to work. It didn't happen every day, but it did happen a lot. And it hurt more because it was coming from people I loved so very, very, very much already. As much as I'd like to be a pinnacle of unconditional love and reason 100% of the time, I usually only can be when I'm well-fed, calm, have had enough sleep and water—days I feel in sync with my partner, when I feel like I've recently given my pets enough attention and have enough clean underwear—when it's quiet, cool, my surroundings are pretty anonymous (think like: an airport terminal—nobody's watching you, knows you, expects anything of you), and I don't have much to do that I don't understand. When I'm wearing comfortable clothes, have remembered all of my medications and not had too much caffeine, or sugar, or alcohol, or aspartame; when no uncertain or unexpected thing has happened that day. It also helps a lot to recently have finished or to be in the middle of a good book.
I've been particularly sensitive to aspects of the church popping up at work, of course, since I've had my true (what some ex-Mormons call) shelf break. The shelf on which I piled the principles of the church. Truly, it's been cracking since age 12—which was shocking to realize—and just recently shattered and let the 1000 tons of pressure behind it through to completely soak me.
Leaving a church behind, from what I've read, can be something like leaving the military. Or getting a divorce. Or losing a family member to death. Or actually returning from service in a war. Or exiling your own self (think Moses). So many currents have been winding tighter and tighter through the giant bundle of fibers that is my brain over the last three years. My head was just straight up stuffed with this too-big ball of yarn. I haven't wanted to write. I wrote a few things in a new space but going back, they're just information dumps. Letting things out. Accepting new diagnoses. I think I was just thinking. All the time. Not even thinking. Just sifting my brain dough. Scrambling it. Rolling it out flat. Cutting it into strips. Assembling them. Smooshing it all together again. Stopping for gulps of water in between and eating some of the dough, sometimes too much. Stuffing it down. Reading. Feeling sick. Feeling free. Trying to sleep. Trying to make sense. Trying to be whoever I am. Oddly, I feel much less dramatic this way. Who'd have thought.
It really was entertaining, and continues to be. A real trip. A lot of it was pleasant. But it did not mix well with work, and especially work in a couple of places that I really loved. I fully loved the people there. Made incredible friends like it seems I am lucky to do really everywhere I go. But some work communities are tight-knit for a reason—it's because they work well together and will continue to do so but won't fuse with newcomers of a different age group, train of thought, set of priorities, set of goals, set of growing pains. I loved these people but I needed not to hate them for the way they lived and the shitty stuff they sometimes said or practiced. I had spent basically every waking second of my life up until then hovering, nauseated, friendly, indulging, overly-giving, on the edge of these types of groups. Saying everything they said and wanting so badly to really agree with all of it and being so exhausted at the end of each day. And suddenly I was done doing it. So done I felt like peeling my skin off and jumping out of it. Scared, untrusting, unable to love people without pretending to agree with them.
I moved to another company. Better, but still, literally, too close to home. Made great new friends, got to work with an old friend. Had to leave. Was still too much.
I got the chance to go up to Salt Lake. Got the job of my dreams thus far. Turns out it's literally still of my dreams. They're overstaffed. I've done some amazingly fun, fulfilling work while I've been here (9.5 months), hopefully work which will continue to send me down my path, but the majority of my time here has been spent sitting and thinking. They might need to let me go. It's been hinted to me several times with increasing worried eyebrows over the last few weeks, so turns out, I might have to go. I hope not.
Here is where I have been able to sit. Use my skills the way I want to. Feel confused, curious, and doubting. Be myself. Figure out who that is. Dress the way I really want to. Read what I really want to. Listen to and watch what I really want to. Drink free coffee and soda. Bare my shoulders. Say fuck. Get pissed about stuff. Not talk to anyone for a whole day. Learn better not to judge. Write good, forgetful stuff. Stop attempting to be super cool and awesome. Appreciate and love and smile widely about my new normal. Try to appreciate my old normal for the good things about it.
I wanted to write this in case I get surprised by being let go on any random day. Surprises are a nightmare for me. So this is that I can remember that I felt ready, just in case. And incredibly thankful. Having savored what might be my last quiet week in this beautiful office, where I have been lucky to do what I want and be appreciated for it without really being needed or expected to be anything.
I thought everything had to be a big story, you know? Every single experience was supposed to bring me recognition from God. I was supposed to be ramping up to something. Or some piece of understanding. Or something was supposed to be taken away even when I was feeling my greatest—and especially then. That my spiritual eyes were supposed to be throbbing at all times. That I was supposed to be drowning in some kind of spooky understanding of my destiny while wearing pretty earrings, bouncing babies, and memorizing my spiritual thought for the week, and being skinny, and knowing my place, and being divinely womanish, and smiling, and knowing everything for sure, and believing in everything being good in the end, and only loving people for their high points. But at the moment I am ecstatically happy to be living in the gaps between the stories. Because, truly, that is where living really happens. And I am truly, truly happy there.
"We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories."