Saturday, June 16, 2012

On disappearing acts (an explanation of sorts)

Ten months ago I changed my phone number, disabled my Facebook account and put a block on a bunch of emails that could come into my gmail and yahoo accounts. I disconnected my Skype user name and put all of my IM accounts on "invisible". I then let about 6 people know what I was doing and gave them my new number. This all coincided with the weekend that the Hurricane Irene was supposed to hit New York City.
I didn't need to explain why to the people closest to me at the time, they understood what I was doing, knowing full well that once I had made my decision I wasn't going to change my mind. For the rest... They either understood it or didn't, and that was that. I know full well that I hurt some people, people who cared about me, and were actually worried about me, but there was honestly not much else I could do about it. Actually rephrase, there was not much else I wanted to do about it.

Selfish? Completely.

That doesn't mean I don't feel guilty about it. I lost some very close friends through it, people I really cared about, who had mostly been there for me over the six years I had been in New York. Some, surprisingly, didn't skip a beat and just continued to stay in touch, others reached out once and then never again, and others never contacted me again, even when I re-enabled my Facebook account. I don't blame them - I don't know for sure how I would have reacted if someone close to me had decided to disappear in the same manner. However, I will not blame myself for what I did either. I do blame myself for letting it get so bad that I felt that the only way out was to disappear for a while, but that is just a lesson learned. Sometimes a radical change is what is needed to get back on track, and although I caused some damage, I also saved myself from causing even more damage.

I don't even know if I am going to post this entry yet. It may stay stuck in my drafts forever, or it may fall into oblivion amidst other posts. I just feel, after 10 months, some need for an explanation on my part, although I still continue to believe that it was the best move I could have made for my own sanity. I'm not very good with confrontation (although I am getting better), but I'm not good with telling people how I feel either - it's easier to listen than to hope someone is listening to you. From there, it's also easier to hear than be heard, especially when you don't have a very loud voice.

Seven years ago I moved to New York City for a job I thought I needed to take, hoping that one day I would be able to move nearer to my family in California. I fell in love with New York, and decided to do my best at the job, in order to be able to stay and make a life for myself in the city. Some days I loved my job, some days I hated it, some days I was indifferent. Until the stress started to take it's toll. For anyone who has worked in account management in a service-providing firm in this city you know the deal: late nights, early mornings, 80+ hour weeks and constant emails and phone calls, even when you are on vacation. Couple that with someone who loves the nightlife, then you have a pretty immediate problem: alcohol. I blamed the work stress to be my cause of drinking excessively, and then when I stopped drinking, I just dove deeper into my job. For some reason I needed to make it work, and "No" was never an option. A new project on top of the many I already had? No problem. Conference call on Sunday night at midnight because the website had to go live that night? No problem. Working on cost estimates during my vacation because no one else could do it? Um... No problem. I'm not blaming anyone on this - I could have just refused to pick up the phone, and/or just said NO. I didn't.

Ten years ago all I wanted to do was finish university and write for a living. Nine years later I found myself in a job I had begun to despise and a life I didn't want anymore. I went to California for 10 days last summer and rediscovered my passion for writing. When I went back to work I felt like I was walking in a thick haze of doom, and the only thing that would actually revive me during the day was writing on here. So that's how I got through my days: wrote on my blog and bullshitted my way through conference calls at work. Every morning I would wake up feeling the dread that hadn't dissipated with a short night's sleep, and my subway rides to work would consist of me dreaming up elaborate plans on how one could die without much pain to get out of a prison I had created for myself and/or other dreams moving back to England or France where I could work without a visa, although that would mean leaving my life behind in NYC. Then came the earthquake and the impending hurricane that was bearing down on us. On the Friday before the hurricane was supposed to hit I was asked to work on something over the weekend. I was already about 50 hours of work behind, and something just snapped. While tears were falling on the notepad in front of me I just decided to leave. I wouldn't be coming back on Monday. Done. I didn't care that I didn't have another job, or that I didn't have a green card, or that I didn't have any savings. That was it. I couldn't set another foot in that office again. Enough was enough. I had tried to leave so many times, but I couldn't do it. In my mind this was the only way.

On the Saturday I opened my email at home for the last time, created a "coverage" chart with all of my projects and saved it to my remote desktop. On the Sunday I wrote an email to my boss explaining that I wouldn't be coming back, had a friend review it and edit it, and saved it in my drafts. Then I moved on to the disappearing part: I changed my phone number, disabled my Facebook account, blocked any emails coming into my gmail account, and sent the email to my boss, attaching the coverage chart. There is only one reason for my disappearing act: I didn't want anyone to try to change my mind, because I knew that they would. By blocking all forms of communication I was avoiding any confrontation, and avoiding any type of explanation on my part. My mind was made up. I woke up on the Monday morning to a beautiful blue sky and for the first time in what felt like months I could breathe freely. I know there were other, more mature and professional, ways of doing this, but in my head at the time there was no other way. And you know... I think subconsciously I wanted to create some kind of dramatic exit, just to make a point, although I don't even know if there really was a point left to be made. I don't do drama very well, but when I do, I guess it's on the bigger scale of things.

Going off the grid for a while was the best thing I could have done for my own personal mental health. Not just from a leaving work perspective, but also from a more general in-the-life of Jade point of view. It helped me start to focus on my writing again, and forced me to start looking at actually living my life, rather than just going through the motions. I realised that I was able to survive without a permanent salary, and that I was capable of starting over again, and finding out what I really wanted to do here, in this city. I'll never regret doing what I did, but I do still feel guilty about it.  

I guess I just want to throw an apology out there to anyone I may have hurt in the process. I know who you are, and you know who you are. It may or may not matter anymore, but it does matter to me. I would not recommend such a radical change to many people, but I felt at the the time that it was the only way I was actually going to be able to get out of my own personal hell and move forward with my life. And that's the last I am going to write about this - in the end this is my own forum for self-expression, to be read or unread by others, and I suspect this is just another form of selfishness on my part, because I needed to get it off my chest for once and for all. Being completely, 100% selfish is not always a bad thing - sometimes you just have to be that way. Sorry.

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