“Right here, right now
I put the offer out
I don’t want to chase you down
I know you see it
You run with me
And I can cut you free…” – The Greatest Showman
“What do you want to do?” My boss asked me.
I looked at him, speechless. “Well,” I began, “I do a lot of things…”
“That’s not what I mean. What do you want to do? And I don’t mean just here. Anywhere.”
We were standing in front of a blank whiteboard, trying to craft a job description for me. It had been more than a year after my freelance contract expiration date and now that we had a new senior director, there were finally some serious rumblings about converting me to a full time employee status. This was the holy grail of carrots dangled in front of people like me – the chance to have a much coveted employee badge and with it, all of the benefits of working in tech at a large company: stability, a good income, a healthy dose of work/life balance in the form of a pretty laid back job with a relaxed work-from-home policy, health benefits and a sizable discount on athletic wear from one of the biggest brands in the industry. There were also some less obvious perks of joining the upper class of a employment-status-based caste system geared towards perpetuating a culture of ‘haves’ vs ‘have-nots’. In short, this was everything I had been hoping for since I had first come to work for the company as a contractor almost three years before. So why was I not jumping for joy at the prospect?
He prompted me again, trying a different approach. “So… If you could do anything, what would it be? What would make you happy?”
I scowled, trying to think. What would make me happy? The answer that kept coming to me had nothing to do with being a full time employee at this company – in fact, the more I thought about it, the more it felt like I was just wasting time in a role that wasn’t (and never would be) a good fit at a company where I really didn’t belong.
It was a tough realization. I liked the people I worked with for the most part, and the job was ridiculously easy. I never had to take work home with me, which meant time for other pursuits – my design side business, the writer’s community I founded with my husband and even writing from time to time. My income afforded us a comfortable life with a nice house and enough left over for vacations and fine dining whenever we really wanted. But my internal voice was screaming that I didn’t belong here – that I was trying to compromise and mold myself into a role that just didn’t fit right. There wasn’t any way to shape the job into something it wasn’t. This wasn’t me.
Staying meant a comfortable life in a comfortable home – predictable and stable – but also never changing. Mark and I had already fallen into a comfortable schedule of a married, middle-aged couple of empty-nesters with pets that were equally as comfortable operating on a consistent schedule.
My supervisor’s question persisted, echoing in my mind like a broken record. “What do you want to do?”
Leave, was my unspoken reply. We were in the second year of the worst presidential administration ever, enabled by a Congress controlled by greed. It was getting to the point where I was numb to the constant barrage of stories about hatred, corruption, scandal, and crime coming from people who were supposed to represent the best interests of the people of America. It seemed like the average person was under attack from our own government, and for those over forty, it was worse. Healthcare costs were skyrocketing while care was getting worse. People were getting angrier and more divisive and many of us were getting pretty nervous about what the future held.
Over time Mark and I tossed around the idea of getting out of the country and settling someplace that was a little nicer and less expensive to retire in – like maybe somewhere in Central or South America. Every time another mass shooting happened at a school or a DACA dreamer was pulled away from the only home they had ever known and deported to a country they didn’t know, our resolve grew.
“Let’s move to Mexico and get away from this insanity,” Mark had once playfully suggested.
At the time we laughed and proceeded to flesh out the dream over margaritas and street tacos. We’d pay off our debts and put away enough in the bank to cover our living expenses. We’d learn Spanish. We’d take the dog, for sure, but we were iffy about how well the cats would travel. We’d put our stuff in storage, and, after we were settled, decide how much of it was that important to ship (I figured it would turn out to not be that much). I could design and write if we needed money – I already had a couple of freelance clients that would follow me as long as I had a computer.
But over time the idea transformed from a silly pipe dream into a full-fledged plan to get away on an adventure that would probably last a couple of years. Still I was torn, this meant throwing away a comfortable, stable job that would easily take me to retirement. What if I couldn’t find another job that paid as well as this one?
The song continued to tease me…
“…So trade that typical for something colorful
And if it’s crazy, live a little crazy
You can play it sensible, a king of conventional
Or you can risk it all and see…”
Walking our usual route through the neighborhood that evening, I brought up the topic of Mexico again. After the usual banter of makeshift planning, I turned to my Darling. “So seriously, when should we leave?”
He smiled and his hazel blue eyes twinkled. “Whenever you’re ready.”