A Series of Unfortunate Career Phobias

I'd like to say that what happened next is that I began to bask in God's irrepressible love and receive care from others with the greatest of ease and that, ultimately, everything became all good rather quickly. Unfortunately, that's not how it happened at all.

As I shared in my last post, everything came to a standstill about two years after my junior year. For a college student, this roughly translates into the time of graduation and finding one's first real job. What that translated into for me was two first real jobs: one that was full-time and one that was part-time but acted like a crazy full-time job every couple of months.

The reason I took two jobs straight out of the gate was because I'd recently become a bit of a Dorothy Sayers fanatic. If you don't know her, she was a contemporary of the Inklings in England who could hold her own in the classics at Oxford while publishing mainstream detective fiction. She had all these interesting notions about work that basically boiled down to our needing to find the work we were uniquely suited to doing in the world and then doing it with all our might. (In case you're interested, this came from her interpretation of the creation account in Genesis, in that man was created in the image of God but that all we know about God and the image He bears up to that point in Scripture is that He is a creator.)

At this point, my life split onto two drastically different train tracks. On one track I was hunkering down and refusing to conform to anything that reeked of my value being contained in how I performed for anyone else in my life. On the other track, I was performing like crazy at work because I thought work was the end goal of my life. Looking at this now, it's hard to believe these two trains coexisted inside me at the same time. But they did, and I was blind to the contradiction for a while.

Of course, the eventual collision of these two freight carriers holding the cargo of my life was inevitable. As my conviction grew to follow God through the complete overhaul of some of my most deeply seated core beliefs, this had to eventually also affect the person I took with me to work every day (meaning, myself). The only trouble was, things became very, very messy for a long, long while.

There were days I would wake up and feel like my lungs were stuck in my throat, their too-big size for that constricted space keeping all the fresh air out. My stomach seemed to gnaw on itself interminably. I would avoid people's eyes, passing through halls with my eyes on the ground or making eye contact only briefly before quickly flitting away. Every Sunday found me sinking into a slow but absorbing funk as the prospect of yet another five days ahead became an unavoidable terror.

Why the extreme behavior? It certainly wasn't intentional, and I would have done anything to make it stop, but I think it was the natural (albeit unbearable) result of a war between my two selves: the subconscious self that was scrambling to keep up the acceptable order of the day, meaning stellar performance after stellar performance in order to keep things safe and controlled and protected, and my conscious self, which had begun to firmly reject that way of being.

It's like my subconscious self was yelping and screaming, "Hey! Go back now! You're going to die! You're going to die! And no one will come to your funeral!" Whereas my conscious self was like a young girl in summer stepping off the porch steps into the sun with a yellow tank top and hot-pink shorts setting off her spindly, tan legs, and the wayward strands of hair that won't quite fit into her ponytail puffing and curling around her head like a halo in the heat of the day. You see how truly young and vulnerable she is in that bright light, with only those tiny legs to hold her, except she knows she's somehow held and strengthened by the sun.