Well, it’s been a bit. There are reasons for that, some of which I’ll discuss hereinafter.
I guess the biggest reason is that I spent the summer looking for a job. The whole issue of employers and social media is one that I’ve been perpetually uneasy with. I had an employer, back in the early days of Twitter and Facebook, who “encouraged” us to post promotional content about the company to our personal accounts. I navigated that by setting up dummy accounts and following/friending only work people so I wasn’t annoying everyone else in my life. That same employer fired a coworker for making a heavily veiled reference to work on a private social media account. Those experiences blurred lines between the personal and the professional that, at least for me, need to remain very distinct.
That said, I know it’s unrealistic to expect that prospective employers won’t search for my online presence, especially when many of the jobs I applied for were in communications and marketing (which, although it is not a passion, is unfortunately the field with most of my experience and credentials and samples). So I decided to take a break from blogging. I didn’t take down the blog, because I hoped my story might still provide connection or encouragement for others in similar situations, but I did make some of the more recent, more angsty posts private, and I thought I had effectively hidden the site itself from anyone except fellow WordPress users.
So it was jarring, in one interview, when someone said, “I’ve been on your website and seen your social media posts.” I didn’t dare ask if they meant my blog or if they’d found an old website or even a site by someone else with my name. But I was rattled. There’s a lot of very personal reflection here, and it’s one thing to make that available to strangers on the Internet and to friends who know me well, but another to realize this might be someone’s first impression of me in a professional context. Yet I chafe at the idea of having to take it all down.
I still am not sure how to resolve this issue/dilemma/question. When I started the blog, I was thinking my next move would be to seminary or perhaps to a position where my story would be relevant in a role working with others in similar situations. I am not currently pursuing that avenue for reasons that, again, I will explain later in this post. And in the meantime…
In the meantime, I had several interviews throughout the summer, but nothing panned out. So I ended up where I didn’t want to be, back in Colorado with my parents.
And I found a job at a thrift store, where not only does no one care that I have a blog or a(n increasingly limited) social media presence, no one even knows my last name to search for me online if they were so inclined. The thrift store supports a nonprofit that does valuable work in the local community, so the “meaningful impact” box on my list of job requirements is checked even though I’m not directly involved in those initiatives. The coworkers are a pretty good bunch. It’s hard physical work, so I’m getting back into shape and shedding the COVID stress pounds without needing a gym membership. And I’ve gotten more unsolicited positive feedback in a month at the thrift store than I did in seven years of teaching, which I think says less about my abilities as a teacher than about the general environment of higher ed. At any rate, I feel valued, seen, appreciated, and supported at work, and that’s a welcome change.
Beyond that, I’m doing some freelance book editing (which is the kind of editing I enjoy) and will be starting a contract position that I’m excited about — again, for an organization that does very meaningful work. Last month I went on a retreat and met some good people, got to experience sound therapy (which I will definitely try again), and drew and painted for what I realized was the first time in four or five years — at least since all the stuff at the church started. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve signed up for a couple of painting classes. The dogs have a fenced yard, and “cousin” Kodiak taught Copper how to play fetch, which is his new favorite thing ever.
I have a few contacts through the UCC church here, and they have been faithful in checking in with me for lunches and coffees and talks. I haven’t made it to actual church yet. I was going to go last week but ended up sobbing all day instead. How can I ever trust people in a church again? How can I trust them — even if they claim they love me — to not bail the second I need something more complicated than a card or a meal train or meal tree or whatever the heck it’s called? Not that they ever even did that for me at the old church, not even when I was having trouble paying for food because I had to spend so much on counseling to deal with the shit going on in the church. Yes, I’m still bitter. No, I have not figured out how to forgive.
Which I guess leads me to the vacuum at the center of my life. I cannot, right now, believe that God is good or trustworthy or that God loves me. Too much has gone wrong or just not-right. There were too many things that came into my head as clearly worded promises, during times I prayed — even after I prayed for discernment and wisdom and trust and not to be deceived — that have proven false. Every time I felt bathed in love and warmth and peace, those feelings were linked to specific promises. And not one of those promises has come true. Some of them might still; other doors have closed definitively. So I’m left wondering if all of it, every last drop of peace and love, was a lie.
I thought I had realized a purpose. I thought I could use my life to give hope to other people. But I can’t do that when I have no hope myself. And right now I don’t. Between what happened with the church in Statesboro and COVID lockdown and another situation I can’t write about yet, every shred of hope or faith I had was destroyed. I have no sense of God’s presence or whether I’ve ever experienced it or whether what I perceived as God was just an illusion of my desperately seeking mind and heart. I miss, terribly, that sense of communion with God, but if I experienced it today I wouldn’t trust that it was authentic and not just my brain playing tricks on me again.
I also have always thought writing was my purpose, my calling, and one of the priorities for this season was going to be writing. But as I embarked on this period, I had a deeply painful conversation with someone very close who said they didn’t believe I could ever succeed at writing or that it was a calling or that being a writer was “realistic.” Although part of me wants to prove them wrong, most of me believes them and feels like writing is futile just like everything else I’ve tried. Like trying to find any purpose or meaning or fulfillment in my life is always going to be futile. I feel cursed. I don’t know where I go from here. Even the things that are okay — the job, the painting classes, the dogs — just feel like ways to fill empty hours until I can die and be finished with this epic disappointment of a life. I think about death almost every day.
Ultimately, I’m as deeply alone and lonely as I’ve ever been — maybe even more — and I cannot trust a God who forced me to walk through COVID quarantine and the subsequent months alone. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve experienced but I think it was the hardest, and it broke me. I can’t be a good enough student to figure out what God is supposedly trying to teach me. I can’t be good enough to earn or deserve anyone’s love or approval or acceptance or loyalty. There will always be people lining up to tell me everything I’m doing wrong. And I’m so exhausted with trying and so tired of existing with the lacks and absences and betrayals.