When I was a kid, my mom handmade a tablecloth made of all sorts of colorful pieces of fabric. It had a door and window, and buttons and shoelaces to practice with for us kids. I loved sitting under the table. Nobody bothered me there. No attention was paid to me at all. Sitting on the cold, hard kitchen floor, I could pretend I was alone. Even if my brother was sitting next to me under that table. I could pretend there was nobody else in the world, nobody who would demand anything of me. I cherished those rare moments where I didn’t have to do anything to make the adults in my life smile.
I loved climbing a tree. My father had planted it and it had grown to an impressive side in a short amount of time. I loved climbing that tree, sitting in the top of it and looking out over the neighborhood. Nobody could reach me when I was up there. Nobody could force me to do anything, because no adults could climb that tree. It was a safe haven from everything that was wrong. My mother could scream all she wanted. Up there, in that tree, I was free and safe. It was cut down.
During my studies in University, I could go wherever I wanted. I could skip a class and stay in my room. Browse the internet. I could go to the marketplace and have something to drink. Nobody could make me do anything I didn’t want to do. I felt guilty about e-mailing a teacher that I wouldn’t continue his course, but he e-mailed me back with a thank you for letting him know, and that he hoped to see me next year. I had my student loan and a side job and I could pay for everything I needed.
Now, after graduation, there’s no such luxury. You have to be “on” at rigid, set times. We have an apartment to pay for, which is more expensive than a room in a student house. There are bills to be paid. You have to show up, even if that means to you have to shut down half of who you are just to be able to get out of bed in the morning. There is no freedom for me here, in the predefined world of business hours and open offices.
To be honest, I feel trapped. Being a grownup means that you have to be able to pay for your own stuff. But how to do this without burning yourself to the ground? I can’t do it. So far, I have worked in projects to great satisfaction of my bosses and their clients. I have been promoted to team lead twice now. They’re all happy with what I do. But I’m not. I’m setting myself on fire to keep others warm. I wish I could just sit down and hide from the world. Not be triggered all the time. I probably wouldn’t sit there and do nothing. I would be free to do things that I think have value, regardless of whether someone else will pay for it.
I think there’s some fallacy ingrained in me. I feel trapped and surely it’s a trap of my own making. I tell myself the story that since I have a Master’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering, I should be striving for a “career”. What is a career, anyway?
It’s as if… worth is something that drains away all the time to you have to keep topping it upUnseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett
Would I do any of the things that I have done in the years since graduation, if I hadn’t felt that I had to continuously accumulate worth? No. I also wouldn’t have made it this far in life if I hadn’t continuously pushed myself to be “out there’. To not hide, but to keep going. Relentlessly. It is how I got this far. But it doesn’t serve me: I have long ago stopped doing what made me happy. Instead, I focused on one thing only: Paying the rent and gathering a pension, so that maybe, one day, I can stop, hide and rest.