Closing the Chapter

Apologies for not posting anything in a while. I started a new job a little over a month ago, and both the hunt and onboarding have been quite mentally and physically consuming. I’m pleased to announce that I’m working for an amazing company and team, and I’m already seeing huge benefits from the transition. There’s a gym and locker room at work, so I’ve been starting my days earlier, getting in a half-hour workout before I hit my desk. I’m still skipping breakfast in a shoddy implementation of intermittent fasting, and I’ve been losing the stress weight from the past six months or so. I feel healthier, my mind is clearer than ever, and people have been noticing the lightness and energy in my overall presentation. There have been three job transitions in our home this year, coupled with hundreds of hours of studying, so for what feels like the first time this year, there was a weekend this past month where I didn’t go out and get trashed. 

[pause for applause]

I know, right?

This has been quite the interesting time for me. Because of how supportive and awesome my new work has been, my body is still emotionally guarded because of the drastic change. I fully understand that my coworkers and team are just genuinely kind and supportive, but my heart has been slower to accept it. It’s unusual but extremely welcome. On top of this, the company is so forward thinking and innovative, it’s liberating to not have to convince people to make small, simple investments into their job in order to make everyone’s lives easier. People are just engaged and willing to learn and grow for their own sake. What a concept. I’m still zeroing in on my job responsibilities, recalling processes and training, but I also have a lot of leeway to train and grow. There is an internal library of books and training courses, along with plenty of freedom to try new things. And that’s just how interesting things have been on the work side.

At home, I’ve been able to approach several items in the low-urgency, high-importance quadrant. Performing maintenance on our electronics, rearranging the Wi-Fi and networking. I set up a new backup system for Carrie’s computer. I’m also taking over some of her chores, and we’re puttering through the week with fewer hiccups. I have the capacity to hang out with friends again outside of when I’m partying on the weekends. I’m still eating out for most meals, but we’re starting to cook and pack lunch more frequently. I’ve been vaping with a particular strain of cannabis to fall asleep 😴, which has been my superpower through these past few months. Instead of taking an hour or more to fall asleep each night, I’m out like a light within about 30 minutes, and I stay asleep through to the morning. I still feel like I’m walking on a tight rope, but it’s much easier when I get such good rest that I barely even use my alarm anymore. In the mornings, I still have roughly an hour to get out of the door, and I do most of my morning routine after the gym. I’m technically at the office for more hours every day, but it’s way more efficient and cost-effective to not have to travel to a secondary location for my exercise.

Boredom. Carrie and I are even getting to play video games together again. I’m getting back into 3D printing. I’m even thinking about what my costume will be for next spooky season. Instead of numbing my mind with the same TV shows I’ve rewatched several dozen times, I’m starting to turn off the TV to simply sit in silence. I’ve started reading for pleasure again, and I started playing Mario Odyssey. When you’re up to your eyes in stress, you don’t really have room for new things. There isn’t as much creative space for voluntary projects because your ability to learn and retain new information is decreased. I’ve been handling all these changes a lot better than I used to, which is a welcome change and a really positive sign.

I’ve already started reflecting on 2019 because I recently closed with my psychologist. She was shutting down her practice, but I also coincidentally have been doing so well that it was time to close my file anyway. Last year, we were faced with rising costs of living, which forced me to find new work at reduced stress and higher pay. This year, I found new work at reduced stress and similar pay. When I stepped out to begin the job hunt, three or four projects ambushed me and demanded my immediate attention. As I juggled them all alongside the daily chores, there was little room for error. It felt a lot like show time. This was the performance I had been training for over the last several years, and it was time to bring all my techniques from therapy into the real world. Our tradition of enduring an annual crisis has been going on now for five years strong.

I missed a counselling session back in September because I was so hungover from going out the night before. Not ideal. My psychologist emailed and said it was unusual for me to miss an appointment and that she wanted to say in person that she was closing her practice. It was a bit of a shock for me, but I was still supportive and understanding of her need to do what was best for her. The next day, I don’t quite remember what I was looking at, but the weight of her email finally clicked in for me, and I started to weep. We had both gone through so much over the years and we had a unique relationship and connection, so I started to mourn the loss of one of my bigger supporters. I later told her that I felt like a pilot pulling out of a nose dive, and I wouldn’t have made it through if she weren’t in the air traffic control tower. 

However, the timing serendipitously worked out that our closing session was shortly after I started the new job and my overall situation started turning around. There were quite a few little issues that I would have liked to discuss with her in September and October, but I was on my own. It was time to rise to the occasion. I’ve written enough about my troubles in gory detail, so at a high level, there were some travelling; some large, unexpected bills; and helping family with income. We got through it all, and it feels amazing.

This journey started back in 2015 when I started therapy to better adjust to the stress of work and marriage. I initially wanted to sort through the decades of grief in order to set myself up for the next couple decades, but it turns out I was saving my own life. There was a lot of fallout following the decision to get help, and though I don’t want to declare victory just yet, I can say that we’ve definitely turned a corner this past season. I think I’ll be stabilizing quite a bit with this new setup. My body is readjusting its rhythm to my new schedule and energy distribution. I’m sleeping well for a change. I got a new job at an amazing company with an amazing team, and I get to spend more time with my loved ones while I’m sober. I managed to get through a difficult passage starting from this past summer, and I did it mostly without seeing my psychologist. And rather than needing to go out on the weekends to blow off steam, I’m choosing to go out simply to have fun instead. I get to feel bored again. It’s quiet, almost to a spooky degree, and I can’t wait to finally close this chapter.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le