[Prompt: Some days, you can never get the smell of loathing out of your laundry. ]
I had been fired again. Three out of the last four jobs had ended in willful termination, though not completely to my surprise. I liked to think of myself of one of those free spirits who can’t be tamed. A rare bird that would die in a cage. But in reality, I was just a prideful girl who didn’t take being trivialized all that well.
Sleep was now my area of daily focus, I had become very proficient over the past week. Drifting in and out of a restless slumber, my dreams were consumed by an endless loop of self loathing and doubt. As I tossed and turned, my consciousness flitting from present to past like a hummingbird between blooms. It was difficult to make sense of the painful reality I found myself in.
From a young age I had always been a dreamer. My family firmly reinforced that I could do anything I put my mind to; the only obstacle was the limit of my imagination. A healthy curiosity for the world and a tenacious appetite for reading nurtured my imagination, which soon grew to overshadow reality. My childhood became a fairy tale, and I was the star. But reality became my demon, and came to claim me when I failed.
The hammer struck the nail with the precision of a master carpenter; a skill I could thank my father for, but the head of the thin metal peg bent sideways, snapping off. The clink of the small shard ricocheted off of the floor somewhere to my right, coaxing my frustration like an angler fish baits prey. I stared at the broken metal remnant protruding from the wall. The edge of the drywall was crumbling around the base, clearly distressed from my efforts to drive the nail into the stud behind it. I grimaced as I considered my so-called luck. The likelihood of hitting a knot in the wood had to be minuscule, but of course it had happened to me.
Every time I see a show on tv about surfing, the pro in shorts is always explaining how waiting for ‘the big one’ is what every surfer paddles out for. They straddle their boards and drift out in the deep, waiting for the enormous wave. As an uneducated viewer, I am skeptical as to when or if this magic water formation will happen. But then, out of the seemingly calm blue, a monster wave begins to form. It seems small at first, but then doubles in size as I blink. I know this guy has found ‘the big one’, and he’s probably going to do some pretty crazy tricks.
As I stared at the small, taunting piece of steel, my rage crashed like a monster wave. Screaming, I slammed the hammer into the stub of nail before letting go of the handle and allowing the tool clutter loudly against the wooden floor.
The worst part of failure is when those around you can’t admit to you that it’s real. It’s as though they don’t want to be responsible for the straw that finally breaks your back. So, staring into your eyes, they craft lies to convince you that you’re doing okay. You’re doing great, in fact! It wasn’t apparent before they pointed it out, but it turns out you were too good for whatever you’ve failed at, and you have another calling to answer to. It’s so wonderful that this opportunity presented itself so that you can now be awesome at something else. If only it were so simple.
Why confidence has to function like a sea anemone is beyond my understanding. In the right conditions, confidence tendrils out, mentally and physically bolstering us. Chins are held higher, shoulders align straighter, we feel taller. We want people to see us, because we look awesome. But then someone tries to poke at us. At first it’s just a motion, but the reaction entices further attention. Our tendrils retreat rapidly into our cocoons, and we hide for a moment. When we look up again, our audience is gone. That’s when I realized I’d lost all my power.
Sometimes, you can never get the smell of loathing out of your laundry. As I used a soft bristled brush to scrub at the stain on my favorite shirt, I knew it was a lost cause. I had spilled the coffee as my prior boss succinctly revealed there was ‘going to be restructuring at the office’. When my arm twitched in response and knocked over my mug, the pale blue blouse had gripped the hot liquid in a panic, allowing it to seep freely without objection.
If I could be contained in a bottle, my entirety in said bottle had been committed to that job. Every drop of my creativity, the countless ounces of extra work. Free time spent problem solving how to make things more streamlined there, how to be more productive, how to make more money for someone else.
The sudden snap of the brush breaking in two startled me. I knocked my shirt off the sink and onto the floor. I looked down to see myself laying on the floor; wet, crinkled and discarded.
When you’ve lost control of the smallest things you once ruled, that’s when you lose yourself to depression, rage or indifference. Once simple tasks become the bane of your existence, convincing you that staying in bed all day and dreaming is preferable to facing the failure of your reality. But having done that three times before, I decided to embrace an old persona.
Today I have returned to my fairy tale, where I am still the star. I nurture my creativity daily, and feel my imagination reemerging. My confidence is still shy, only a few tendrils brave enough to surface. But each day I believe things will be better, and with that simple thought, they are.