Ann paced the floor of her living room full of anxiety. Her company had to scale back its’ overhead and like other large corporations, the first place they looked to cut cost was in payroll. After eighteen years of service, Ann was asked to leave. A few years before, she had lost her husband—and now she lost her job. Her anxiety wasn’t due to monetary concerns. Her husband’s pension comes in monthly and her severance was fair. She could easily budget her funds for the year. No, Ann’s anxiety was due to her measure of self-worth. Since the age of eighteen, she had worked at that company. She “grew up” at that company. She developed her identity there. She met her husband there, her friends there; her entire life was there and now it’s all gone. The only thing left is the feeling of having to start over. Ann and her husband didn’t have any children, but they bought a house. They were waiting until after they traveled, saved enough money, and the time were right for kids. Now it’s just a shattered dream. When he died, it was a sudden thing. He was youthful, healthy and happy. The time they spent together was precious, but the time planning for children she considered wasted. If only they had more time together.
It’s been several hours since she’s been home from her former job. It’s funny when you have time alone all you can think of is the time you think you wasted. Her friends from work said that they would come by and take her out, but, in reality, she really isn’t looking forward to it. They are good people and she loves them dearly, but, what exactly will they be going out for? To celebrate, to make her feel better, or to satisfy their own guilt of having a job still? She doesn’t feel bad about losing the job as a process … she feels bad about having devoted all that time into the only thing she knew to do. She has hobbies and activities, but those were only manufactured to be a distraction from her job. How will she meet anyone again? How do you meet new friends and develop new relationships? Ann’s anxiety was realizing that she had to redefine who and what she is and the possibility that she has to do this … alone.
The next morning Ann wakes up her usual time. Old habits are hard to break and if she gets complacent with her sleep schedule, it could lead to a tough time trying to get back on a schedule later. She puts her robe on and heads for the kitchen. Pulling out a ceramic cup and a teaspoon for tea, she decides she can send out a few resumes to test the waters. She looks out of her kitchen window for the first time in a long time. She had forgotten about the lilacs and roses that bloom in the yard. Her husband planted them the first year they moved into the house. All of the dirt he tracked through the house and the dirt on his clothes that took forever to wash out—it was all worth it. She runs water for her tea as she thinks of the things she should do today.
Last night was nice. Her friends did come over to take her out as promised; they all laughed and shared stories and hugged, and at the end of the night thought they felt better. This morning the truth of the matter is present; she is still going at this alone. As the tea water heats up, she takes out her laptop computer and goes online to check emails. She tweaks her resume and sends it out to a few choice companies then reads the local news. By the time she notices the steam rising in the air from the hot water, she’s completed her computer duties. She pours her tea and lingers around the stove for a moment contemplating where to have her drink, usually it would be around a desk while she types something or she has it in hand as she attempts to avoid spilling it as she walks to the next meeting. She walks back to her bedroom and sits on the edge of the bed. She quietly looks around the room not consciously looking for anything in particular. The television remote beckons to her bored side. She turns on the television and curls up with her cup of tea.
The television is on, but, by the end of the day, Ann couldn’t tell you what she watched. Force of habit has her preparing a fast meal for dinner, when she realizes she has all the time she wants. Tomorrow night, it will be one of those meals she always wanted to make. She may even invite a couple of friends … from work? She doesn’t know if she wants to still be involved with the routine of a place she no longer dwells in. It’d be like calling a boyfriend you just broke up with—you just don’t do it!
Ann plans her days to be filled as well as fulfilling. The mornings consisted of phone calls and job inquiries and light running around the neighborhood. The afternoons found her in the gym, keeping herself fit and networking. After the gym, she’d go to the library or a leisure walk through town to re-acquaint herself with the city. The evenings was open ended for friends and or family and planned television watching, followed by reading and bed. She assumed this schedule would not last long as she would land another job and it would rescue her from this routine … so she thought. Days turned into weeks and soon thereafter months. Ann didn’t want for anything financial; she was fortunate in that. What she did miss was the human companionship. She thought of a getting a cat, but, that was so desperate, so clichéd. With all the free time she had on her hands, she still felt captured in a rut not of her choosing.
One day while picking up some groceries at the market, she noticed an older woman with roller skates on, skating up and down the aisles with her carriage. “What a kook!” she thought to herself and yet she was compelled to follow behind this woman. She notices how this woman’s demeanor was so open and child-like. She seemed free and refreshing. Before Ann could approach the woman and speak with her, the store manager stopped the woman and asked that she removed her roller skates due to insurance concerns. The woman firmly, but, politely declined to do so, opting to leave the store instead. Ann could over hear her telling the store manager “I’ve found myself and the freedom to be myself, so I can’t go back to the same drudgery that took so much of my life from me.” It took the drive home for this stranger’s words to sink into Ann’s thought process. ‘She was right!’ There were tons of things Ann had wanted to before she got married or worked a 9-5. Maybe, this is the time for her to get back on track the way she saw her life traveled. Her day went on as previously planned, but Ann was letting a metamorphosis begin in her mind. When she lay down for the night, there appeared a childlike smile on Ann’s face.
The next morning Ann awoke with a new vigor in her stride, she showered and put on her water for tea. She looks outside and sees a variety of colorful birds in the yard; her mind is made up as to where she’ll be drinking her tea at. She slowly exits to the back yard and sits on the steps. The sun warms her face in the cool spring air. The slight breeze tickles the light hair on her body. She closes her eyes and tilts her head back exposing her face to the warmth of the sun. The morning air smells good in her lungs—these are the things she has missed the last eighteen years. She finishes her tea and walks back inside the house. She looks around the house not really knowing what to do next; no commute this morning, no long drive in traffic, no crowding into stuffed elevators, no forced greetings.
Then Ann gets a strange smile on her face. She quickly runs to the bedroom to change. She grabs her iPod and loads it in the speaker dock for it. She keys up Bob Seger and slides across the floor in her cotton shirt and socks. As the music plays she releases all of her inhibitions. She flails her head around and waves her arms wildly. She jumps with each beat and strums her air guitar aggressively. When the song ends she’s awake and in that instant she realizes she is more than awake; she is alive! Her follow up to Bob Seger is the Art of Noise. She blasts her iPod as loud as it can go as she jumps in the shower. The water feels different this morning or is it her sudden epiphany? Some people spend days, weeks and even years trying to find themselves, Ann was lucky. It wasn’t finding herself, as it was finding the freedom to be herself. As the hours passed she would look at the clock and determine what she would be doing at that point in time? Typing a memo? Running a report? Answering a question or the phone? In a single day, it didn’t matter anymore. Ann found herself in good time! Now to exercise it and put it to use.