When I quit my job in June, people asked me what I was going to do with my time.
“Water towers. I’m going to sketch water towers.”
They’ve long been one of my favorite parts of NYC, especially after my friend Christine took me to an event atop the New Museum benefitting the Water Tank Project. From that vantage point, you can see the city sky lined with them, vestiges of years past. They represent security and remind me to look up so OF COURSE — in a time of uncertainty — I would spend the first real free time I’ve had in thirteen years of working sketching water towers instead of, say, traveling, relaxing or looking for a job. Logic at its best.
I haven’t sketched a single water tower.
Three months ago, I left my job, looking for passion. For the creativity that had been chiseled away, year after year of meeting objectives, setting OKR after OKR, building teams and businesses and being “the secret weapon behind some of tech’s biggest successes.” (Actual quote from an investor that I still one day hope to live up to.) I don’t regret any of this, but there is a de facto trade of self when one is no longer serving her own goals. The you you’re trying to grow into somehow merges and inadvertently becomes a them.
And then there’s identity. All these years, I’ve been “Aubrey Sabala, student. (Or “Aubrey Sabala, employee.” “, marketer.” “, employer.”) Today, the space left after the comma remains blank. “Aubrey Sabala, _____.” I am nobody’s boss, nobody’s employee. Nobody’s employer, nobody’s girlfriend, nobody’s wife, nobody’s mother. When you strip away the titles, this identity we so take for granted comes into question. Who are you without the title after the comma?
I have no idea.
I’m trying to figure that out. I’m trying to find passion in things I used to love, looking to discover things I’ve never tried. I’m being careful of my choices, mindful of my time and who I want to spend it with. I’m saying no more than I’m saying yes, asking more questions and finding answers to questions I never thought to ask.
And I still haven’t drawn that goddamned water tower.
But I’m sure as hell continuing to look up.