I Dropped Out of Preschool in 1997 & Never Looked Back

On my first act of self-love

The first red flag was when my teachers gave my lunch to a girl named Gretchen and Gretchen’s lunch to me. Obviously, the confusion was born from our remotely similar names, likely scribbled in nearly illegible writing on our bags. I don’t remember what Gretchen’s mom had packed for her, but I remember that I could barely swallow it. It tasted cold.

The second red flag was when I asked if someone would teach me how to read and write because I wanted to write a book. They said I’d learn when I went to kindergarten, and I went home and created my own nonsensical language so I could write a book. The book was about how animals celebrate Christmas. I think I kept it a secret, but I can only imagine come Monday I was swinging dick through the halls of that suburban Christian preschool.

The third red flag was when my music teacher used a full-size skeleton for “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”. It was chilling. I felt my skin turn cold. I lost a patch of my hair. Sometimes I wake at dawn, screaming, the memory sitting numb on my tongue. I told my mom I could never go back there.

****

I quit my job last week.

It was a job I was good at. I was writing. I was working from home. I was making good money. I had just graduated from school with a theatre degree, and I had landed a social media marketing job with a cool startup full of clever good-looking people who were are all 30 and looked 20, and I had no right to complain.

But I spent all day by myself. And when the day was over, I never wanted to write. I could churn out tweet after tweet that sounded like the company, but I didn’t know how to sound like me anymore. Or maybe I just didn’t really want to.

I kept telling myself I’d stick it out a year. I didn’t want to ruin my resume, I thought. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, I thought. I didn’t want to quit before I lined up another job, because I’ve read Forbes, and I’m not stupid, I thought.

My job started asking of me things I was not equipped to do. Skills I didn’t have and roles I couldn’t fill. (This is the nature of startups. I understand.) I was doing market research (poorly) and analyzing data (incorrectly) and feeling stupid, for one of the first times in my life. My gut said to leave, but I couldn’t do it. You can take the straight A student out of college, but you can’t take the impulsive need to excel at every possible challenge or else question your own aptitude that you’ve always assumed and maybe even taken for granted out of the straight A student. Right? But my gut said to leave. There was writing on the wall, and if there’s one thing I knew, it was writing. My gut said to leave, but for awhile, I stayed.

I felt detached from the things I love the most about myself — I connect with people easily, I bring energy into every room I’m in, I think at the speed of light.

At times, I have been weighed down by myself. I have been too much, and I feel exhausted and sad. This was not one of these times. I didn’t feel like much of anything at all. And I found out that hollowness hurts worse than heaviness.

****

One Tuesday a few weeks ago, I finished working for the day, and I went to Second City for my Conservatory class. It was our last class before a big audition we all had that week. As a trust-building exercise to prepare us for our audition, at the end of class, we took turns listing everything we know to be true about one another, one at a time. I left feeling a little bit more like me. I went right from Conservatory to a theatre down the hall to do the tech rehearsal for a sketch show I was opening later that week.

That night, I remember feeling light. Not hollow, but light. Filled up with something gentle — joy, purpose, freedom, and the feeling that I am slowly becoming the person I am supposed to be. I felt like a kid.

And when I was kid, I knew when to walk away from things that didn’t make me feel like my best self.

****

I quit my job last week. I’ll get a new one soon.

I’ve been writing a lot lately.

I’m glad to have fallen into something that didn’t make me feel like me. It reminds me that, while many things in this life are random, some things aren’t. Sometimes, it feels like we could do just about anything with our time and it would feel the same. But if I hooked you and I up to a heart monitor right now, it wouldn’t look like this:

It would look like this:

The things I have been writing lately have been a little bit sad, and a little bit not. All the beauty and meaning and truth and thrill I have found in the world, I have found in the positioning of dark right next to light. (That’s how I know I’m not a nihilist.)

I am very glad I was cold for awhile. I knew better than ever what makes me warm.

The weather’s getting colder in Chicago. I am in the pursuit of warmth.

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