What If I Never Love My Career As Much As I Loved Him?
I’ve stopped writing to “you.”
It’s a trend in the personal essayist world. Instead of writing people as characters, developing them in the traditional third sense, you write in second. You speak directly to a proverbial someone. You tell them a story, them your feelings, them the deepest darkest corners of your mind that come worming their way out probably at 3 AM and after several glasses of wine.
With the exception of some experimental prose I tried, I’ve completely stopped that. I haven’t written to my “them”, to one of the ghosts I do my best to avoid, to you since November.
And it’s for a bunch of different reasons.
For one, I’ve kind of said…well…enough. To a certain extent I got sick of sounding like a broken record of whine whine whine about something that’s so dead and buried, so I stopped. On another hand, my style sort of morphed and evolved and I’ve frankly become pretty disinterested in talking about my love life in general through writing.
And lastly, I got really fucking busy.
So busy, in fact, that I just didn’t have time to focus on the parts of my life that broke my heart anymore.
I have become the person who works through lunch, who always stays late (metaphorically), and who is constantly thinking about the grind…and then kicking myself for saying things like “the grind.” Work is my happy place, my greatest stressor, my best friend, my significant other, my purpose, and what I do to make myself make sense. It is equal parts distraction and slight obsession, I won’t lie.
But in the process of fully submerging myself in my “I love work”-ness, I lost the weird need to put out every single thought that I have directed towards a “you” in my life.
Because, truth be told, I haven’t really loved another person in over four years. I haven’t had a crush in probably two. I haven’t gone on a date in around six months and haven’t been interested in adding that element back into my life in longer. I haven’t had overwhelming, can’t eat can’t sleep, heart-racing feelings spilling out of me in a long time and because of that…there hasn’t been a lot to say to people or about them because they haven’t been worth writing about since they’re not even remotely in my life.
Let’s be real, writing a love letter to perfectly organized spreadsheets is hilarious but not really all that relatable.
So for all intents and purposes, I’ve stopped writing to “you.”
And if I’m being even more honest, I’m probably the most alone I’ve ever been.
I live alone, I eat alone, I drink alone, I work alone, I walk my dog alone. A lot of my life is spent with just me. Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t in any way shape or form a complaint about that. I’m an only child, an extrovert who admittedly hates everyone. I’m usedto being on my own. In a lot of ways, I prefer it.
But if I’m being honest, there is a part of me that is afraid some of my most secret (well, were secret) fears are coming true.
And that’s that I am covering myself up in a cloud of work to cover up the fact that I am not loved by someone who ignites those overwhelming, can’t eat can’t sleep, heart-racing feelings in me.
I’ve been in love. I admitted live on camera that 23-year-old me thought I would be married by now. I’ve had the “holy shit I don’t care where I am so long as you are there with me” kind of love. Don’t worry little baby 20-somethings who haven’t felt it yet — it exists!
My point in mentioning that is to clarify that yes, I’ve felt those emotions. So the emptiness that’s been eating at me for the last 4 to 5 months isn’t related to longing. It isn’t related to a naiveté in looking at too many #relationshipgoals posts and being all, “Omg I want that.” Because I’ve had it. I get it.
This is not based in that.
It’s completely based in fear.
Because sure, Lady Gaga or whatever self-actualized image of female empowerment can say, “Your career will never wake up in the middle of the night and tell you that it doesn’t love you,” and I can reblog “My career is my boyfriend” macros all damn day, but that doesn’t make loneliness easier to choke down after a particularly emotionally draining day.
I’m not supposed to admit that I want someone. That sometimes late at night when I can’t sleep the fact that there isn’t a person I can call makes me pause. I’m not supposed to admit that I feel like my career is becoming the most interesting thing about me and I’m terrified that that’s not going to be enough.
Because while I do love my career, and it keeps me going, and it can’t wake up in the middle of the night and tell me it’s decided to leave me, while I can continue loving it and devoting myself to it, it’s literally incapable of loving me back.
But I’m not supposed to say that. I’m supposed to be a badass working girl, my own version of the self-actualized empowered woman. The Peggy Olson, the Effie, the Sandra Bullock without the Ryan Reynolds because she really didn’t need him anyway.
I’m not supposed to admit that sometimes, on those nights when I can’t sleep and I don’t have anyone to talk to past 1 AM, I worry that I’m loving my career so forcefully to make up for the fact that I’m not loving him.
And that’s probably one of my biggest fears.
What if I keep doing this, keep working this hard, keep loving my career in a bigger than big kind of way, and it’s still never going to match the amount that I loved him when I was 23?
What if that love is unmatchable? And never comes around again? What if the him sized hole that was left behind isn’t fillable by things like time, therapy, and 1000+ word essays I get paid to write online?
What if it never goes away?
What if the only thing I have to devote myself to on those nights when I can’t sleep is work, and not another person, just simply the glow of a MacBook and more grinding and more of whatever this is?
You’re never supposed to admit when you’re lonely. Never supposed to cop to wanting to hold someone’s hand home from the bar instead of going home with just yourself and whatever’s serenading you through your ear buds. You’re not supposed to need people and even worse is if you actually throw up your hands in defeat and admit to not only needing them, but wanting them.
But, well, here we are.
I’ve stopped writing to “you.”
The idea of writing about another human being, about affection, about love couldn’t possibly feel more foreign to me these days. Writing about late nights editing, being a workaholic, the never-ending to do list that I self-impose upon myself? Got it. Done. Can SO deliver.
But the thing I’m getting afraid of, is that this borderline obsession with work is in reality just me being so afraid that I have to have something in my life that I adore as much as I wholeheartedly adored him.
And even worse than that, I’m afraid that I never will.
But talking about that, writing about that, saying it so finally is just…ughhhhhhhh.
It feels…unnatural. It feels outside of myself. It feels like I’m losing and admitting defeat and exposing parts of myself that I’m not supposed to show for public scrutiny. I hate to lose, and I hate even more to feel weak and pathetic and like I’m just running around aimlessly with my palms extended begging for affection and like….double ughhhhhhhh.
It feels uncharacteristic.
It feels embarrassing.
It feels vulnerable in a way that I didn’t know was possible.
But here we are!!!!!!!!
Maybe we don’t get to have everything. Maybe we can’t have the dream job, the coastal city, the perfect relationship, the heart swelling and bursting with love, the sense of fulfillment, the satisfaction that we’re doing good things, the amazing social life, the list of accomplishments we’re endlessly proud of, the aesthetically stunning apartment with tons of natural light, the ability to sleep soundly each and every night.
Maybe instead, we have to settle somewhere in the middle. Maybe 100% is never achievable, and you have to pick and choose which pieces you get to end up somewhere around 75%. Maybe that’s just one of the heartbreaks life deals you, and part of growing up is learning to accept it.
But truthfully (if I haven’t been truthful enough) I’m not ready to accept that. I’m not ready to throw in the towel and accept that I can’t pick up a metaphorical spackle, and through trial and error and sheer willpower figure out the way to put myself back together piece by piece. I’m not ready to toss up my hands in defeat and say this inhuman entity that is WORK will never make me feel as whole and as happy and being with him made me feel.
I’m not ready to stop.
Even if it keeps me up at night.
Even if I’m alone.
Even if I’m wrong.
Dear lord I hope I’m wrong…
(Originally published on Thought Catalog.)