Breathe

I now have a full-time job.

I have been trying to get a full-time job for a year.

I am still learning how not to be worried all the time.

I try to explain to people what a huge deal it is that I now have this job, and they cut me off with congratulations. Perhaps the realities of my financial situation embarrass them. Perhaps it is not kosher to discuss these things; I don’t know. Usually I am surrounded by people of around my same level of monetary means. But I have given up trying to explain to them its awesomeness, because I am still coming to grips with it myself.

I can now walk through the Asian section of the library without my stomach clenching with guilt. The books that surround me don’t hearken back to something I failed at; something I should have made a career out of—now they just recall something I tried once and didn’t like, and from which I am allowed to move on, now.

I can carry the teapot back from the water fountain and sail in the doorway and not writhe at the thought that this is the 50th or 4th or 2nd-to-last time I’ll be able to move in this space I know and like, full of people I know and like, with the confidence that comes from long familiarity. Worry over the impending end of my various jobs (though unrelated, all the contracts ended at the same time this summer) was a constant companion. Worry over something has always been my constant companion. Worry over these jobs, over combative graduate students, over everything in Japan from nationalist old men to swine flu; and before that, worry over what to do after undergraduate, what to study during undergraduate, how to pass calculus in high school, because I wasn’t, and when my calculus teacher refused to give me my grade, saying “It would just depress you,” I fell apart and stood in front of her desk bawling. I who don’t even like to grow misty-eyed in front of blood relatives.

Before the final interview, my left eye—always my indicator of stress—swelled up red and painful. It is now at peace. The rest of me is still learning how not to be constantly worried. How to be calm with the knowledge that if I am run over by a car—as has happened before—or if I contract a blood infection from something as simple as a scraped hand—as has happened before—there will be a safety net for me. And for those I love. We’ll have health insurance.

I can breathe again.

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