There are tempests we must all bear in order to get where we want to be. That is a part of the journey of life because anything worth having is worth the fight. We have all had those experiences where things seem hopeless and we feel so alone as a result. Many are currently going through that right now and we simply have no idea the struggles they are going through. While we feel isolated and alienated as a result of our own personal struggle, in essence, we are not truly alone. Recognizing that has influenced my interactions and experience with friends, family, and strangers. I truly believe that human existence is collective and part of one big soul. What affects the life of one affects the lives of other. Our evolution as a species proves we rely on a symbiosis if we are to survive. Through the support of others can we find the motivation to get through our problems. With that, there is hope. A light to drown the darkness.
“Six Months in a Leaky Boat” by Split Enz became a very personal song for me during the latter half of 2013. For two years already, I was working a job that I truly hated and, quite literally, was breaking me down to the point I was convinced it was killing me. I’ll spare the details, so you’ll have to trust me. For a big project starting June of that year, I was forced to start working nights. I was scheduled to only be there until midnight, but I would often stay there until 2 or 3 in the morning. I was the only person who this new schedule was forced upon and I had extremely off rules that only applied to me. For example, I could not leave the building under any circumstance such as to get lunch, even if other people were in the building. My boss felt it would be unfair to them if I stepped out for a few minutes. This could’ve been solved if I was given a key to the building like the other employees, but I was not allowed to have a key. I know all that sounds kind of trivial and petty, but trust me. This place was a nightmare and I know no other job I will ever have will come close to that hell.
I knew this abrupt change was going to make things difficult for me on several fronts. For one, the new rules were unfair and violated several human resource laws and, in addition, I would not be compensated for the late and extra hours. Secondly, my girlfriend at the time had a teacher’s schedule and this meant I would see her a lot less. I worked very hard to be optimistic that we would get through this, but that optimism was not mutual. As a result, it created several problems and tension in our relationship. So much so that I thought about breaking up, but I knew things would get better so I tried to be consistently strong for the both of us. And thirdly, I knew it would be months before I saw any friends. I was right about that. During the six months I worked on this project, I only spent two afternoons with a friend. That rest of the time was isolation. Alone at home. Alone at work. Alone everywhere I went.
I had one thing that kept me going through all of this. Working evenings meant my mornings were free to go to job interviews without any suspicion. I was convinced this work schedule change was a blessing in disguise. I had six months to dedicate to changing my situation and never looking back. And if I managed to get out even sooner, the better. I had never been more motivated and hard-working in my life than during these six months. I would leave for work at noon, get home at 3 AM, sleep, wake up at 8 AM and either go to a job interview or spend my mornings writing cover letters and emailing resumes. In the beginning, I was so energized because I felt like I had some semblance of power of this situation I did not choose.
Days would turn into weeks and then weeks turned into months. Summer was changing into fall. As time death marched forward, I became increasingly worried. Every day I didn’t get a new job offer was one more day lost. As time went on, I was worried that this gift of six months would go to waste. I was panicking. My boat was sinking and no matter how much water I tossed overboard, more would splash on.
To make a long story short, those six months did go by without a job offer. And during the last week of the project, I was fired. I worked a job I hated for nearly three years, compromised and sacrificed for six months, and ended up getting booted out the door two weeks before Christmas. This was the boss’ plan all along; get a big project done to meet her imaginary deadline and let me go without a second thought. My ship had sunk and I was drowning.
It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. Would I have preferred getting out sooner? Of course. But, I didn’t realize it at the time that this was a good alternative.
During those six months, I listened to this song religiously. It was my motivator. My gospel. Performed by a group from New Zealand, the six months referred to the amount of time it took colonial Australians to sail to New Zealand. To me, it is a song about hope and bracing the storm. Even though the sky is filled with dark clouds and ear-splitting thunder, there are rays of sunshine just behind the horizon. Even if you cannot see them, they are there.