"What is it with you? Do you just creep around silently, meeting as many girls as you can, changing their lives when they aren't looking?"
-Christine Lisl, 1997
Sometimes there is a strange sort of sense, or maybe synchronicity, in our journey through life. The dots connect and you realize why you took the roads you did. At other times it seems almost like someone is throwing in little jokes to keep you laughing. If you pay attention, you see the humor. If you don't, it goes right past you as you struggle to move forward for another day. I like to think I pay attention.
For the past three months I've been called in as emergency relief staff to work third shift at a shelter for teenage girls who have troubles, anything from issues with drugs and alcohol to horrible home lives that cause them to run away. This was supposed to be a temporary gig, picking up nights here and there while I continued to search for a "real job."
The thing was, this felt like a place where I belonged and where I was needed. At the same time I felt the drive to continue working in the field I had been working in before I left Orlando, where as a purchasing agent I was experienced in cost savings, finding what cannot be found and reducing inventory. I was never anything more than a cog in the big corporate wheel, doing things that had no real meaning or value to me, but at the same time I was paid pretty well for my efforts. There is more money in essentially pushing papers around a desk than there is in a job that impacts the lives of real human beings. This is true.
Now I am at a crossroads because they have asked me to accept a full time position at the shelter. As I go over it in my mind, the only reason I am having to think about it is because I'll be making only about 60-70% of the salary I would potentially be making doing what I used to do. Of course, that is only potential salary, and if I were to trust in the signs I often claim to trust in, I would see that since something has gone wrong with every interview and job offer I've had since moving to New Hampshire in March, this is where I am supposed to land.
It concerns me that money is so often a determining factor in the choices we make. We've learned to elevate money to the status of a god, often reserving our greatest respect for those who have achieved "financial success," whatever that means. We find ourselves riddled with debts and expenses that we must continue to meet and expand by making more money somehow. In essence, we often sell ourselves for a better paycheck. It matters less what we do for our income as we seek ways to increase that income.
As my internal debate over whether or not to take this job full time rages on, I find myself looking back over the past eleven years of my life. What is it that I have been doing and for what reason? There has been one constant over that time. As things have changed and situations came and went, there was one thing that remained. There was a seemingly endless string of women in my life. They all had been discarded by others and labeled as "difficult" on some level. I came to love them all. They always had some form of powerful charisma that drew people to them, and yet no one could stay by their side very long because they frustrate the hell out of other people.
The problem, I've always said, is that you cannot think in terms of saving other people. You have to think in terms of helping them save themselves. And for some reason I'm gifted with an unholy level of patience and some weird form of empathy. I never try to save anyone. I just try to steer them in a direction where they will be able to find themselves. You can't save yourself until you find yourself, otherwise you're just treading water in a pool of random water.
After the last eleven years of my life it seems like a great cosmic joke for me to land where I have. I'm back in New Hampshire, where I always felt most at home. I'm with The Muse, the love of my life who is possibly the most difficult and frustrating woman alive, and yet so easy to love. And I'm being offered a full time job watching over a collection of troubled girls who are just learning to find their way. This is possibly my life's punchline.
There is so much darkness in this world, and yet so many lights. I like to hope I am one of those lights, but I so often have moments of doubt. I came here to fulfill my dream, or perhaps my destiny, and not long after my arrival The Muse began to fall apart. I wondered if maybe it had not been such a good idea to come here. I wondered if my presence was making it possible for her to destroy herself. She is now getting help, having decided on her own that she needs the kind of help only a professional can give her. She feared being locked up or judged insane, but after her first few meetings with her psychologist she's come away with a better sense of herself and lost her fear. She's also told me that it wasn't that I drove her over the edge, it was that with me she finally felt comfortable enough to let go of the darkness she kept sealed inside and bring it to the surface. She knew I would be there to catch her, that she would be safe. And now she's finding herself, finding her way and perhaps saving herself in the process.
I've landed in the right place after all these years. The road goes on forward, however, and there will be much more ahead.
I think I have to take this job. No, that isn't the right word. I think I need to take this job.