I was doing it.
After years of talking about creating my own creative company, all of a sudden I was—me, job- losing, girlfriend-losing Sam.
And it felt good. The flames were stoked, there was fire in my belly, I didn’t feel unemployed— I felt like I worked for Hello Humans now, and there was plenty of work to be done. In fact, I was already behind (more on that later).
I began writing, brainstorming, planning, calling, and taking brief breaks to eat and sleep, which felt like inconvenient necessities (more on that later).
The first order of business? Buckle up, and get lean. I had about six months of “runway,” as they say in the tech world, and any comfort item that wasn’t necessary, that could buy me one more week of working for Hello Humans full time, had to go.
Subscriptions like Hulu, HBO, and a handful of other strange monthly subscriptions I wasn’t even aware I had were the first to get the ax. I bought a bunch of low-cost foods like oatmeal, rice, and beans (and am open to suggestions). (Also, open to more contributions of the monetary variety from you, Reader). (More on that later). There was one big cutback, that wasn’t so easy to let go of.
My sweet, refreshing, guilty pleasure, my best friends, my Newports, provided by the friendly folks at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
At the urging of my closest friends, I decided not to quit during the first seven days of unemployment, so I quit June 11th. And that was that.
The cutbacks and reorganization were exciting, like camping in your parents’ backyard and “roughing it.” Which bush is for peeing in and which is for storing a stash of toys?
It had been an active, charged, and inspired two weeks, led by that sweet soft guiding voice I like to think of as my spirit.
But I woke up one morning, and something was different, off. I was more alone than the day before. I looked around laying in bed like you would look to see your if your partner was still asleep next to you. Where’d that sweet dreamer go?
And then, I realized, I wasn’t alone. I was greeted by another voice, one I’m already deeply familiar with.
Timeless and confident with an air of certainty, this voice strolled in casually as if it had a key to the place, like it belonged here; like it might drink my milk straight from the carton. Its presence exuded a sense of care and concern, almost in a paternal way, like it was here to protect me from myself, like a lawyer showing up to protect its client.
“What are you doing, Sam? Don’t be silly. Hello Humans is cute and cool, but isn’t going anywhere. Let’s be adults about this. Let me help you look for another job. How do you feel about spreadsheets?”
The arguments seemed reasonable. They were well prepared, articulate observations. Like it had been taking notes since I started this chapter. I heard it, and it made sense. I could feel my body shifting gears and accepting “reality,” i.e., that I am defective, and delusional, to pursue my soul and dreams.
Except, one tiny thing didn’t quite make sense. The timing wasn’t right.
It had only been two weeks.
I could pay my bills for a couple of months, so there was no harm in trying. I probably wasn’t going to be thrown in debtors prison, since they had been banned in 1833. This fact doesn’t completely reassure me, but I asked myself, why was the voice here now so early on?
I had dreamed about working for myself for the last three years, and this voice was going to casually stroll in and talk me out of it in a matter of weeks? Was I supposed to agree to just dream about it for another three years?
The spell broke for a moment, and I turned violent. I went medieval.
WHO ARE YOU, DEMON?! How many pieces of art have you stolen from me, Beast?
Sitting there in my bed, staring at the ceiling, and fuming with rage, I said the first thing that came to mind out loud.
I leapt out of bed, trying to outrun it, and set out on the day, sticking to the plan I had made the night before, when all of this still seemed like a good idea.
And everywhere I went, the voice followed at its own pace, catching up to me wherever I stopped, pointing out I was wasting my time and asking if I was ready to reason with it.
I wrote, planned, and worked in the same way a spouse bitterly washes the dishes to spite/teach their partner how its done. See honey? The spouse says, scrubbing grimly. It’s really not that hard. Honey.
It wasn’t fun or inspired. I felt like the voice, I thought like the voice, but I’d heard when I first got sober that you take the action, and then the insight follows, so I took the action. I kept going, writing, sharing, planning and hoping at some point that my inner dreamer spirit would return. I got so used to ignoring the voice that day that I didn’t notice when it left.
And then, I heard something different.
“Hi. I’m proud of you. Keep it up. Onward and upward.”
In the days since then, I’ve had a lot of interactions with the “voice of reason, ” and I’ve had time to understand it a little more. I’ve come to appreciate that it’s a little more complicated than being possessed by a dream-killing demon. And although it collaborates with fear and perfectionism to get its way, I’ve come to realize it really is a misguided protector of sorts. It’s trying to protect me from myself, from humiliation, from failing, from discomfort.
It’s the ancient force that kept my gene pool in circulation. The voice of “do not leave the cave at night, there is danger out there.”
But I don’t need it’s protection today. I’m going to have to leave the comfort zone of the cave to finally find out what’s over that mountain.
And that won’t stop the protector from stopping by and trying to do what it does best—keeping us small, and afraid, and holding our breath, for our own safety. It has a key to me that I, unfortunately, can’t take away.
But nobody said I have to be a good host.