Work-life balance was eluding me, and it was weighing heavily on my psyche. Early mornings alone in the office making coffee for my boss and coworkers, I often found myself spacing out to the percolating: Surely I’m not meant for this. I am not above making coffee, by any means, but every day, as I reevaluated what my daily routine was becoming, my outlook on the coming months grew grimmer. Then this happened.
“You... Lack common sense, basic thinking skills...” my boss’s voice trailed on, listing all the ways in which I was an utter disappointment and inconvenience to her. I swallowed what felt like a golf ball sized lump in my throat. Such words of encouragement from a boss were standard, no? No. I was unwavering, and refused to cry... But I knew my dismissal from the office was imminent. With the self respect I had left, I knew continuing to tolerate this was impossible. It was time to figure an exit strategy.
Just three months away from 26 I found myself newly unemployed—albeit happily so—and wondering what my next move would be. Immensely grateful to have this newfound freedom during sun-drenched summer months, I sought out to do some soul searching. I knew this much: I wouldn't settle for, or commit to, a job that I didn't absolutely love. Writing may have been my savior in those interim months, but really getting my hands dirty did more for me than any sunshine or prose could.
The first floor of our old house is beautifully redone but the second floor is completely stuck in the 60s. And not in the cute mod flower child 1960s: Horrendous tiled walls met dark wood paneling and plush powder blue carpets; one bathroom resembled an elementary school boys room. It was a lot to tackle, so I started small. Decked out in safety goggles, gardening gloves (can you tell I was new at this?), and a facemask, I went a little crazy. I took a razor to the floor and ripped up carpet, but that wasn't enough.
I punched through the ceiling tile, and caught myself doing so in the full-length mirror on the back of my door. I saw the power in my arm, the rage in my clenched fist, and felt an unexpected relief wash over me as my fist punctured tile. This—this—was my therapy. All the anger I felt for having left a comfortable job, seemingly for nothing; the pain I felt in letting myself be minimized by one person; the angst of not knowing what was going to happen next. I took it all out on the carpet, the tiles, the bathroom designed for eight-year-old boys. (OK. I haven’t started the bathroom yet, but it’s next on my list.)
This destruction became my sanctuary. I methodically worked—through the walls, through my pain—until each tile was down and all that was left was beams.
My house began to embody me. Okay, I know 26 isn’t old, per-se, but like my old house I suddenly felt new again, open and receptive to whatever changes were coming my way. I had to break myself down to just the studs, to what I was made of most—my foundation—and rebuild from there. Me, my house: We’re both still a work in progress. But I’m grateful we’re going through it together.
Photos courtesy of Maggie Peikon