Leaving You

The day I decided to quit the job I loved began like any other day. I got up, got dressed, brushed my teeth. On my way out the door, I struggled with tangled iPod headphones, tried to find a song I still liked. I don’t remember what I was wearing. It’s possible I looked amazing — but it seems unlikely, since a nose infection had spread to my left eye two weeks prior and I hadn’t been able to wear make-up without risking contaminating my entire goddamn face.

I got a bagel and a coffee on my way in, opened my laptop, and unplugged the router. As I sat there waiting for the wireless to reboot, I began thinking about my tax return.

“That is certainly a lot of money,” I thought slowly, eyes wandering into the ether. “You could pay off a somewhat noticeable portion of school loans with that money.”

Yeah. Way to go.

I raised my hand to poke at my irritated cornea, then decided better of it.

“Oh, also,” I reasoned, “you should really put some of it into savings. That account has maintained nothing but the minimum balance since you started working. You should be more responsible now, look into having at least some kind of safety net. What if something were to happen?”

Right, right. Good thinking.

“But heeeey, celebrate a little bit, too. Get yourself something a little crazy. Something you wouldn’t normally purchase, you know, for fun.”

The wireless router blinked blearily, a slow green awakening that seemed to say “fuck. You. Fuck fuck. You.”

“I know!” I thought inexplicably. “I could get my hair highlighted! I’ve always said that I hate highlights.”

Fuck. You. Fuck fuck. You.

“… Or I could spent three hundred dollars on that duvet cover! Wouldn’t that be nuts! And it’d really bring the room together.”

Fuck … fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckyoufuckyou.

Back in business. I noted the four full black lines with pleasure, each neatly stacked upon the other in a precise, growing triangle: a full wireless signal. It seemed so clean, so ripe with possibility, like the first day after doing laundry.

“Or!” I thought insanely, “you could put the money in savings, and leave this place!”


* * *

From: Adrianne Mathiowetz
To: Nick van der Kolk
Date: Tue, Apr 15, 2008 at 11:30 AM
Subject: lunchy

Saturday works!

I got a big tax return! I think I’m going to quit my job today! You think I’m joking?

* * *

Let me tell you about the people I (used to) work with. They’re intelligent. They’re hilarious. They care about important things. Most of us work around a large table in the center of a room, despite the fact that we all have our own desks. In the summertime we’d all walk to the burrito place for lunch and then sneak into “the secret place” — a soft green courtyard with a weather-beaten wooden swing — to sit on the grass and squeeze limes. On Tuesdays my supervisor and I trade links to bizarre news stories. Someone hooked up the wireless to the speakers, so that we can all take turns playing DJ throughout the day, and keep others informed of the musical artist via chat status.

Large windows bring in golden light transforming into Lisa Frank sunsets, and overlook an ancient church, Harvard Square, a creperie, a smoothie and coffee cafe, scuttling tourists and prospie students. Every morning the same woman handed me my bagel: sesame seed, untoasted, plain cream cheese on the side.

* * *

From: Dad
To: Adrianne Mathiowetz
Date: Tue, Apr 15, 2008 at 4:39 PM
Subject:Re: So I decided to quit today …

I hope this works out for you. You were there a long time and that can get difficult.

love,
Dad

* * *

It wasn’t until after I’d quit that I realized why I’d done it.

That’s not true. It wasn’t until somebody asked me why I’d quit, that I realized why I’d done it.

Take three. It wasn’t until somebody asked me what I was going to do instead, that I realized why I’d done it.

“I think . . .” I said uncertainly at the time, “maybe I’d like to . . . try this writing thing.”

The next time I was asked, the answer came more naturally.

“I am quitting one of my jobs,” I said, “so that I can devote half of my time to getting published.”

Saying those words felt like firing a machine gun. The simultaneous realization of utter power and utter powerlessness in the presence of this monster: the pure potential I was grasping lifted me up and then kicked me back. What if I don’t try hard enough? What if I waste my time and everyone is disappointed in me? What if I can’t handle being alone all day every day? What if this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done?Bangbangbangbangbang.

“My biggest fear,” I said to my mother, “is that I will try this thing, that I’ve always told myself is the key to my happiness, and it won’t actually make me happy.”

“Hah!” my mom said. “Well, that’s just being human.”

* * *

I have been here just long enough to have forgotten how to conduct life without it. My last day is May 15th.

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14 Comments

  1. Not that I want a reputation for quoting Neil Gaiman’s blog whenever writing comes up, but this bit from today seems appropriate:

    I’ve also known some sales and marketing people who started out as writers and then became business people and hoped for the time to write, or wound up with a company policy that stopped them writing, and they normally aren’t the happiest of people. (I’ve never had writers tell me, drunkenly, that they wished that they were in marketing, while I’ve definitely listened to marketing people drunkenly mourn their vanished writing careers.)

  2. Congrats! That is inspiring!

    I always told myself that the thing that would make me happy would be to work at a job where I was helping people and making a difference.

    Then I got one. Wrongo! At least now I know. Now I think the same thing– that writing will make me happy. I hope we’re both right, for our sakes.

  3. Not that you asked, but as someone impartial (e.g., outside your circle of acquaintances), and as someone who has been reading your blog posts almost daily for what, something like three years(?), I can honestly think of no other writer more deserving of a quote-unquote “legitimate” writing career. And if “legitimate” means “published,” then by all means, publish and publish and publish. You got style, Kid, and a generally amusing train of thought: Get it out there! Best of luck to you…

  4. If I do this whole grad school thing, it would appear that the Mathiowetz sisters can’t keep jobs :) Not for too long, at least.

    On another note, that stuff about marketing and writing is truest thing I’ve read in a long time. Marketing sucks the life out of you.

    On another last note: I will fly out to Boston and kick your ass if you pay back low interest student loans with your refund. You should finance more things with those!!! (Like how I plan to re-finance my car with grad loans. I get tingly just thinking about the money I’ll save!!! Thanks for the interest free ride, uncle sam!!!)

  5. we are going to miss adrianne at PRX like you cannot imagine: her dirty jokes, her really loud laff, how she spills things on important guests, the questionable hygiene, the drinking…she has made a powerful lasting impression.

    really. seriously. adrianne you are doing something really courageous: taking a chance on your talent. Go. GO WRITE. everyone at PRX is thrilled for you.

    can i use your cubicle by the window now?

  6. Adrienne! I am very excited for you. This is exactly how I started my writing career. I had a little bit of money from being laid off and I took the leap of faith. Unless you’re independently wealthy, that’s pretty much it’s going to go. There’s never a good time. So go rock that sh*t!

  7. Adrianne- you will be well known someday and you have made the leap ! Whatever you do don’t quit yoga it will be your inner sanctuary and this place will bring out your flow, best of luck!

  8. Just came across your website. I found your story close to my heart and your writing is awesome! Loved reading the post on how you quit your job! Also being from Cambridge, I loved your Harvard Square shout out!

    Cheers!

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