As mild as that statement is—every bit as mild as I can’t help but notice you’ve been in a funk—it sears to my center every time I hear it.
I am having a hard time, I think desperately a thousand times a day, and when I try to probe for more information—A hard time with what?—the voice replies, Everything.
I feel insufficient as an adult. I look around at the office and see everyone typing, taking calls, making bookings, editing documents, and I know they’re all dealing with at least as much as I am, which only makes me feel worse about how hard everything feels to me.
Living, being responsible for myself, seems like an insurmountable challenge lately.
Sometimes I scrape myself off my sofa, stuff a frozen meal in the microwave, and as I wait for the timer to go off, I just think, I will have to do this again tomorrow and the next day and the next day. Every day for the rest of my life, I’m going to have to figure out what to eat, and make it for myself, no matter how bad I feel or tired I am, or how horrible the pounding in my head is. Even if I have a one-hundred-and-two-degree fever, I will have to pull myself up and make a very mediocre meal to go on living.
I don’t say any of this to Swapna, because (a) she’s my boss, (b) I don’t know if I could translate any of these thoughts into spoken words, and (c) even if I could, it would be humiliating to admit that I feel exactly like that incapable, lost, melancholy stereotype of a millennial that the world is so fond of raging against.
“I guess I have been in a little bit of a funk,” is what I say. “I didn’t realize it was affecting my work. I’ll do better.”
Swapna stops walking, turns on her towering Louboutins, and frowns. “It’s not only about the work, Poppy. I have personally invested in mentoring you.”
“I know,” I say. “You’re an amazing boss, and I feel so lucky.”
“It’s not about that either,” Swapna says, the slightest bit impatient. “What I’m saying is that of course you’re not obligated to talk to me about what’s going on, but I do think it would help if you spoke with someone. Working toward your goals can be very lonely, and professional burnout is always a challenge. I’ve been there, trust me.”
I shift anxiously on my feet. While Swapna has been a mentor to me, we’ve never veered toward anything personal, and I’m unsure how much to say.
“I don’t know what’s going on with me,” I admit.
I know my heart is broken at the thought of not having Alex in my life.
I know that I wish I could see him every single day, and there’s no part of me that’s imagining what else could be out there, who I might miss out on knowing and loving if we were to really be together.
I know that the thought of a life in Linfield terrifies the hell out of me.
I know I worked so hard to be this person—independent, well traveled, successful—and I don’t know who I am if I let that go.
I know that there’s still no other job out there calling to me, the obvious answer to my unhappiness, and that this one, which has been amazing for a good portion of the last four and a half years, lately has only left me tired.
And all of that adds up to having no fucking clue where I go next, and thus no real right to call Alex, which is why I’ve finally stopped trying for the time being.
“Professional burnout,” I say aloud. “That’s a thing that passes, right?”
Swapna smiles. “For me, so far, it always has.” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a little white business card. “But like I said, it helps to speak with someone.” I accept the card, and she tips her chin toward the coffee shop. “Why don’t you take a few minutes to yourself? Sometimes a change of scenery is all that’s needed to get a little perspective.”
A change of scenery, I think as she starts back the way we came. That used to work.
I look down at the business card in my hand and can’t help but laugh.
Dr. Sandra Krohn, psychologist.
I pull out my phone and text Rachel. Is Dr. Mom accepting new patients?
Is the current Pope wildly transgressive? she texts back.
* * *
• • •
RACHEL’S MOTHER HAS a home office in her brownstone in Brooklyn. While Rachel’s own design aesthetic is airy and light, her mother’s decor is warm and cozy, all dark wood and stained glass, hanging leafy plants and books piled high on every surface, wind chimes twinkling outside almost every window.
In a way, it reminds me of being at home, although Dr. Krohn’s artsy, cultivated version of maximalism is a far cry from Mom and Dad’s Museum to Our Childhood.
During our first session I tell her I need help figuring out what comes next for me, but she recommends we start with the past instead.
“There’s not much to say,” I tell her, then proceed to talk for fifty-six minutes straight. About my parents, about school, about the first trip home with Guillermo.
She’s the only person I’ve shared any of this with aside from Alex, and while it feels good to get it out, I’m not sure how it’s helping with my life-exploding crisis. Rachel makes me promise to stick with it for at least a couple months. “Don’t run from this,” she says. “You won’t be doing yourself any favors.”
I know she’s right. I’ve have to run through, not away. My only hope for figuring this out is to stay, sit in the discomfort.
In my weekly therapy sessions. In my job at R+R. In my mostly empty apartment.
My blog sits unused, but I start to journal. My work trips are limited to regional weekend getaways, and during my downtime, I scour the internet for self-help books and articles, looking for something that speaks to me like that twenty-one-thousand-dollar bear statue definitely did not.
Sometimes, I look for jobs in New York; other times, I check listings near Linfield.