Last week I was pedaling around the neighborhood looking for cats (Cats of the Shore – yet another shameless plug) when I caught a familiar one out of the corner of my eye. Circling back to grab a quick pic led to a 2 hour conversation with his owner. Have I been living around a bunch of Miss Cleos and not realized it?

While we were talking cats, the subject of what I do for living came up. She was curious: how do you do that, what does it entail? The usual stuff. As I answered her questions she got a somber look on her face. I can get a pretty good read on people and she was clearly conflicted, I just couldn’t figure out why.

Next thing you know Stevie Nicks came up. Picture me and a stranger hooping and whooping it up on the corner like a couple of #fans4lyfe. When we brought it down a notch she got serious and said, “You seem to be a person who’s measuring their life based on experiences, is that right?”. I said yes and confessed I’d had a stroke over a year ago that has, in waves, caused me to reconsider my life.

“Okay so what’s next? You’re still doing this job?”

“Well, actually I’m taking a break. I haven’t worked for the past few months.”

Feelings of shame set in. I feel lazy admitting I’m not working. What must this person think of me?

“I mean I WILL take work if I really like the project and it’s not like I won’t do the work again…” The words spilled out of my mouth. It was like an out of body where I could see myself, horrified, making excuses for not working. Cringe factor 10.

She gave me this bewildered look and said, “Really? I mean, do you even want to do that anymore?” pause “Because no offense or anything, but that doesn’t sound like work to go back to.”

Holy sh*t.

Her words hung in the air. I felt so oddly…relieved?

She went on to tell me how her mother had always told her she’d know when she’d had enough and was ready to leave her job. And then she described how frustrated she’d felt, how that frustration had built up over time and left her so depleted that one day she just walked into her boss’s office and resigned. Nothing else on the horizon. Kaput. She’s re-examining what’s next for her, too.

Dude. What are the odds? CATS ARE THE HOMING SIGNAL.

afterlight 11

For days prior I’d been questioning myself; feeling like I’m wasting time, being useless. I mean HELLO! What am I going to do when I run out of things to sell on eBay?

As I zipped away from her house, after viewing more Stevie Nicks paraphernalia than I knew existed, I felt queasy. Her words rang in my ears. Did I even want to do this job anymore?

I’ve thought about it ever since. I’ve asked myself some tough questions. Somewhere along the way I think my identity got caught up in my profession because I feel a little lost without it. Even though I know I have value as a human being, I’m questioning my worth without this job. That’s a painful thing to admit, partly because I really like what I do.

Yesterday I was back in wavering territory. As I was getting out of my car a guy on the radio said something that caught my attention. Basically, that the things society values most: success, wealth and fame are a con job. They won’t mean anything after you die and only distract you from the things that actually do matter most. CAN’T THESE PEOPLE SHUT UP? Seriously though, I know he’s right. Those things don’t feed your spirit and make you a better person; they don’t make you any kinder or happier or more willing to help someone else. They really don’t. Even though they do help pay the bills and I do still want to be successful in a meaningful way.

I got out with my knees knocking.

Maybe I’m on the right path after all?

I hope it’s leading to something that lets me do and be all those good things and more.

Until then I guess I’ll keep wheeling around having conversations with strangers. Who knew the neighbors had so many answers? And so much Stevie Nicks memorabilia. <eyeball emoji> hashtagjackpot