The Lights and Buzz" ('Christmas in California')
Jack's Mannequin/ Andrew McMahon was introduced to me by my friend Tyler and have become one of my favorite artists, especially during aimless drives! This post was inspired by The Lights and Buzz of LA along with one of the best aimless drive conversations I ever had. One of my favorite past times is aimless driving with or without friends. There are few things that compare to clearing your head with fresh air, an amazing playlist and great conversation. I have had a dozen or so life changing conversations during aimless drives; three of which took place in my favorite home away from home, Los Angeles. The first was “You can’t love me enough for the both of us so we need to end this”, the second was “I don’t love you the way you want but I love you with everything I have” (different people) and the third was “Your job isn’t going to love you back - ever”. Are we seeing a theme here?
The third had the most profound impact on my life so I’d like to retell it now and hope I do it justice.
It’s December 2012 and I am in LA for work. I’m in a job I’ve been doing for about 18 months and I am a complete workaholic. I’m putting in 60+ hrs a week, holding myself to impossibly high standards and constantly overcommitting to show my dedication. I’ve just met with one of my sites and it was an EXHAUSTING meeting. The kind where you go in with an agenda and a plan and come out looking like you were hit with a tornado and have a to-do list 5 miles long. I’m spent. I have 5 hours to kill until my dinner meeting with sales and my next client so I convince my co-worker Darren to hit the PCH with me for lunch and a drive. I am in love with the PCH, specifically the section that stretches from Santa Monica to Malibu. Perfect Pacific Ocean views to your left and then mountains on your right. If you time it just right you can avoid all traffic and just cruise.
We get Cha Cha Chicken for lunch (because I saw it on Food Network, of course) and play the “get to know each other” game you have when 3,000 miles separates your working relationship and the bulk of your interactions are around customers. Turns out Darren is the kind of person you can talk about almost anything with - politics, religion, love, self-reflection - nothing is off-topic or taboo. During lunch I ask 5 million nosey questions (because that’s just how I am). I hear about the great loves of his life, his career evolution and his own journey in figuring out who he is and what makes him happy. By this point I’ve forgotten all about that terrible meeting we both endured and I’ve officially relaxed.
We grab an iced coffee and start our cruise down the PCH and a customer calls me. I get super manic about "how I didn’t do something and it might mean the person stops liking me and OMG I need to fix it!". The look on Darren’s face might be emblazoned on my brain forever.
Do I really care THAT MUCH what this person thinks of me? Is my self-worth actually tied to be LIKED? Yes and yes. And so begins one of the most eye-opening conversations I’ve ever had with someone I’m only casually acquainted with.
Why do I need to be liked so badly?
What is the worst case scenario if someone DOESN’T like me?
How do I see myself?
How am I measuring my self-worth?
What makes me happy?
Why am I working 60-80 hrs a week?
What could I be doing with all that time instead?
Am I taking care of myself?
Why is busyness at work something I cling to like a merit badge?
Do I realize my job shouldn't be an identifier in my personality?
It's a sucker punch! How is the ONE thing everyone on my life respects and admires about me the one thing he's tearing me apart for!? Who the fuck does he think he is?
By the time we hit Zuma Beach I have to pull over because I’m in tears. Good tears, bad tears - hard to say. He struck a nerve (something he has a history of doing it turns out, haha). But once I recover from my initial anger I pause.... Why am I like this? Where did this obsession with being liked, with being the model employee stem from? If I had to guess I would say work was the one place I had 100% control and could feel like I got back what I was putting in. I never had control over my weight, most days it controlled me. I never could control my romantic relationships but I could control my work. I could do everything in my power to make everyone I interacted with LOVE me and that would compensate for how little I loved myself.
All these years I spent throwing myself head first into work took their toll on my relationships, my health and guess what? My job doesn't love me.
"Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch."
We decide to drive back a different route, taking a road through the mountains instead of the coast. In my emotionally spent state I don’t think to mention my fear of heights to Darren. Soon we’re on a winding road I later learn to be Mulholland with no guard rails and I am white knuckled and panicked. Fuck! I can’t do this. But, I also can’t pull over and let Darren drive because there are a trail of impatient Californians riding my ASS. Guess what? I need to own it, I don’t have a choice. Metaphorically Darren couldn’t have timed this better, forcing me outside of my comfort zone and into a place where I need to trust myself and focus. I can’t think about work or my perception - I need to focus on not killing us both until we get to the flat section. Given you’re reading this, we survived. :) Darren may have a few less hairs and I am fairly certain my guardian angel is bald but we survived. The rest of the night is a blur of coming to terms with the layers of insulation I've surrounded myself with being Sam* the workaholic.
And the outcome of that day took a few years to truly pay off but I got there. I stopped treating my job like it was my only priority. I got a life. I made it a life I want and I continue to refine it daily. Thank you, Darren - your wise words impacted me more than you probably knew! <3