Sometimes the light’s just shinin’ on me,
Other times, I can barely see,
Lately it occurs to me,
What a long, strange trip it’s been. . . — Grateful Dead, Truckin’
When my former supervisor said goodbye to me, she quoted the above song.
Just the last line.
What a long, strange trip it’s been.
It’s become a bit of a colloquialism, that line. I’m not sure she ever knew I’d been a Dead Head all those years ago, or even that she was quoting Jerry Berry.
Either way, the words resonated and resounded, like a song at the end of a movie that swells and echoes and means something really important.
And scene. Cue credits.
Did you ever notice what a huge part of our identity work is?
Is it because of our passion for our vocations? Because of the money spent and owed in student loans? Because it is something at which we excel? Or simply because it is something we do for eight, nine, ten hours a day?
After the last scene of my last day at my old job, and after the credits ran, I was left sitting in a dark theater.
Wondering who I was now that the movie that was my life for 12 years was over.
I was still a mom, a wife, a family member. I was still an avid blogger. I was still a friend to many people.
I was still a collector of Buddhas, fan of Himalayan Mountain disaster stories, and lover of butterflies. I still had my enormous credit card debt. I still wore jasmine oil and changed into my pajamas the second I returned to the house after my day, even if it was only 5:30. I still disliked Adele (with a passion) and couldn’t stand Downton Abbey (vehemently!).
I was still all the things that made me ME. . .
But a big chunk of something about me was missing.
I felt like Marty McFly in Back to the Future, when he looked at the photo and realized his family and he were vaporizing right before his eyes because he’d altered the course of history.
So, I’d altered the course of my history. But I was still ME. So. What?
I guess I didn’t realize it would be so hard. Change is hard, even positive change.
With my new coworkers, I was a brighter, smilier version of myself. I was super positive. I was like the new kid who came into a class midway through the year and was DESPERATE to be liked, DESPERATE to fit in, DESPERATE to be a part of the jokes and not the butt of them.
I thought I knew myself. I’d known exactly who I was among my old colleagues– the overworked, overwrought social worker with a streak of black humor and a heart of. . . well maybe not gold. . . let’s say sterling? I wasn’t afraid to speak my mind or express my opinions. I was confident in my clinical skills.
Among my new team I didn’t know who the hell I was. I was this awkward, new girl who kept mostly to her own office, and didn’t have anyone to eat with at lunchtime. I was the only person in the office wearing makeup. Should I wash it off? I wondered in a fit of that desperation to fit in.
Having an identity crisis midway through a pretty well settled life was particularly daunting. It was a surprise. And yeah, man, trippy as hell.
I actually went to Apple Music and listened to Truckin’ by the Dead, as though maybe it contained some secret solution to my situation.
It was sadly disappointing.
But up came another song, Box of Rain. I had not heard that song in possibly a decade or more. The last couple lines caught my attention:
Well it’s just a box of rain
or a ribbon for your hair,
such a long, long time to be gone
and a short time to be there.
Who the hell knows what those stoners really meant by those lyrics, but at that moment, what it meant to me was that everything is fleeting, time is an illusion, and when you look back on stuff it justifies itself into a neat little package that makes sense.
Here’s hoping. . .