My ability to delude myself is nearly all-powerful.
I’m one of those writers who maintains a ‘day-job’ – a second career that not only keeps the money flowing in, but that also gives me intellectual engagement separate from my art. The obvious struggle in this type of an arrangement is to maintain balance, to keep both the artistic and non-artistic plates spinning with equal and purposeful velocity.
Lately, though, over the past couple of months, the balance of both plates has been thrown into a warbling, off-kilter orbit because I’ve decided to change that ‘day-job’ after twelve years.
I love the company that I’m leaving. The people, the mission, the day-to-day challenges. It’s rare amidst our current American economic landscape that I’ve worked for the same company for over a decade. The company brought me up, taught me much, and has had—until a couple years ago—my unwavering loyalty.
What happened two years ago? Reality collapsed my delusion bubble.
The danger in being a storyteller is that the stories I tell myself about myself are often the most intoxicating, and over the years, I had constructed a grand narrative about how important I was to this business, how my role was destined to expand, and how I had both more potential opportunity as well as more financial gain coming my way.
This narrative blinded me to the evidence that my position at the company was actually fixed, that my pay was not going to ever appreciably increase, that what I do day in and out isn’t at the forefront of the company executives’ thoughts - it isn't even at the forefront of my supervisor’s thoughts. I kept telling myself that if I completed this task or that project, I might break through. I kept doing this over and over.
I kept doing this until, finally, just a couple months ago when I was presented once more with evidence that nothing was going to change.
Reality wasn’t allowing me to delude myself any longer.
And what did I do when reality couldn’t be denied any longer? I got pissed. Royally, epically pissed off.
This will surprise no one, but anger is an emotion I have in ample supply. Anger has been both foe and ally my entire life. Most times, my anger is an offshoot reaction to fear – my go-to emotion. I’ve had to work hard to understand and manage my anger, to recognize that often when I’m angry, I’m usually afraid.
But there are times when anger is an indication that something is wrong, that I’m not paying proper attention to a part of my life that needs attending to. When it’s functioning the way that anger should, my anger can be relied upon to cut through the delusions—the bullshit—and deal with the reality before me.
In this case, anger led to swift and immediate action. Anger pushed me to cast-off the fear and the laziness and, yes, comfort, to finally act on an opportunity that had (thankfully) presented itself. Once the delusion burned away, and I was left with the reality—of what is instead of what I wish it to be—the path to action was clear. And obvious.
I know I’ll delude myself again. That’s what I do. But I hope that I’ve learned from this painful process that had I allowed reality to speak more loudly than my delusions, everyone would have benefitted. I would have caused less damage to both my work relationships and to my own sense of self-worth.
That’s the problem with delusions – they can distract you from reality, from the truth of a situation, but reality makes itself heard, eventually.