Another Year of Tater

I turned 52 yesterday. Does that mean this is the beginning of year 53 of Tater? I think so?

Last year I wrote a post about being on the other side of 50 and things I wanted to change. I looked at that post this morning and I think I did pretty good even though most of my year was in the midst of a pandemic. Here is a look back at that and then a look forward to Tater at 52.

51 for me is time to find a career where I can be content until my career days are over. – Still a work in progress. Eventually I will go back to a job. I don’t know yet what that job will be.

51 for me is the time to stop letting others steal my joy. – Still a work in progress. I did cut ties with the people that were the biggest issue, but I still let people have way too much control over my joy.

51 for me is the time to cut ties with people and places who don’t respect me and my contributions. – Done! 25 years in a place where I brought innovative programming. leadership and loyalty and got nothing(but a paycheck) in return. 25 years of seeing less qualified people promoted over me. 25 years and they show no concern when I bring major issues to HR. 25 years of being a replaceable, unimportant cog. All over. I am now 2 months removed from a very toxic work environment and life is good.

51 for me is the time to forget the fear of the unknown and take that leap. – I took the leap into the unknown. It’s still scary. I don’t know what comes next. I don’t know what the future holds for me. I’m sure at some point I will admit defeat on the writing and get a job. I just don’t know what that will be.

So, looking forward to Tater at 52. What will that bring?

Hopefully, within the first half of the 52 I will get the vaccine and life will return to something close to normal.

I will do my best to complete whatever my memoir will look like even if I know it will never be published.

I will spend some time trying to find other writing opportunities.

I will find ways to volunteer and give to those less fortunate.

I will figure out what my next step is career-wise Back to libraries? Substitute teacher? Grocery store? Gig work like Door Dash? Substitute teacher seems like a good choice. Some control over schedule, holidays and summers off.

Tater at 52 is a transition year. Transitioning from pandemic to post-pandemic. Transitioning from unemployed to employed. Transitioning to a new way of life. I need to be willing to give myself time and grace.

Here’s hoping for a much better year than the last one.

Adjustment Anxiety

I am now over a month past my last day at my job. I didn’t have to spend a lot of time adjusting to things at first. Two days after my last day both of my kids came home for the holidays. We then had Christmas and New Year’s to distract me. My son went back to his house, but my daughter was still home. My afternoons were reserved for watching TV with her. I just had a few hours in the morning to fill and then I was good. She moved back to her apartment Thursday night. Friday I picked books up at the library and drove around dropping late gifts on friends’ porches. Saturday we finally took the tree down and vacuumed. Sunday I cleaned bathrooms and watched the football games. Then came Monday and the first real test of our adjustment to the new reality. Here are some of what I’m struggling with this week.

Inadequacy

My plan for the interim between leaving my job and the eventuality of going back to work was to work on writing. Improve the blog, look for other writing opportunities, and try to see if there is a book in my jail experience. The blogging part is relatively easy. I’ve been doing that. I have a decent amount of readers. I never really expected to make money with it. The other two make me feel inadequate. I have written about 5000 words about working for the state prison system. Most of those over the past two days. I am going back over it today for editing and such and I know I will find that the writing is bad and simplistic and not good enough for more than a series of blog posts. I don’t feel like I’m good enough to even try to do any freelance work or write anything to submit to any sort of real publication or website. It makes me lean toward just trying to get another library job even if I would hate it. At least I know I can do it.

Guilt

I know I can’t fill up the entire day with writing. I start around 8AM or so, sometimes later if I sleep past 7. Even on a good day, I am pretty much done with any productive writing before noon. I eat lunch. I walk the dog. Today I will sweep and mop the kitchen. I still feel guilty that I’m not doing enough. I’m not making money, though technically I have a few more weeks before we reach the end of my vacation pay out so I’m not officially not making money yet. If I take a few minutes to read my book I feel like I’m wasting time and the guilt creeps in. When I get to the point in the afternoon when I feel like I can quit and watch TV until my wife is finished with work I feel like a slacker. If I’m not doing something that I think others will view as productive I get really stressed out and think I should have just stayed at my terrible job. I was miserable, but at least my time was somewhat productive.

Fear

Fear that when I do decide I need to get a job that I will be unable to find one. Fear that my family will see me as a disappointment. Fear that my wife will decide that a “retired” husband is not making her happy. Feat that I will eventually be doing this alone. Fear that I have hurt us more financially than I expected. Fear that I’ve made a terrible mistake and that everyone is judging me harshly for it. Fear that I will never figure things out and I will feel like this forever.

Depression

I spend a lot of time alone now. I wake up early and go downstairs. My wife works upstairs with the door closed. I only interrupt her if it is very important. I don’t talk to another human for 12 hours. Add this alone time to the feelings of guilt, inadequacy and fear and it does not make for happy times.

It is a big adjustment. I judge myself harshly for not being what I think others would consider productive and then assume everyone is is judging me harshly. I need to find some sort of regular volunteer work to do so I get out of the house to do something at least once a week. I spend way too much time alone with my thoughts and it leads to bad places.

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Day One of a New Life

As regular readers know, I left my job recently. I had been with the same organization for 25 years. I had been at my current location for a little over 4 years. I was unhappy with my situation before the pandemic and it was much worse after. After months of talking about it my wife finally agreed it was time for me to get myself out of a bad situation. My last day was December 12.

I had already decided that my first week out of the job was going to be a week to relax and refresh. I planned to do little more than read and watch TV. My kids also both came home the Monday after my last day. The week was a mix of reading and watching TV with my kids. I had planned to be off work December 23-January 3 when I was still working. I didn’t really need to worry for a bit about what my new life would be like.

Now, it is that day. January 4. The day I would have returned to work. The day I start to ease back into some sort of routine. The day when I no longer feel I can justify not getting some writing done every day. At the very least a blog post. Hopefully, some work on writing about my life in jail. I do have some excuse for not going fully into a new routine. My daughter is still home for a bit so once she is awake I will spend time with her. My wife is in Kentucky with her mom and will be there until at least next week sometime. I won’t really know what my new normal looks like until my daughter is back at school and my wife is back home.

It will be hard to establish a routine until then. I need to work to make sure I am not completely lazy during this time. It would be too easy for me to relocate from the bed to the couch every day and spend my days doing nothing. Even if I don’t accomplish much writing I need to accomplish something each day. Some sort of cleaning. A load of laundry. Exercise.

It’s the first day of my new life, but it will be another two weeks or so before I really know what this new life looks like.

A New Chapter Coming Soon

I am 10 days away from my last day at work. I’ve been in the same profession with the same organization for 25 years. Now, in 10 days I will be ending that long chapter of my life. It reminds me of these lyrics I posted before

Wherever you are, whatever you did
It’s a page in your book, but it isn’t the end

Next Saturday is not the end of my book. Next Saturday is the end of a chapter. I will then turn the page and start a new chapter. I can work on becoming the Tater that works best for me. I can work on becoming the Tater that doesn’t dread the start of a new day. I can work on being the best Tater for the people I love. I don’t really know who the next tater is yet.

The first couple of weeks hope to be the Tater who detoxes from his current experience by doing nothing more than reading and watching TV.

After the holidays, I will see how Blogger/Writer Tater works out for me. Blogger/Writer Tater will spend the morning writing and working on a book about his jail experience and then the afternoon cleaning/cooking/volunteering.

At some point I might decide I need to do something that actually pays money. At that point maybe I try to become Substitute Teacher Tater or Gig Worker Tater. I like the substitute teacher option as I like working with teens, it has flexibility and I get the holidays and summer off.

I will still stay subscribed to Indeed and Glassdoor job alerts. Maybe a job pops up that seems perfect for me and I go back to being some sort of Full Time Employee Tater. Hopefully, in a full time job that has a normal Monday – Friday 9-5 type schedule with limited contact with the public.

At some point, Mrs Tater will retire and then I hope to become Traveler Tater.

The best part of writing a new chapter? It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

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One Week In and Still Too Long to Go

It’s now been a week since I turned in my letter of resignation. If it was a normal, two weeks notice scenario my work life would be winding down. Unfortunately, I gave 30 day notice so I have too much time left to really start to feel any relief.

The timing was terrible. We started two new initiatives at work this week. This means that even though I am on my way out I need to learn the basics of these initiatives to do my job over the next few weeks. Instead of a feeling of relief and winding down, I am feeling stress about the new duties and how we will navigate the work expected with no increase in staffing.

I will still be scheduled to work the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Not a huge deal since I will be home anyway, but it would be much better to have a four day weekend. After Thanksgiving I will still have two weeks of work left. I think that is when I will finally start to feel a little relief and my stress level might start to go down.

Of course, there is still a little sadness about leaving a place I have worked at for so long. A sadness about not seeing friends. A sadness about a loss of easy access to books.

I know it was the right decision. I know it will be good for me, I’m just not close enough to the end to really feel it right now.

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What Now?

Yesterday was a big day. I announced on my blog and Facebook the news that I resigned from my job. I still have a month before I am actually free, but the end is nigh. The blog post gave me my second highest views ever on the blog. The highest is still the day a Twitter celebrity retweeted my post about Michael Vick. So now I face the question What Now?

Obviously, the question applies to real life, but it also applies to this space. What do I write about when my life is spent at home writing? How do I use the extra writing time to make my blog posts better? How do I find the discipline to sit in a room and work on writing projects when it will be so easy to let things distract me? How do I decide when it’s time for me to merge from the distraction of writing to look forward another real job? How to I keep myself from getting depressed about my lack of success? How do I stop myself from second guessing my decision to leave my job when things get hard? How do I coexist with my wife who is working from home full time when she needs quiet for work and I can’t work in silence?

I’ve always used the excuse that my blog isn’t great because I don’t spend time on it. I vomit words into a post in the morning before I go to work. I don’t edit anything. I hit publish and I’m done. Now that I have the time to actually work on it, plan posts, edit, etc. how do I cope with the fact that it probably won’t change anything about the number of readers I get?

As I deal with the what now in life I’m also dealing with the what now for the Common Tater.

Every End is a Beginning

Regular readers of the blog know that I have been in an unhappy situation. I felt stuck. I was depressed. I knew I needed a change but I wasn’t sure if I was able to make a change. Today, I have news.

I started talking to Mrs. Tater way back in June about the possibility of me leaving my job. I was unhappy before the pandemic. I was even more stressed and unhappy during the time I was working completely from home. I knew then that things would not be great for me when I did return to in-person work. I was correct. Most of what I liked about work was gone. All of what depressed me about work was still there and magnified. I started to feel physically ill at the thought of a new work week. I was depressed. I started going to therapy to deal with it. I knew deep down I would never get right while in this situation.

I had talked to my wife several times about it. I had pretty much given up hope of her being on board with me leaving my job with no landing spot. It is a giant leap of faith for someone to be OK with losing part of the household income for an undetermined amount of time. I wrote up a plan for how i would spend my days and how I would try to spend my “sabbatical” trying to write something that could be profitable. I did admit that I am 99% sure that I will not find a way to make money writing, but at least I would have the opportunity to know for sure. Then there were weeks of nothing. I would occasionally ask about the email and she would say she had not had a chance to consider it. I was losing all hope.

Sunday evening we went for our daily walk. I decided to bring it up one last time as I was already getting more and more stressed out about the end of the weekend. As we walked and talked she surprised me by saying that she agreed that leaving my job was the best thing for me to do. I made sure several times that she was really saying what I thought she was saying. She was telling me to leave my job. I called my kids when we got back to the house and they were both happy and in support of my decision. I texted my brother and sister to tell them. They were also happy and supportive. I told a small circle of my friends. Same story. I guess they all understood how unhappy I was.

So, Monday morning, while feeling like I was going to vomit, I wrote and sent my letter of resignation to my boss and HR. After 25 years with the same organization and years of doing the safe thing I took a leap to the unknown. As of December 12 I will officially have no job. I am taking a chance on myself that I will find the right place for me moving forward and that I have not doomed myself to never finding another job.

Life is too short to be miserable.

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How to Turn the Page?

So, yesterday, I wrote about turning the page and starting a new chapter even if the new chapter is a mystery. That’s easier said than done.

If I was the only person my actions impacted I would likely pack my bags and move back to my home state. I don’t know that I would consider moving back to my actual hometown, but I would go somewhere smaller and quieter than the place I am right now. As I’ve written before, I hate the burbs. I would find a job to pay for my living expenses and lead a quiet, secluded life. That would only work if I had no family. This option is out because my family lives here and has no interest in abandoning their lives to move to the country with me. Even if  I could convince my wife to do it, I would never voluntarily live hundreds of miles away from my kids. So, that option is obviously out.

Another option that is out is me quitting my job and taking a sabbatical while assessing my options. That was the dream for a little while during isolation. I would dream of talking to my wife and telling her that I needed to quit my job and take a break for a while for mental health reasons. In the dream version, she would agree that we were able to absorb my not working for 6 months and that I should do it. As long as I never talked to her, I could continue to dream about this. Unfortunately, I eventually had to actually have the conversation with her and thus ended the dream. I can’t just quit my job without my wife’s blessing. That wouldn’t be right. I guess she is not interested in having a house husband for a few months. Also, apparently quitting my job and taking a break while doing work around the house isn’t a real life plan.

So, where does that leave me? It leaves me not turning the page because this is a terrible time to try to make a major change in life. Finding a new job is hard in the best of times. Finding a new job when you are over 50 is hard in the best of times. Starting a new career over 50 is almost impossible even in the best of times. I’m wanting to do it n the middle of a pandemic. That just isn’t going to happen. Thus, my initial plan of a 6-month sabbatical in hopes of things being better sometime in 2021.

It’s too bad no one will pay me to write a mediocre blog. Page turning will have to wait for a bit.

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I’m My Own Worst Enemy

A lot of this still holds true today. I still won’t make the effort to write someone substantial because I’m afraid I can’t. I desperately need to change my work, but I find a reason not to apply for many jobs(a lot is still thinking I’m not good enough), I seriously think I need an entire career change but I’m afraid to even talk about it with the people with whom I need to talk about it. If I keep it up I will be sitting in the same place 5 years from now still unhappy.

The World's Common Tater

This is true in a variety of ways. One of the current ways is the fact that I am very close to hitting 1000 views on my blog this month and I suddenly have no desire to write anything. I’ve never hit 1000 view in a month. All I need to do is average 14 views a day for the rest of the month and I’m there. This is not one of those blogs that gets 14 views in a day with no new post. I’m never going to be that blog that gets random visitors. There is no good reason for anyone to ever click on my blog, especially when there is no new post. When I got close to my milestone my mind went blank and I had no idea what to write. I think my brain is rebelling against my small success.

I’m my own worst enemy…

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On the Other Side of 50

Yesterday was my birthday. I am now 51. As a friend helpfully pointed out on Facebook, last year was so special and now I’m just old. The only thing special about this birthday is that I once again get a four day weekend. Today we are closed and tomorrow I am using the birthday leave MPOW gives me.

We did go out to eat last night, but last night was to celebrate my wife’s 50th birthday. It was Wednesday, but yesterday was the day both kids were available, so we did the celebration then. We went out to the restaurant of her choice and she got a free slice of cheesecake from the restaurant. It was mentioned once that it was “technically my birthday” and I did get cards and a gift from my kids, but it really was back to the typical it’s just another day type of birthday. Big difference from last year when we had lunch in DC and spent some time walking around after.

I will spend today and tomorrow getting my free food from various places. I have a free Firehouse Subs sandwich and a free Mission BBQ sandwich so meals are covered for my days off. I will try to relax as much as possible and not find myself thinking I should clean bathrooms are something. I will probably spend my time out during the day longing for the day that I can retire and have all of my days free. I’ve spent the last 30 years or so working in some sort of job. I feel like I should get to quit now so I have plenty of years to enjoy not working so it will equal out. That seems logical. 51 seems old to be out there looking for a new job, but that’s where I find myself.

So, how does 51 feel? Not much different than 50. 51 for me is a time to reflect on where I am in life. 51 for me is time to find a career where I can be content until my career days are over. 51 for me is the time to stop letting others steal my joy. 51 for me is the time to cut ties with people and places who don’t respect me and my contributions. 51 for me is the time to forget the fear of the unknown and take that leap.

Here’s hoping for a good year and good news.