I grew up Catholic and believed there were two stages of existence — life and death. Death was the end of your time in this realm. There was no reincarnation, no second chances, no in-between. The rest, I deduced, was life. Life was good. It meant more time, more opportunity, more growth. So anything short of bodily death in my book deserves a smile. Nothing can be that bad! I’m still alive, right? Well I can’t pretend that alive and dead are the only two modes we have in this one body.
To say I’ve been having a hard time with this transition back into full-time employment is like saying The Real Housewives are neither real nor housewives (duh!). At times I manage to get though the day. I even have moments where I feel inspired. But mostly I feel like I’m dying. I won’t ever be able to explain what that means or how it feels to your exact liking, because trust me I’ve just spent the past five weeks trying to explain it to Ian. He’s no closer to understanding my overdramatic thinking than I am getting better at explaining it. You either get it or you don’t.
Either way, today I decided to try something new. Today I accept death. I’ve spent 5 weeks feeling terrified that I’m going to die, and today I’m just going to assume it’s true. I am dead. Now what Carinn? Now what?
Now, I tell you how it all happened. This is not a story about a car accident or a battle with cancer, this is just me going back to work. Where I died. A lot.
Carinn Jade, mother of two. Gone. Cause of death: bleeding heart.
Two weeks into our new schedule my son went on camp strike, like so many of your own tots. His own death screams at the very sight of the bright red jolly camp sign were more than I could handle. Mostly because they reflected back my own death screams that I am old enough to keep bottled up lest I show an ounce of weakness.
My mother eventually, er, I mean, graciously acquiesced to two generations of her DNA sobbing and agreed to take my children to her house for part of the week. So from Monday 7am to Wed at 5pm I am childless. I am free to work 12 hour days to make up for my shortened schedule Wednesday, Thursday and Friday where I so boldly leave to feed my kids dinner (“doesn’t your nanny do that?” my colleagues ask) and spend quality time with them before the torture that is our bedtime routine. Now you might be thinking how much easier it is to focus on work, and even Ian, while the kids are away. And it is. But aside from logistics, this is my worst nightmare. A month ago I was a mostly happy full time SAHM and now my children are away from me for three days, two nights a week. I miss them beyond measure and my life feels meaningless and as empty as the space between the four walls of our apartment, even though it is the best thing for our family right now. My identity — as I knew it and loved it — as mother has died.
Carinn Jade, adorable mess, is dead. Cause of death: rayon.
Gone are the days when I could throw on a cute Tinley Road cotton sundress, shun make-up and let my roots grow out 3 weeks longer than I should. No, no. I’m a Park Avenue lawyer now. I had to dig out the carton of Theory that’s been in storage since 2008 and fill in some wardrobe holes with 40% off Banana Republic wear. I now need a job just to cover my organic non-toxic dry cleaning bills.
Carinn Jade, blogger, is laid to rest. Cause of death: biting her tongue.
I am grateful that I have my humble place here at WTTM, but my paid gigs are gone. I no longer have an outlet for spewing my regular opinions on parenting, work-life balance and the warm, fuzzy moments of raising humans. In a gesture of fairness (other people who are hustling to build a career in freelance writing deserve those positions) and honesty (can I really do all of this? As much as I want to, no.), I had to regretfully resign my posts at Mommyish and Moonfrye. If you don’t know me in real life, let me tell you that saying “no” to anyone or anything feels like a death unto itself for someone like me.
Carinn Jade, writer, is dead. Cause of death: life.
Of all my identities, this is the hardest one to write. I know my time as a 7-day a week mother will return when school starts after Labor Day. But the dead writer withering away inside of me? I fear she is gone for good. Death, as I understand it, is permanent.
You see, my new life has killed her. I spent the first month of this job, and the weeks leading up to accepting the position, convincing myself that I could keep her alive. I will write for an hour at lunch! I will get up at 5am to write for an hour before the kids are awake! I can do this! Well, it turns out I can’t. I still write for an hour a day, but it’s journal spewing about how miserable I am, how much I hate this job, how much I regret this decision, how much I resent living in a city where everything is so expensive and owning a home is beyond the realm of the non-1%ers, and other feel good type of coherent three-act structure stuff St. Martin’s Press would love to publish. Or not.
She’s dead. The writer in me is dead. She’s shrouded in the irony that after taking on full-time employment, she will never finish that manuscript about the girl who gets fired from her prestigious Wall Street job and finds her own path in life. She’s probably singing Alannis Morrisette in her grave. Because she’s dead.
We are all dead and gone. And a new Carinn Jade is reborn. I have no idea who she is yet. She’s merely a newborn. She can’t walk, she can’t talk, yet she already has my overactive mind. I want to scream out and say how much I miss where I just was, but it’s no use. That part of life is over. I feel desperate to define myself and assert myself, but the truth is I don’t even know myself yet. I’m just an unformed blob who is crying out for my former life when what I need to do is settle into this new one. I’m swaddled in opportunity but all I cling to is what I’ve lost.
Death isn’t easy, but rebirth is even harder. I’ve got to learn things I thought I already knew. I’ve got to start with the basics. Take it one day at a time. I hate it. I fight it. I’m colic to the n-th degree. Everyone around me coos, “look, she’s a lawyer again! She got back in after opting out! She’ll become that aggressive overachiever we knew for so long!” They all have their own hopes and dreams for me as they stare starry-eyed at the infant version of Carinn they see. But at some point I have to accept where I am.
The first 365 days in an infant’s life are full of so much constant growth and I need to give myself that one important year as a newborn. I have to form all new synapses in my brain. I have to learn to walk and talk. I need to learn to smile — really smile, not just turn my lips up fighting gas — all over again. With wide-eyes and an open mind I have to see everything new as a chance to learn. I have to find my purpose and my passion within the realm of the life I have, not the one I once knew. Colors will eventually become recognizable in this black and white world I see as a newborn, but it’s going to take time.
I may not be as cute and smooshy as an actual newborn, but I hope you’ll track my progress here.