Sometimes I wish I hadn't stopped smoking. Apart from the health problems and the all-too-familiar smoker smell, I actually enjoyed the process. It passed the time on long commutes and traffic, and it provided a community in which I could take part. Some of the most interesting conversations I've had have been during the seven or so minutes it takes to inhale my daily dose of cancer. It gifted me with thinking time, either when I needed inspiration for an article or story or when I just needed a break from studying. Plus, can I say stress reliever? And for the past couple of months, I have been in need of such a thing.
On July 3, I will have been unemployed for exactly seven months. Granted, it was my choice to leave at that inopportune time, but to this day, I know it was the best thing for me. I was nearly choking there, forgetting myself and just kind of floating by. It totally screwed up my sleeping schedule (something I'm still struggling with now), and I was introduced to some of the worst sides of humanity. I had lost my ability to write, and for me, that is a signal that something is wrong. Writing is my means of creative expression, a part of me that is almost as necessary as breathing. Even if I don't draw or paint for a while, I'm fine, but as soon as words fail me, I know that I have to step back and look at my life.
Now, this is not to say that I don't miss the people. The other cocktails were wonderful girls, and I frequently go visit Lindsay and Kelly to get my fill of interoffice gossip and hear about their lives; Kevin was an awesome boss, and I still consider him a friend (congrats on the new baby girl, Kev!!). But I wasn't really doing anything with my life, so I quit.
It was difficult not to go back, especially after business picked up after the holidays, but I just couldn't. I remember how tired I was and how uninspired I felt on a constant basis and knew that I had to stay away, at least in a professional way. I'd still drop by for a complimentary Hoegaarden, but I would only stay for thirty minutes at the most (and usually only drank about half of the ale, but meh, it was free). I'd catch up, dodging offers of cigarettes, and then go home to Zola. This seemed to be the best way of handling the inevitable question of, "When are you coming back?"
I didn't have the heart to tell them that I had outgrown that life. Most of them are older than me and still manage to behave in ways that no longer interest me. I've never smoked pot and don't plan to do so; I don't like getting drunk on a regular basis; if I'm going to stay up until 5 a.m., I at least want to be in my bed with a good book, video game or empty spiral notepad, not in a bar, wondering how I'm going to get home. Perhaps the word "outgrown" is misused. None of the above-mentioned activities ever really had my rapt attention; I have always wanted to attend Bonnaroo, but I don't because of the drugs. I didn't go to parties in college because I didn't want to be surrounded by drunk people, which is funny considering I worked in a bar for nearly a year before realizing that, yep, I still can't stand drunk people, even when they are paying me. I'm not judging my former co-workers at all, because most of them are incredible, hard working people that are making ends meet the best they can. But that atmosphere is not conducive to me being productive. So, I dropped the job and the smoking; they both kind of went hand in hand.
And now, I'm poised for the rest of my life. Yesterday, amidst the cacophony of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, I received a call from the Wilson County Human Services department and was offered a job. I was in the elevator at my dad's office and did a little "squee" dance and yelled, "Yes!" I frightened my fellow passengers, but after explaining the situation, they joined in on my happy booty-shaking, and I think I made some old lady's day.
I don't think there's a moral to this story. I haven't reached the end, and I'm not even sure if a moral can be applied. And I probably should have said that last week, I wished I hadn't quit smoking. Because today, being nicotene-free feels kind of good.