One of the side effects of being home alone so much is the constant internal dialogue with no one to bounce things off of. It’s been me and the mutt, with me mostly working on chores around the house and cooking and math homework so I can take that dumb exam. Dogs listen well, but they don’t exactly reciprocate conversation. Added on to this is the fact that I’ve been applying for jobs everywhere and actually had an interview yesterday, and I’ve been feeling rather…stuck.

See, I’ve never had a problem getting a job in the past. With only high school education and basic experience on my resume, I still only ever looked for a couple months before finding 2 job offers. Now, I’m going on 8 months casual looking, 4 months intense looking, and I still have nothing. Well, one job offer, but we both agreed immediately that it wasn’t where I needed to be in life right now. This whole thing goes back to my previous post about this, so I won’t beat the dead horse. It does tie in though.

Yesterday, I had a phone interview with a company in one of Michigan’s larger cities that’s a few hours away from home. I could live with my aunt and uncle (who were super stoked when my mom mentioned it to them, though I wish she hadn’t), it’s a subsidiary of the company my cousin works for and just down the block from him, and it’s supposedly a relaxed environment. It’s also for a copyeditor position. The problem? I hate that city, I don’t want to live with my aunt and uncle that long while I’m paying off student loans, and it’s in loans and mortgages and insurance. Yay. Also, there’s an internship position open under the same title that the lady seemed more interested in me taking. That would ease my mind about living with my aunt and uncle since it would have an end date, but I’d really rather look for full-time employment.

Also, I really just don’t have a sense of peace about it. Lately, I’ve been struggling to tell the difference between fear and God saying “no.” I still haven’t entirely figured it out. But my whole life, I’ve been very Gibbs-ian about my decisions. I trust my instincts. My gut. And for that phone interview yesterday, my gut wasn’t happy. I’ve tended to consider that a good way of knowing something isn’t right.1898590-leroy_jethro_gibbs

When I applied for the job, the page said it was in my area. It’s not, so that’s part of it. But I just don’t feel like it’s right. Added to that is the fact that I just need to get an income before being picky, but I’ve had so many crappy jobs that made me miserable, that I can’t stand the thought of doing that again.

I’ve always trusted that instinct, but this past semester left me beaten and bruised. I’d never had any of the stereotypical anxiety-related problems that statistically appear in college students until last year when I had my first ever panic attack. It wasn’t really surprising because it was the semester from Hell, but I digress. This past semester, I had 3 or 4 in the span of a couple months. And suddenly, I became a statistic. With classes, graduating, job hunting, selling the house, buying a house, moving, Peru, and everything else, I just had nothing left to give. I broke so many times, and then worried what people would think about me missing church. But I just couldn’t do it. No doubt some thought I was just being lazy, but I truly just couldn’t handle it.

On top of that, Deb, our missionary-to-be and former youth worker, told a group of us who have had known struggles with anxiety in recent years that anxiety was just fear and that meant you have to address that fear and it will go away. She said anxiety isn’t real. Thanks for that.

I wanted to scream at her.

The only thing that kept me calm was not wanting to disrespect her in front of a crowd. And the sad thing is that I know where she got the idea. We had discussed how frustration is another word for anger. It’s true: frustration is anger focused in a different direction. Anxiety is a synonym for fear, so naturally they’re just the same thing. If you confront that fear, you will no longer suffer from anxiety! Magic!

*Angry wrong-answer button buzzer sound here*

What she doesn’t understand is it wasn’t just fear for me. It was a culmination of months of suppressed little fears and stresses and confusions and sorrows that I pushed away until I physically couldn’t handle anymore and broke. And I don’t mean I had that one panic attack and was done. I mean that I felt it coming on, pushed it back for three months, and wound up on my bed sobbing uncontrollably for no reason for a half hour until I texted my mom and she came in to calm me down.

And every attack is different.

The first was like paralysis. I couldn’t move, and knew I couldn’t. What I thought was 5 minutes was an entire keynote speech at a conference. The second was sobbing for 40 minutes. The third was almost a combination. It’s always different, and it’s different for every person. She doesn’t understand because she’s never experienced it.

My mom raised me to not live in fear. I’m a natural worrier; a cautious person who like spontaneity and knowledge of the future in equal parts. But I’ve worked hard not to let that fear ever control me. I confront it and move on. I was afraid of rock climbing, so I told Eliot to force me up the wall and he did. And I loved it. Fear conquered.

My sister, Fay, isn’t as good at this. It took 3 years of pushing and prodding and probing and pleading to get her to finally push past her fear and choose a major and a school, and then a bit more to actually get her up there. I’ve always struggled to understand her fear of the unknown because I had never felt it. And a lot of people in our College & Career group are the same way. I’ve spent countless hours on conversations with Mom, asking her how these people can just let fear control their lives and keep them from living.

And now I understand, because now I’m experiencing it. Not completely, but more than I have before.

I don’t want to leave my hometown because I’m afraid of not having a safety net. Bro. Matt, my parents, my extended family, Pheebs & Jo, Nicole, Indy; all the people who have supported me, picked me up, and pushed me to keep going.

On the other hand though, I’m more willing to leave the state than the town. Because I know I won’t have a safety net at all and I’ll be forced to stand and succeed, or fail, on my own. I’ll see what I’m made of without anyone holding my hand. They’ll still be there supporting me, but it’s more like reference points on the skyline than training wheels.

Without an income, I can’t do the things I need to right now. And so far, even the part-time jobs have come to nothing.

So now, I’m stuck.

I feel like I’m trying to ride my bike through the mud, but I’m back on my busted mountain bike with the faulty gear-shift, a chain that slips off, and the mud is pulling me further in. Every time I try to move forward, something slips or breaks or slides, and I end up in the exact same spot, digging myself deeper in.

I’m stuck in this feeling of being helpless because suddenly I’m struggling with a health problem I never have before. I’m stuck because I’m afraid to move, and afraid to stay. I’m stuck because I need to work, and no one will hire me. And I’m stuck because I need to grow, but I’m afraid to step into the sunlight.

With this latest interview, I feel like someone is trying to place a board under that front tire of the bike so I can get traction, but as I look closer, it’s actually made of plastic. It might get me out of this spot, but I’m afraid it will break and leave me stranded in another spot with damaged tires.

There was an episode of NCIS that I recently re-watched. Director Vance asks Gibbs to evaluate a new recruit, and Gibbs asks Ducky for a profile. Recent events had made him doubt his own judgement, and Ducky reminded him that one mistake doesn’t mean he has bad instincts. Eventually, it turned out that Gibbs had been right all along.

I’ve always trusted my instincts. Now, I’m acting like Gibbs asking Ducky for help. This new anxiety problem has led me to question whether it’s actually an instinctual “something’s not right/ God says ‘no'” or fear. And so far, I’m still struggling to tell the difference. I feel like someone dropped a magnet next to my internal compass, and now I can’t tell the difference between fear and faith, like the needle on my compass is wobbling back and forth, trying to tell the difference between the two magnets pulling at it. Clearly, I need a Ducky.

This time, I think Mom has been my Ducky. She was asking Dad how he felt about my interview. Usually, if she has doubts about something, it means my doubts were well founded. When Mom wants something, she always prays that God will smack my dad upside the head with the same desire, so that she knows it’s God’s will too. If not, she knows it’s her own desire , not what God is placing on her heart. Lately, I’ve been praying for God to put airplane runway lights down my path while shoving me down it and beating Mom upside the head as well so I know I’m going in the right direction.

So far, I haven’t seen any lights, and I’m thinking I might be facing the wrong way. Actually, I think I’m at the wrong airport. Maybe just a random field a mile away from the runway.

If you need me, I’ll be trying to get my compass to point North again. And possibly wandering around in circles clutching a Julia Child cookbook.