When a New Beginning Makes You Long for the Middle

I'm sick of beginnings.

Right In The Middle | APW (1)

I’m sick of Beginnings. Well, to be more accurate, I’d welcome a(nother) new beginning if only it would stick.

I started a new job this fall. A job that, on paper, should have fit me to a T. Instead, I found a toxic work environment. This alone is hard to deal with, but of course, new jobs do not happen in a vacuum. They happen after I’ve already had five jobs in three years. They happen after I’ve moved halfway across the country only to trudge through a tearful, lonely winter. They happen after I’ve questioned everything I wanted from life and failed nearly all my expectations for myself.

They happen after I’ve convinced myself I should never settle for something less than awesome and after I’ve convinced myself I’m incredibly naïve for believing an awesome job is even possible. They happen after I’ve been turned down from at least three opportunities I believed myself a perfect fit for. They happen after I’ve worked for free, trying to get some great experience and a foot in the door. They happen after I’ve quit working for free, only to find out later someone was hired for that position for realsies. A man, of course. They happen when I absolutely need a job and a paycheck, whatever it is. They happen when I don’t give a flying fuck about a job and a paycheck.

I’ve never considered myself to be change-averse. In fact, I’m usually more than ready to leap into the next new thing for my life. When it comes to Beginnings, though, I’ve had about enough. Job number five is about to become past tense, too. Or at least part time. But if I don’t buckle down and work through the suck, am I flaky? On the other hand, if I don’t jump ship now, am I doomed to a boring, beige, unfulfilled life? Bad days too easily seem like a referendum not only on the job itself, but on all of my life decisions to date

I want a Middle, for heaven’s sake.

And I have one. Even on bad days, or when I drive to work already thinking about leaving it, I have the security and comfort in my gut that I’m coming home to my partner. He’s the one Middle that’s stuck with me. His love, his steadiness, his calmness, his silliness, and especially his hugs, are enough to give me a quiet smile, and remind me things are okay. If I’ve screwed everything else up that day, that week, in the past five years—I chose him, and that’s about the most important thing I could have done right.

Over these last few months, I’ve been falling more in love with him. It’s not the butterflies of a new relationship. It’s the butterbeer of comfort, security, and rightness with the world. Fuck engagement as a Beginning. We might just be starting to plan a wedding, but we’re smack dab in the middle of something awesome.

Photo by Vivian Chen

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  • Emily

    Wow, do I love this. I know just the sort of quiet smiles you mean. On Monday I endured a speech from my former playboy boss about how to have a successful marriage after the honeymoon phase. I might have a shiny new ring on my left hand, but that shouldn’t somehow disqualify the seven years I’ve invested into growing a healthy, loving, grounded relationship. I’m so glad to be getting married in the Middle, too!

    • Emily

      …also, I had seven jobs in 4 years, before finding my current position. Former playboy boss notwithstanding, this is a better fit than I could have imagined, this time last year. Best of luck!

    • Melanie

      ” I might have a shiny new ring on my left hand, but that shouldn’t somehow disqualify the seven years I’ve invested into growing a healthy, loving, grounded relationship.”

      Yes. We are quasi-engaged (have a date in 2015 but I am in grad school out of town and he is paying off debt) and when we do get “publicly” engaged, we will only be continuing to work on the relationship we have had for the past 3 years.

  • blimunda

    Oh how I understand you, sweetheart.

  • Price of Tea

    Butterbeer is the best metaphor for the feeling of a happy, secure relationship I have ever heard. I’m going to start saying “I got butterbeer in my stomach when I saw him” all the time.

    • Rosie

      I thought the Butterbeer metaphor was great as well – never thought of it before but it’s perfect!

    • Cynth

      Yes, love “butterbeer of comfort”!

    • macrain

      When I’m meeting him somewhere and I catch sight of him from afar before he sees me, and a smile slowly starts to just automatically form on my face. Butterbeer.

  • YES! I’m so glad that you have this, and I’m so glad that I have this too. That when things are awful, there’s someone there to make it suck less, to make soup when you’re sick, to cuddle you when you’re sad or happy or everything in between.

    This is why I got so annoyed when people told me that we were just starting our relationship after being committed for 5 years. This is why I was visibly upset when my future father in law told me that our 4 year committed relationship wasn’t a real relationship because we weren’t engaged (yay for older generations). This is why I refuse to let my minister talk about “beginnings” during our ceremony in a couple months. This is why society needs to recognize relationships- all relationships whether is a few weeks or fifty years- as being important and valid. Because to the people who are in these relationships- they are meaningful, and it would be nice for everyone else to see that as well.

    Oh goodness, sorry for the rant. I guess this one brought up some things.

  • M.

    “Bad days too easily seem like a referendum not only on the job itself, but on all of my life decisions to date.” I’m living with this now too, and I so appreciate just hearing it said aloud. I also live with my fiance in a perfect “middle” – it often takes a lot of my remaining energy to re-focus on that. You’re right, it’s “about the most important thing I could have done right.” Solidarity fist bumps, ladyfriend.

    • lady brett

      those were the two lines i was going to quote as just about perfect, too.

  • Diane

    I love this. Butterbeer and hugs are the best things ever, even if I’m mad at my husband his hugs make me feel better.

  • clairekfromtheuk

    And great post ladypants

    That’s all I have to say on this matter :)

  • Anonymous

    The way I feel about this post is very very hard. Because to be honest, I cope with my job by not thinking about my job, because like the author, when I do reflect upon my job everything I have ever done seems like a failure and worthless. I can’t help but think of my classmates who will be graduating from masters programs this spring, those who are teaching abroad, or doing research for Fulbright. All dreams I had and prepared for that did not come to pass. I do have a wonderful partner and he does help me, his love is priceless to me and I am lucky to have been with him these past five years, but he is not enough. I am a confident and smart woman, who loves a challenge to work hard for. I didn’t go to college to find a husband and then work as a secretary. But in terms of results it might as well be the 50’s because that’s what I’ve got, complete with a boss who has creeped on me and smacked me over the head. But it took me 8 months to get a job so I couldn’t think of quitting, that was a year ago. I have loans to pay for that degree I worked my ass off for that doesn’t seem to count for anything. I am looking and applying now but I don’t think even with another years’ experience my credential measure up to my peers who somehow managed to afford to work unpaid internships. I am sorry I sound so bitter when many other commenters were able to take positive things from this piece. I appreciate the sentiment and I think it is beautiful, but while my partner’s love helps it cannot completely mask the disappointment of my professional dreams. And I know there have been endless articles about millennials being entitled whiners but nothing prepared me for this.

    • Kayjayoh


    • Sarah E

      Anonymous, I’m truly sorry to hear about your struggle. In high school, I was a straight A student, and assumed I’d have a high powered career with multiple degrees. College was such a different experience for me, I learned a lot about what I actually need and want for life- and more school wasn’t it. Most of my friends are getting graduate degrees of some kind, or otherwise climbing the ladder at the company they started working for after college. My partner, too is currently pursuing his ph.d.

      All of which is simply to say I didn’t experience a lot of failure in life until I hit my 20s, and it’s still hard for me to deal with. My partner is my greatest comfort, but he doesn’t complete my life. He does make it easier for me to keep pushing for the right fit and the right career. I’m fortunate to be financially able to keep moving through jobs, too. Keep your head up and keep trying. I tend to always doubt my credentials, too, but having a friend look over my resume and find the common threads through my scattered experience helps. and I remind myself that I can be trained to complete any skill. It’s fitting my personality with my coworkers and with the work environment that matters most to me.

      Best of luck and many hugs!

      • Bee

        Me too, me too! I’m 31, straight-A student and Ivy League grad, and my career is basically nonexistent. I work for a state agency, and people assume I have a cushy job, but actually I have been strung along for the past six years on temporary 1-year contracts with no benefits, making $14/hour, while other people have been hired on in permanent positions. I’ve been rejected from so many other jobs at this point that I’ve lost count. Dozens? Hundreds?

        Now realizing that post-recession, it’s impossible to get a job in my field without a graduate degree – but at this point, by the time I’m done with grad school, it would be potentially too late to start a family. And I don’t even have a fiance. I have absolutely no idea what to do.

        I’m really struggling to know whether to continue pursuing my dreams of making a difference in the world, or cutting my losses and admitting I’m not a special snowflake, and looking for a menial office job with benefits. I mean, at some point, I’m going to need health insurance. It’s especially hard when I compare myself to extremely successful (in many senses of the word) high school and college classmates.

    • singlelady

      This piece is hard for me as well, but for a radically different reason: it reminds me of just how hard it can be to be single, because without a partner as an anchor, there’s very little to hold on to when everything else is rough too. So a bittersweet morning read — a lovely sentiment and a forceful echo of the hollowness in my heart. At the same time, however, it pushes me to think about the community of friends I do have, and the important role really good friends (married, partnered, and singled) play in my life. A reminder that partnerships are not actually the be all and end all of life, even as the culture around us promotes them as such.

      • ella

        Me too… I’ve got a great career, but, without a partner my life seems so anchor less, and I’m tired of the uncertainties and new beginnings and dating decisions. Last week I had a friend helping me with some computer stuff, and, it reminded me again of how much I’m missing – not because he did all that much, but because I had company in the process, and it changed the evening from one of my crying in frustration to one of good humor and amusement. I knew when I lost my fiance that I’d lost a lot a lot, but, sometimes I’m amazed by how much the little storms of life throw me adrift now that he’s not here just to be with me. My friends have become so dear to me, I value them SO MUCH. For being there when it’s hard, and also for being there to celebrate. (Loneliest day I’ve had in a while: the day I got a huge raise… there are very few people you can tell you got a huge raise, and I really wanted to celebrate it WITH someone).

    • BreckW

      Your comment hit me right in the gut because I can relate to what you’re saying so much. Over the past few years, I have been really down on myself for not being “successful” in the professional arena. I’ve been trying to get over it, since my self-imposed you’re-a-failure thoughts probably aren’t very good for me. It has helped me tremendously to think about areas in my life where I have been successful: I am a great partner, friend, and sister; I have a lot of valuable common sense (I’m a really good cook! I stick to a budget! I bought a car all by myself!); I have run a half marathon, traveled all over the place, and learned another language. I also try to remember that there are so many things about my “adult” life that are completely different from what I imagined, and yet it’s really only the career thing that makes me feel bad–why should I let this one part of my life bring me down? Sometimes it may seem like it, but there really isn’t a 15-year old version of yourself somewhere out there judging you for not having a glamorous job; it’s just you being critical of yourself. Lastly, life is very long (hopefully). Who knows what we’ll all be doing next year? Or in 2, 5, 10 years? A job that is a great fit for you could absolutely be out there somewhere.

    • Another Anon

      Another anonymous here who feels the same way. I am looking now, and my spouse is willing to relocate if I find a job in another city, but there are times when I wonder if I would have been better in business instead of liberal arts, or if I had decided to go into engineering because I often feel like I’m floating as a result of college decisions and it sucks a lot. I know where you are coming from, anon, and I hope it gets better for you soon.

      • KC

        I hear you! I have the same thoughts and and ask the same questions. It really kind of sucks some days.

      • Alyssa M

        OMG I’m right there on the college decisions. I feel like my degree was a waste, and I’m seriously considering going back to school after we get married. Luckily he’s employed by the university and I can get discounted classes.

    • KC

      I feel so lucky to have my job. It’s a fairly secure position in a state agency, with free medical and great retirement, but with very limited room for growth or promotion. Most days, I actually like what I do.
      That being said – I always dread going in to work. I wake up every morning wishing I could afford to quit and find something else – anything else. I work for a she-beast who barely graduated high school – She feels like she’s had to struggle and work her way up in the world, and so should I. I’ve been told she sees me as a threat – younger than her, college degree, etc, and she works so very, painfully, hard to keep me down and mask my accomplishments (taking credit for many of them when I’m not around to hear her). Unfortunately my job skills are now so niche that I really have few other options. I look ahead at the 25 years I have to work until retirement here, and it just makes me tired.
      I too deal with my job by not thinking about it. As far as success and stability goes, I’ve actually had it a lot better than most of my college classmates. Some of them are unemployed and many are underemployed. In spite of that, I look back at my college career and the events that got me this position and wish I had a do-over. I would have worked harder, or maybe chosen a different degree field. It’s so frustrating, and I feel stuck.
      My one saving grace is my personal life. I finally have a partner (after two failed marriages – insult to injury) who fully and completely loves and supports me. Regardless of what my day has been like, he can always find the exact right way to comfort me, to make me smile and to remember that my life is not my job, and my job is not my life. It’s a means to an end. A way to pay bills, to afford a life we are comfortable with. Yes, I would like to have a job I could be passionate about, that I could look forward to each morning when the alarm goes off. But this is life. It’s not perfect, but he, and our life together are worth so much. I can just close my eyes during those 40 hours a week, and keep focused on what is really important. My family and my relationships. Of course, it’s so much harder to do than to say.

    • Anonymous

      As the original Anonymous commenter, I just wanted to say thank you for everyone’s kind words and solidarity in response to my moment of wallowing. It doesn’t look good on anyone (wallowing, that is) but sometimes you just need to put it out there and feel heard before you can chin up and go about living and appreciating the other awesome stuff going. So thanks again APW for being such a supportive community.

  • Daniella

    I. LOVE. THIS.

  • bsc

    This, 1000%. I could have written this word for word. I’m right there with ya, sister.

  • Cara

    I totally understand the comfort in having a safe and secure relationship to come home to. I’m the opposite of you, though, I’ve stuck with two jobs for far too long that were not what I wanted to do, just because it’s easier. Having that partner should make it easier to make a leap to find a career/job that is more meaningful and fulfilling, but for me it’s hard to decide what direction to make that leap in. I think it is admirable that you’ve tried many different things, and had lots of new beginnings, even if it is painful at times.

    • Sarah E

      It is hard. And it sucks when you think you’ve found it and you’re wrong. Again. But at some point I have to accept (and still working on this one) that there might not be a right answer. Or that I may screw up again or make the wrong decision and that has to be okay. It’s a job, It’s not an un-fixable mistake to pick the wrong one. So that makes it a little easier for me to jump ship. It might be wrong but so what? Life doesn’t have an answer key at the back of the book.

  • Nicole Cherae

    The first thing that came to my mind after reading this was, “Right on!” I think of relationships as giving you security and more room to fly. After 10 years at a soul sucking job, I took a downsizing package. Things have been rough financially, but thankfully I have my partner’s support (and paycheck). Somehow we’ve managed to keep getting by. Even during those hard times though when I was scrounging for change so I could park or do laundry, I’ve never regretted leaving my job. It made me sick every day to go and I feel so free.

    • Sarah E

      Oh definitely. I realize that my class privilege enables me, but nothing is work being in a toxic environment day after day. My health still comes first. And if I can’t reliably have a pleasant day, something needs to change.

  • Chiara M

    It’s so nice to know that other people feel this way about their jobs. I’ve just started working at my first adult job. I finished a professional Masters for a total of 7 years of post-secondary to get to where I am. At the end of the day I come home tired, cranky, and unhappy. I should be glad to have a job in the current climate, making good money, but I’m finding it hard to be grateful. And I feel so silly about waning to quit.

    What I’m trying to say is thanks for sharing. Even though I still feel like I’m being an ungrateful twit for wanting to stop my job, I feel like a little bit less of one when I hear you’re struggling with similar feelings.

    And almost every day I wonder how I found a man who cuddles so well; puts up with my crazy stressball days, and is still agreeing to love me. I’m grateful for that. Thanks for the reminder, because sometimes it’s hard to remember what I have to be grateful for.

  • Alyssa M

    Man, the middle is awesome. 3 years into our relationship, during college, my partner and I broke up for a summer. My mother and friends tried to cheer me up with marathons of Gilmore Girls or chick flicks and chocolate, but really all I could think about the movies that end at “happily ever after” was how exhausting butterflies are and how shallow those relationships were. Nothing beats the comfort, support, and trust of a healthy established relationship.

  • Heather

    “But if I don’t buckle down and work through the suck, am I flaky? On the other hand, if I don’t jump ship now, am I doomed to a boring, beige, unfulfilled life?”

    This is such a thing.