I remember in psych 101 talking about locus of control, how our lives could be diagramed as circles of influence and how, no matter how large the circle was, it was where the locus of control was situated – inside or outside that circle – that had the most impact on our sense of self-esteem and happiness.
The life inversion was about walking away from a large circle of influence. I no longer manage a staff of forty-odd people, or oversee million dollar budgets and revenue streams, or get to go on TV and do interviews, or do guest articles in Canadian poker magazines. But when I did, although the circle was large, the locus of control usually felt like it was firmly located just right around the edge of the circle, sometimes just inside, usually out.
And I was miserable.
We were standing outside at work the other night, smoking in the cold, and a woman was talking about her dentist. She said that he said (hearsay, I know, but I won’t be taking this to court) that he considered casino workers to be tough people. Apparently they don’t bitch as much about their pain as regular folk do and he’d decided that we must be made out of sterner stuff.
I wanted to suggest that he come spend a few minutes in our break room if he ever wanted to hear some serious whining, but thought better of it – I’m the new guy after all.
Somebody said, “Maybe it’s because we’re already numb.”
The storyteller laughed and said, “Yeah, we’re all dead inside already.”
Everyone laughed at that one. Gallows humor. Laughing at shadows to chase them away.
My circle is now pretty small. Inside of it with me are a triple handful or so of close friends and family, about a quarter of whom are in these digital environs, and whom I only know by the tone of their written words, and the honesty and fearlessness with which they write. I love my friends.
My locus of control now feels firmly within my circle. I choose my schedule, I set my agenda, I strive after things that I feel make me a better person and writer, I wrestle my demons, and I do it all on my own time, according to my priorities and integrity.
Even the casino feels like a choice now, not a sentence. I’ve finally answered the question, “So, are you planning on applying for management again?” with, “No way in hell”, enough times that people have stopped asking. I’m not a threat to their advancement aspirations, so I’m not a threat. I go, I deal cards, and then I leave.
I can see on their faces that they don’t get it. They’re working for a career, and making sure that their position is secure, and struggling to even approximate something akin to keeping up with the Joneses. They don’t really get the guy that’s just stopping in, as if I was just topping up the tank before I keep driving, because they feel stuck. It’s in their cynical voices, their scowls, their rolling eyes, and their disparaging commentary.
I feel bad for them, but only because I know what it feels like. Intimately. I remember.
It reminds me why I made my changes – why I’m making my changes. I’d rather be the only goldfish in a free pond than any shark in the ocean, fighting over scraps. I left that world, and love that I left it. I love that I don’t feel dead inside any more.
P.S. After the SOTU tonight, I tweeted, “I feel like I just drank a can of Coke Zero”. “Decaf, no-fat, no-whip mocha” could be a substitute. Was it just me, or was there no fiber and lots of filler? Was that a “Why bother” SOTU?