Life

From Stagnation to Serenity: Finding My Voice in Middle Age

1

When the vernal zephyr once again tinted the camellia tree in front of the office edifice crimson, I had been ensconced as a “superfluous” denizen within the company for a full two years. Initially, I unequivocally relinquished the significant clientele I had cultivated over myriad years, proactively assuming the mantle of an inconsequential subordinate. I once vaunted to my colleagues of my imminent resignation within a year. Yet today, seven or eight hundred sunsets have passed, and I steadfastly abide within the company. Not only have I abstained from mentioning my “resignation,” but I have also foregone my customary annual leave last year.

My superior would occasionally jest about my hubris, remarking on the departure of many reticent individuals within the company, juxtaposing them with my incessant refrain of “I wish to depart,” yet I, akin to soles affixed to shoes with indomitable adhesive, seem impervious to separation. I could merely offer a wry smile. In truth, my resolve to relinquish my employment has never faltered, but as temporal tides surge, I increasingly find this aspiration as distant as grasping for stars and the moon. The company I esteem does not reciprocate my regard, and I find no affinity with the company that extols me. My next vocation remains an amorphous reverie. Should I rashly tender my resignation, what recourse would remain? Hence, it is preferable to linger within the confines of the establishment, idly attending to trifles. With meager remuneration and modest recompense, I can, at the least, fulfill social obligations without contending with intricate interpersonal entanglements and labyrinthine affairs. My principal endeavor within the company entails traversing the expansive and unbounded realm of literature, or penning prose, or immersing myself in tomes, liberated and unencumbered. Would not leisurely days be a felicitous pursuit?

Indeed, to some extent, I am content with my present existence. During my tenure in sales, my days were consumed with ceaseless activity, yet my heart remained desolate and suspended, akin to a leaf severed from its bough, adrift aimlessly upon the zephyr; whereas now, interactions are confined to one or two individuals, with whom exchanges span but a few utterances per week. Yet, I relish the grounding and assurance of my steps upon the ebony soil.

Spiritual enrichment has metamorphosed my outlook on human interaction. No longer do I shrink from interpersonal communion, nor do I regard my colleagues as dispassionate automatons. Adjacent to my desk lies an unoccupied seat, reserved for my colleague Zuo Zuo. Occasionally, she would grace me with her presence for half an hour, and together, we would discourse on literature, music, painting, and our distant aspirations. Formerly deemed egregious folly, I now welcome such engagements. Her idealistic imprudence and steadfast loyalty fostered a bond between us, imbuing me with the belief that the workplace transcends mere transactionalism, and that I am not an outlier.

However, a latent anguish persists within my bosom. In September of the bygone year, my superior informed me of the resignation of the colleague who succeeded me. Stoically, I met his gaze without utterance. He proceeded to declare his intention to temporarily assume the responsibilities until a suitable replacement was procured, soliciting my assistance for any queries. Upon departure, torrents of self-reproach welled within me. The last occasion I wept so fervently was during those fleeting months of convalescence. Despite the opulence of my spiritual life, I remain unforgiving of my retreat from worldly affairs, consigning myself to the periphery of the company in the prime of my life. For my ambitious progenitors, this constitutes a ignominious stain, an indelible scar upon my heart. Perhaps time may temper the impetuous tears, yet it cannot expunge the guilt.

The leader’s composed demeanor pricked at my sensitive nerves. He, a seasoned employee in his fifth decade, eclipses me in qualifications and competence. Why can he confront tribulations and setbacks at work with candor, whereas I falter? Resolute, I resolved to address my boss the ensuing day: “Kindly permit me to reassume my duties.” However, those words remained unspoken until the recruitment of new personnel several months hence.

Alas, the allure of literature exerts an inexorable pull, akin to being ensnared within a black hole, from which there is no reprieve. Were I to revert to my former role, I would invariably squander time on menial tasks, espouse insincere platitudes, and perform perfunctory deeds, precluding the leisure for reading and writing I currently enjoy. After deliberation, I elected to persist in my recline until denouement, allowing parental reproach to linger as perpetual penance. Perhaps this serves as the impetus for my unwavering adherence to authenticity.

2

I have thought more than once that it would be great if I had a clear career plan when I was studying! Unfortunately, time is a straight line that never returns. The objective fact is that I found my life goal only after I entered middle age.

As a typical essayist from a small town, I spent nineteen years studying hard, but I never thought about the meaning of studying hard. My parents took care of everything except my studies, including filling out my application for the college entrance examination. Before I left school at the age of twenty-five, I knew nothing about society and what kind of person I wanted to be.

The first job was chosen blindly. In fact, I didn’t like the major I studied at all. I went to graduate school purely out of the arrogance of wanting to win. When my job no longer required me to compete with others, I resolutely put aside what I had studied for seven years and found a job based on my feelings. A job that requires no professional knowledge at all.

After the initial novelty wore off, I gradually realized the consequences of “not hearing anything outside the window and only reading the books of sages”. Most of the jobs that do not require professional skills are easy to get started and do not require in-depth and detailed thinking. However, years of practice has sharpened my brain into a high-speed gear. Once I relax, my whole body will not adapt. I changed jobs frequently and resigned frequently. I was never satisfied with anything I did and always looked for other places. I thought about finding a job related to the major I studied in college, but I felt disgusted from the bottom of my heart and would rather continue to jump around in confusion.

In the eighth year after graduation, I changed jobs for the eighth time. Seeing that I was in my thirties and still wandering around like a duckweed, I felt quite heavy. After joining the job, I made up my mind to work hard no matter what. to retirement. However, before the year was up, I hesitated again.

Due to business adjustments, the company changed my position from focusing on English translation to domestic sales, where I spent all day visiting customers. In just three months, I said nonsense, empty words, and lies that I had never said in my life in order to promote my products. Although I have not been engaged in academic research for a long time, I still have the nobility and integrity of intellectuals in my heart, and I despise myself for selling my soul for a salary. However, without any skills, how can I win dignity and respect for myself?

Due to the pressure of survival, I bit the bullet and continued to do the job that I despised. For the first time in thirty-four years, I felt with my own skin how heavy life was, so heavy that it seemed invisible but could bend my spine. I hated the days I spent studying so hard that I tried to vent my regret and sadness to the people around me, but no one understood what I was saying. In their view, when people reach middle age, they have to accept their fate. Since I have wasted the first half of my life, it is better to accept the facts naturally. After all, at this age, I can’t change anything.

Since I couldn’t find anyone to talk to in real life, I sought comfort in literary works. I almost tore through “The Catcher in the Rye”. After reading it seven or eight times, I still had the urge to cry. The author’s satire on hypocrisy and moral decay struck a chord in my heart, as if he had read it half a century ago. I have anticipated what will happen to me on the other side of the ocean.

So, I came up with the idea of ​​making a living by writing, hoping that one day I could leave profound and lasting words and bring some comfort to people in trouble. Since I am a science student, I have not read enough, and I lack the foundation for writing, so at first I could only write some simple running accounts, but I easily got into it, on the subway to and from get off work, and at night after putting my daughter to sleep. , during breaks at work…everywhere I witnessed my writing and writing. The difference is that when I was a student, I only studied for the sake of studying; now, I have a clear goal.

However, I did not expect that middle-aged determination would have to pay a greater price. The more I write, the more I love writing and the more eager I am to improve my literary skills. The wishful thinking is to find a related job, such as an editorial assistant, to develop writing skills and make money on the other hand. I submitted a lot of resumes, but all came to nothing. Think about it, who would recruit a science student without any work experience to do writing work?

Seeing that my spare time could no longer satisfy my need for writing, resigning seemed to be the only way out. This idea is too crazy for me to express. My family and friends who have read my writing have long asserted that I cannot write anything famous. If my literary journey is destined to fail, then what is the use of all my efforts and dedication?

Every day, I have to go through countless torn back and forth in my heart. The me who is hypocritical but can make money and the me who is sincere and impoverished are pushing and wrestling in my mind all day long, insisting on a showdown. This kind of anxiety directly affects my work status. I get bored when I hear the customer’s voice, and get annoyed when I receive the customer’s email. Even the smallest thing can set off a storm in my heart.

I expressed my contradictory thoughts to the leader at the time, and he choked me speechless with “You are such an unrealistic idealist.” Yes, I have long been a joke in the eyes of others. Everyone stood on the edge of the cliff and watched me fall hopelessly downward. Only I foolishly thought that as long as I struggled and worked hard, it would be possible to get ashore. The question is, even if I know that everything is in vain, what can I do?

I held on and endured, and worked in the sales position for three years. I pushed myself to exhaustion, changed myself beyond recognition, and became filled with extreme hatred and distrust for the whole world, including myself. At that time, writing full-time was no longer an option, but a necessity. Otherwise, I would no longer be able to coexist with this society.

In the end, due to various reasons, I stayed in the company and got a reasonable leader. The workload also dropped significantly, and I could finally focus on writing wholeheartedly.

3

In the past two years, “Lieping” has given me a quiet writing environment and sufficient study time, but it has not brought me the expected improvement in my level. My submissions were repeatedly rejected, which forced me to reflect on my behavior from time to time. I did not give up looking for writing jobs, and as always I received no response. Occasionally, headhunters from recruitment and sales offered me new opportunities, but I flatly rejected them all.

The days seemed to be frozen here, and I was thrown in the middle of the endless sea. There was a vast ocean ahead or behind me, and there was no shore in sight. Now that things have come to this, I can only swim forward.

At least, in the process of writing, I slowly came to terms with my old self. I forgave myself for not thinking about anything but studying, and I could say to her calmly and generously: “It doesn’t matter, everything is still in time.”

It was also during the two years of working as a “trash” that I became familiar with Zuo Zuo, who also had a tendency to “show off”. We have been working together for three years and have not spoken much. We had no idea that we had so many entanglements and hesitations. In fact, like me, she is not satisfied with the status quo and has her own ideals, which are also limited by age and ability. Perhaps my words cannot provide her with strength, but at least she can see from my actions that she is not alone in her journey to pursue her dreams.

I have had many dreams about literature, such as winning an essay contest or adapting a novel into a blockbuster film and television show, making my parents proud of me. Time is like a needle, piercing these illusions bit by bit. Fortunately, there is still one belief that is as solid as a rock, and that is to write every article with heart.

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