“The next stop will be…”

4T5 Cadbury's train

These seats always creak and huff when we travelers sit in them. We’re as weary as they are, or so it would seem.

It’s 5:09, and in four minutes this train will leave the station, and I’m just glad I got a corner seat on the upper level. It’s nearest the air conditioning, and I have my 99-cent iced coffee with just cream, no sugar. I used to add easy ice to my order, but they never caught that one, or maybe they thought I couldn’t tell that it was still packed to the brim. Why try to save on the stale coffee you’re trying to get rid of? Give the people the caffeine they crave.

I’ve calculated that full ice constitutes the loss of at least five sips of coffee. That’s a margin I truly miss on the ride home.

I have options for mind occupation on the train ride home – a book, Bible reading, writing, surfing Twitter… but my mind is whirling with options of a different kind, and online job searches are calling my name.

Scroll, scroll, click, nope, refresh, scroll, scroll, scroll.

Perhaps I’m just another millennial looking for that elusive perfect job, and I think so highly of myself that I can’t take an entry-level position in something I may not like.

Scroll, scroll, hm. Maybe. That’s far away from family. Sigh.

Perhaps I’m just too focused on my passions and not focused enough on the practicality of just getting a job, darn it. Or my standards are so high that I won’t accept the perfectly normal job staring me in the face.

Scroll, definitely not, scroll, scroll, click, looks possible, save for later. Scroll, scroll…

I wonder what the stats are for people who hate their job.

Oh, thanks Google, about 70%. Why should I be so privileged as to think I could like mine someday?

The thing is, right now I’m in the 30%. I don’t actually hate my current job. I love it. Sure, it has it’s problems, but I love my colleagues, I enjoy the work, it’s diverse and often exciting. I believe in the value of what I’m doing. The only reason I’m looking is because I have a family and the pay isn’t cutting it for the cost of living in Chicago. I don’t even blame my employers for that. It’s just the way it is right now.

I’ve got a dream job in mind right now, like most people. Mine has switched around a lot (because these darn millennials can’t commit) but currently I’d like to write stories for a living, from wherever it’s cheap to live and my kids have a yard.  Quite the American dream.

“The next stop will be… Harlem Avenue.  Now approaching… Harlem Avenue.”

These beasts of many burdens sling their backpacks up and over, cinch the straps, tap their pockets to confirm they have wallets, stumble over feet.  Hisses, shuffles, the ding, c-click, ding, c-clang of the train starting up again.  We leave them on the platform, walking to their homes, to the bar, to some dingy pizza place. The sense of abandonment wanes over the years.  It’s been five now, for me. Many more for others.

Now I’m looking up organizations I would like to work with, to see if there are any jobs I could qualify for within their sparkling ranks.

Job descriptions are terrifying, and I know why, because I redid mine over the summer along with my entire manual. When you actually sit down and start categorizing what you do in your job, you realize just how much there is, even though most of it you didn’t have a clue how to do at all, initially. Add in supervisor expectations (what they think you do or what they wish you would do) and you’ve got a recipe for Super-Employee. Part of me wants a “BS filter” option on this app. The other part of me is scared spitless that they might actually mean what they say.

The train yards are whizzing away and the landscapes subtly become greener. The city is a breathless heaving machine, all complicated moving parts and rush and noise. The suburbs are fake trees and fake grass and fake smiles and fake lives, and the real versions of each are often indistinguishable, so who really knows which one I see? In between, though, I really don’t know what it’s like. It looks… well, it’s gone now, I guess I’ll never know.

“The next stop will be… Berwyn. Now approaching… Berwyn.”

What’s perhaps most frustrating is the insecurity, and the doubts that plague me about the next steps of life.

Am I good enough to get a different job?
Does God want me to move on or am I just being discontent?
What if I hate the new one I get even though it looks great?
What if we have to relocate and pull up the roots we’ve been putting down for five years?
I should be happy that we have it as good as we do right now.

There is nothing here to hold on to. The questions produce only more questions. The self-doubt, the other-doubt, the God-doubt – it’s an abyss, and I know it, and I still ask the questions.

“The next stop will be… Riverside. Now approaching… Riverside.”

Doubt. Insidious, pseudo-holy, parasitic. Brother to fear. Son to pride. I am Yours, but I am not. You love me, but You do not. First tool of the devil. “Did God really say…”

The appropriate response, of course, is “Duh. Bug off.” Heir of the fall, I respond by justifying, waffling, trying to do it myself, failing, falling, sinning in my heart against the God who cannot love me more than He does, who has my good in His heart, who holds the world and this itty-bitty baby in His hands.

My six-month-old is learning an age-old truth. After months of getting exactly what he asks for when he asks for it, the party is winding down. Welcome to life, kid. We are always there, always watching out for you, and we love you to pieces. But no, you may not get your way at this moment, no matter how much you rage at us.

The exception is when you are hurting. We can’t get there fast enough.

“The next stop will be… Brookfield. Now approaching… Brookfield.”

I’ve always liked how Metra Mom says my home-stop, lilting, cheery, like the sound of those two things mingled and expressed, smiling. Sounds like content. I pack up my own burden and sling it on my back, check my belonging, stumble over others. This is my stop.

We all stand, bovine, heads slightly bowed. Some people had good days and chew the cud at each other. Some people had bad days and chew the cud at each other. Most stand silently, bearing their various burdens and waiting to lower them with loved ones at home, or not at all. Travelers all, we shuttle from place to place, willing slaves to routine, for the sake of all of our different motivations – family, money, fame, passions.

When will I stop pursuing and let myself be caught by my true Home?





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