Work and Money, Part 1: Any Job Will Do

This four-part series outlines how my work and money struggles made me vulnerable to “school”. It illustrates how “school” played my vulnerabilities and celebrates the irony of how leaving school rectified this struggle – I have more work than I can take on right now. 

I invite you to share your post-school successes, either via comments, or by writing your own post-school-success story. Someone once told me that, “The best revenge is to live well.”  It’s true — school-less life is good!

Part 1: How I came to believe – the set up

The Set Up

Recently I realized that my most life-altering and informative moments have come from mistakes; which begs the question — were they mistakes, or simply life experiences that I needed to have? Were they simply part of the path I was destined to walk? Had I posed this question to my father during his last two years of life, he would have responded, “People do things when they are ready.” This had become his mantra as he approached his departure. After dedicating decades to intellect and academia his incurable cancer had fostered this philosophy which connected head to heart.

During his fading years, I had my own brand of academia, “school”, and I was steeped in the “school” propaganda that one must do everything NOW. In trying to live this creed, my long buried, but constant feelings of inadequacy, and paralyzing anxiety bubbled up to the forefront of my psyche. On top of that, witnessing the death of a thousand cuts drove home the reality of human impermanence. Each day, the disease stole another piece of my dad’s physical ability — his intellect, however, stayed sharp, only bowing to morphine at the end (which drove this consummate academic crazy). After his death, I said to a hospice grief counselor, “We don’t get to finish things.” To which she responded, “No, we don’t.”

I started seeing my life as a bumbling and bouncing from job to job and relationship to relationship. “How”, I asked myself and God, “had I gotten so lost and wasted so many years?” The George Bernard Shaw quote, “Youth is wasted on the young” pummeled my  psyche. I wondered, “When will I be ‘ready’? Why do some people get to be ‘ready’ early in life and some people bumble and bounce along as though living in a pinball machine? Why have I been delegated to bumbler-hood?” Even as my father bestowed this philosophy as a final gift, I believed that this allusive state of “ready” did not apply to me.

When I bumbled into “school” in 2006, I had just graduated from a publishing and communications program  — an attempt to change my career path.  I was confused about what to do next. Vocational counseling would have been a logical next step; instead I found “school” (or it found me).  It felt like a God send. Three years later, I had a job that paid decently, a fiancee,  “school” guidance and a very ill father — so I was grateful for “school”. Overall, my life had improved considerably. However, my relationship to work and money continued to be a glaring area of weakness and vulnerability. I found the boredom and tedium of the job — copy writer for a software company — nearly intolerable.

“School’s” work and money prescription reads as this: any job will do. This doctrine mirrors its marriage doctrine of any man, or woman, will do. It also mirrored my long held, but unconscious, beliefs that labeled my longing to have, or create, meaningful work as selfish, precious and immature. My inner judges said that meaningful work was for other people; if necessary, I should work in a coal mine and school reinforced those voices.

In looking back, I often feel that God reached into my psyche, scooped out this dysfunctional belief, and placed it center stage manifesting it as a play called “School”, nodding to Shakespeare, the world a stage. Of course my new millennium theater was more sit-com than Shakespearean; even so it called on my ears to listen and my eyes to recognize that something wanted me to wake up. As with so many “school” ironies — despite its claims to be all about awakening — the institution did everything it could to keep me and my colleagues hypnotized. But my ever-present ache fought this, collaborating with God, needling me from the inside, interfering with my ability to falsely present myself as a woman I was not. My tolerance for “any job” diminished with every commute and cubicle-imprisoned day.

Had I some faith in myself, I would have heeded my discontent and made changes accordingly. Instead the dark judges in my psyche condemned the inner dreamers and seekers; they mercilessly dismissed and disregarded those urges. In desperation, I turned to “school” for “help”. “School” doctrine corroborated the judges; according to it, I didn’t know who I was anyway; the human condition is thus and all humans need “help”from “higher beings”. I bought it spending roughly $20,000 over five years, at $350 a month, to have “higher beings” point me away from my inner compass. However, the inner rebels kept whispering “Given the 40-plus years I’ve tripped around the planet, in this body, living this life, I do know something about myself.”

At certain moments their whispers broke through my “school” stupor – like when Robert shamed students in class. At these moments, the inner rebels furrowed their brows and looked at him in puzzlement – why the public shaming, they pressed. What was his intention? Most times, though,  I lost their voices in the cacophony of “school” doctrine and judgement.

School targets those who doubt themselves as such. Generally speaking, “school” affirms the hopes and dreams of its newest ( i.e. “younger”) students. The affirmation phase lasts roughly two years, during which “school” positions itself to simultaneously tease out insecurities. At certain opportune moments, “school” seizes on those insecurities and assigns specific roles to students, dismissing anything that falls beyond the purview of these assigned roles. It feeds on insecurities, growing a childlike dependency in its students, crafting lost souls into “school” cogs that keep the wheel spinning.

Its cog-crafting technique includes consistent reminders that any success we experience is due “school”, mostly achieved via “school”-sponsored “aim”. Those of us who buy into this give “school” license to increasingly hold us to its governing principles — principles that benefit “school” because they are really just an increase in “school”-related demands — i.e. the three lines of work — deemed essential to each student’s evolution. If these principles, i.e. demands, damage the students personally — say causing tension in a marriage, or a job —  it is always due to flaws within those students; for “school” established its demands to feed its “higher calling”, the institution’s secret “aim”; thus these demands could never be damaging.

School doobies come to believe that if school’s aim takes top priority, then our lives are rightly ordered and everything else should be informed by that.  Other elements should fall nicely into place — family, work, friends, health, wealth, personal passions and callings. However, “school” kept its secret and sacred “aim” a mystery to the plebes, even as we worked for and towards it. If anyone asked, “What is the aim of the school?” our “teachers” would infer that the inquiring student was not ready for that knowledge.  Increasingly, students would ask for “help”, confessing that he or she was failing in the struggle to meet both “school” and life demands; Increasingly, opening him/her self up to more criticism and manipulation.

Imagine buying into this doctrine, as I did, only to discover after leaving that “school’s higher calling” is to ensure that its invisible Queen, Sharon Gans, could outfit her Park Plaza condo with high-end red bathtubs and such and retire in luxury. Queen Gans appeared in Boston only twice during my five-year tenure; both experiences were surreal and revealed her as creepy, crazy and mean. After leaving I learned that this exulted leader was a two-bit actress, who had been in one movie and married the cult’s former leader, a charming sociopath named Alex Horn.

But, I needed to believe that “school demands” were  feeding the betterment of society — however they made me squirm (see recruitment post, i.e. third line of work); that we “schoolmates” were foot soldiers in God’s army, spreading the  word far and wide. For initially these governing “school principles” had worked for me and my life had improved; that was the hook. The fear of being “school-less” set in and became the basis of my choices, feeding a sense that without “school” I would lose everything, setting me up nicely to ask for “help” from my wiser “teachers”; certainly those who knew me better than I knew myself would not lead me astray when it came to the important area of work and money. I learned well not to trust or follow my inner compass. But it never stopped pointing me away from “school”.

Part 2: ANY JOB won’t do – how it stopped working

 

Work & Money, part 2: ANY JOB won’t do – how it stopped working

Cubicle Life

While in “school”, I conducted three job searches over five-years. With “help” from my sustainer, and my “teachers”, I successfully landed work and increased my income the first two times.  I progressed from temporary worker, to editorial assistant to marketing copy writer and my salary increased accordingly.

As with most “school-sponsored”, aim-driven adventures, those quests required frantic, frenetic and constant efforts to find ANY JOB. I made cold calls, walked my resume into offices, handed fliers to McMansion owners offering myself as a house cleaner ( side note – many female “students” end up cleaning houses at one point or another), while submitting as many resumes and cover letters as possible.

These experiences forced me to grow. I dreaded stopping into offices and the door-to-door soliciting. However, I would walk in fearful, talk to whomever I found sitting there, discover that most people were either indifferent, or friendly, and walk out leaving a piece of dread behind me. Once I landed an interview on the spot. Both searches contained two elements that verified the magic of school-sponsorship: Externally,  my efforts picked up a momentum and potential employers appeared to respond accordingly – calling consistently to offer interviews and job opportunities. Internally, every time I left a piece of dread behind, I changed as a woman; the world looked less frightening  and more exciting.

I still credit “school” for this transformation, for its insistence on these efforts shed light on my fear of other people transforming it into excitement when I discovered that most people were not to be feared; however, I was unaware that I was replacing one fear with another: what would my life be without “school”? What if I lost this “source” of wisdom? How could I function? For I knew that I wasn’t functioning so well before my school days.

But a big disappointment awaited me: once I’d landed work, the “ANY JOB will do” doctrine didn’t work for me. In fact, my copy writing position perfectly portrayed the job I never wanted, solidifying that I was living the life I never wanted. Even in my deepest “school”-induced stupor, I saw that my workplace and me were caricatures and that I had all the makings of a ridiculous “The Office”-like sit-com:

The artsy, liberal and creative hippie woman squanders precious days in the institutional, deadening, soul-sucking, life-draining and male-dominated software company. Every commute she stews in frustration and resentment in her lime green, peace-sign adorned, V.W. Beetle,  while battling other commuters in the race to windowless, grey-carpeted, corner cubicles. When in the cubicle, she spends her days writing vapid  press releases about non-existent products (otherwise known as vaporware) for a non-existent audience. In between she checks her email, reads Facebook posts and shops on Amazon.com. A quick stroll around the office reveals a prevalence of Facebook posting, Amazon shopping and Web surfing.

Every morning this woman would attempt to counter her contempt for this empty ritual by stating “aims” to dredge up enthusiasm.  She would force herself to join her mostly male co-workers at the lunch table — racists who spent their lunch hour yelling about Barack Obama for whom she’d canvassed votes in 2008 (By the way, after I silenced my lunch mates by telling them all about the Martin Luther King biography I was reading; after that I stopped sharing my mid-day break with them). Every afternoon she would struggle to keep her eyes open, aim long forgotten, wanting desperately to be anywhere else.

In the evening, she would drive to her cult, where she would  flall around doing “body work” with classmates and then, with her fellow “students,” file in silence in to the “classroom”. There she would sit in a circle to “participate” in a highly-orchestrated class “discussion”, which entailed “teachers” calling on students granting them permission to speak, calling on them as though running a kindergarten classroom — I have to give “school” credit for naming itself so aptly.

Most of me was too steeped in “school” indoctrination to awaken to creepiness of this scene, where adults allowed themselves to be treated like school children. But the still, small voice kept whispering “What are you doing?” She kept poking and pointing at the picture, whispering, “something’s wrong.” But, despite my ever-growing discontent, I needed to believe that “school” would show me the way. “You are just bored,” I told myself. “You’ve a decent salary. Grow up. Buck up. Collect the check. Do the work.”

I grew more miserable, restless and evermore lost.  I chalked my misery up to my flawed character. I soldiered on, ever fighting and losing battles between starry-eyed believers who thought I should keep wearing an ill-fitted suit, and the rebels who kept saying, this suit is too fucking confining; there has to be a better outfit. Between, the inner battle, and the ever-growing “school” demands, my anxiety and judgement compounded; solitude, quiet reflection and sane decision making seemed vague and unreachable concepts that didn’t apply to me. Discouraged and depleted, I tried harder. The harder I tried, the more discouraged and depleted I became. The more discouraged and depleted I became, the more I thought “I must not be trying hard enough” and the harder I tried to try harder.

Every “school” attendee runs a version this viscous circle.

Needless to say, over time, I became a shell going through the marketing motions, invisible and ineffective five days a week. Come evening, I would then go to “school”, to feed on its “wisdom”, my soul ravenous for something meaningful and purposeful. And, as dad’s days waned, I felt that mine were draining away, too. He passed away May 5th 2009, leaving me to face life’s impermanence, and question what I was doing with my remaining days.

Thank God I had “school”!

Part 3: Work and Money – ANY JOB Gives me the boot

Part 3: ANY JOB Gives me the boot

In 2010, amidst the throws of the Great Recession, I lost the dreaded copy writer job. I was thrilled. Suddenly, the woman who longed for creative, autonomous, purposeful and meaningful work, no longer had to commute to a grey-carpeted corner cubicle to pen tedious, boring, inconsequential and unread fiction. I celebrated!

“School” soon interrupted my merriment; ruled by its Any Job Will Do doctrine and its tutelage, I frantically and desperately scrambled for any work. As unemployed ranks swelled and panicked, I soaked in the tenor of the country and “school’s” insistence on urgency; I applied for and took almost any job that would have me (drawing the line at McDonald’s). Work begets work, I was told. I took that “help” in earnest.

Given my experience, I can safely say that parasites and predators crawl out of the woodwork during an economic crisis — after all, opportunities to take advantage of desperate people abound. For example, in my urgent state, I discovered “marketing” and “customer service” positions that magically mutated into door-to-door sales jobs. (Yes folks, door-to-door sales still exists). These employers must have all attended the same How to Scam the Desperately Unemployed into Selling Your Crappy Product summer camp. Job seekers beware, should you fall into such a scheme:

1) Call a phone number provided in an ad.
2) Friendly young voice informs that this job is not “sales” but “customer service”. And, to boot, “We train you!”
3) Schedule an interview.
4) Arrive at interview to enter an office crowded with half unpacked boxes, motivational posters leaning up against walls and unemployed 20-somethings filling up folding chairs, scratching through applications, and filing in and out of a corner office.
5) Wait for at least 40 minutes after the appointed interview time, as the competition files in and out of the corner office.
7) Finally meet with interviewer (always half my age) in coveted corner office, who reveals that “customer service” really means selling vacuums, or knives (if you can believe it) door-to-door.
8) Try to convince the prepubescent interviewer to hire me, while thinking, “Are you fucking kidding me? Where’s the candid camera guy?”

In the knife-selling scene, as unknowing knife-selling wannabes scratched out applications, an over-zealous manager led the newly chosen through a motivational pep rally in the adjacent room; the accompanying games and cheers made my insides curdle like outdated milk. Yet, I stayed and fumbled my way through the interview, trying to convince Mr. twenty-something that I could dream of no better job. After the interview, my feet spurred me out the door and down the stairs, accelerating with each step from walking to trotting and – once out of the building –  sprinting to my car while fighting off the urge to scream. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job, and I wasted a lot of time following the “any job will do” doctrine.

During this dark period, I recall feeling like school was constantly monitoring me. When every cell in me screamed “No!” – like during this knife-sales interview — my fear of not “making my aim” shackled me to this ridiculous, desperate and anxiety-driven job search. For a good school doobie knows that there is no greater sin than not making your aim. I was certain that God (i.e. “school”) would punish me for even considering blowing off any employment opportunity, no matter how skanky.

My fear of “school’s” otherworldly omnipresence illustrates what I now call magical “school” thinking. The properly indoctrinated hand divine powers to the institution. When putting efforts towards “school”, or anything “school”-related (like our aims), we believed ourselves immune from damage and danger. Our lives ceased to have their own innate momentum and rhythm of ups and downs. In our minds, “school”, or lack of “school”, dictated and orchestrated all; “Without school, I would never have [the marriage, the house, the job, etc.],” we told ourselves, and each other. If we followed school doctrine, we believed our lives would unfold in concert, every wish falling into place. If we break school rules, wrath and hellfire will surely follow, our little lives descending into depravity.  Given that we believed school-related efforts to be divine directives, we felt immune to, and became blind to damage it inflicted on our psyches, our relationships, our jobs, our families, our spouses and our limited time here on earth.

When it came to my job search, had I been in my right mind,  I would have told Mr. Interviewer, “Good luck with your knife-selling scam. I’ll pass.” But my inner compass was cowed by previous experiences, when the school-sponsored and directed job search worked — at least in terms of getting of any job; whether or not the job worked for me was (of course) inconsequential. Besides that, my history of pre-school employment failures loomed large, feeding my worst fears. I imagined myself homeless, shivering and begging quarters in Harvard Square.

Those days, I existed in a strange isolation; despair, fear and fatigue brought on by secrets and “school”-sponsored “help” piled a wall between me and friends and family. I kept trying and failing to find work — why weren’t my efforts paying off, I wondered? These principles used to work. I must need to try harder. A potpourri of character-building experiences followed: I worked domestic jobs that paid low hourly rates including babysitting, elder care and housecleaning. Trader Joe’s rejected me repeatedly and in several locations. And I bumbled my way through two shifts at a coffee shop, while every cell in my body screamed “Noooooo!!!”

Magical “school” thinking was the only thing that led me to the coffee shop.  In my right mind, I would have never considered applying for this position, heeding my previous not-so illustrious waitress-ing legacy.  I would have recognized myself for the person I have always been — one who gets flustered and make silly mistakes when facing growing lines of demanding customers. I would have honored the strengths I’ve always had — listening, empathy, writing, the arts and creativity. I would not have bothered applying for jobs that required skills I’ve tried and failed to hone in the past.

I applied at the suggestion of my “wiser teacher”,  for “school doctrine”  had informed me that I didn’t know who I was, couldn’t count on my first 40-plus years of life experience. Better to acquiesce to those wiser and more evolved beings who had been “doing the work longer” and saw things about me to which I was blind. Those beings inferred that the frantic and desperate search, and willingness to work anywhere, earned a reverent “school” doobie  illusive and coveted help from the invisible world – the divine help that accelerates a job search to a fever pitch, mysteriously attracting potential, yet inappropriate, employers.

At one auspicious occasion, I blew an interview for a $10-an-hour concierge job at Mass General Hospital. In my anxiety-ridden state, I had arrived at the wrong time and then mumbled, bumbled and stumbled my way through. Again, the interviewee was probably half my age; he sent me an email o’ rejection a few hours later. I confessed this to my closest friend, Janet who responded, “What the fuck were you doing wasting your time applying for this job?”  What I was doing was heeding “school” principle; following the “help”.  I had stated a five-week aim to get work, any work. Aim is everything, I’d been told. Aim is your God! (Translate into “school” is your God). Of course I couldn’t tell her about that “help”, or the aim, because that would be “leaking” – a violation of “school” rules.

As I continued to follow “school” rules and heed instruction, my life was devolving into a series of losses, humiliations and reminders of my incompetence the coffee shop flop being the most obvious illustration. Since, at the time, getting a job was my stated five-week aim, quitting the job was unacceptable. But quit I did; I then confessed my sin in class during our required aim reports. Often aim reports give “school” license to deliver the verbal lashings that all “school” attendees receive eventually.  My time had come; my “teacher’s” face darkened. She tersely boomed out (insert Wizard of Oz voice here), “Who are you to quit a job?” and then announced grandly, “You have a bit of a princess in you.”

As the more evolved being, this “teacher” was providing the revelation needed for me to overcome these weaknesses and evolve — otherwise known as “help”.  My face was burning with humiliation; for the princess declaration echoed my relentless inner judges who had long ago convicted me of laziness, entitlement, incompetence, and more! In my right mind, I would have told her to kiss my ass and left “school’s” hallowed halls immediately, leaving behind the impression of my middle finger sticking in the air. But in my school stupor, I simply soaked in the humiliation and fumed (and did I ever fume). Magical “school” thinking informed me that this exposed weakness was — however embarrassing — necessary to my “evolution”,  “We all go through it,” I told myself.

Later, in a private conversation, this teacher fortified her point saying to me blithely, “Maybe you will always struggle to get work.” Her prognosis filled me with dread. Already a neurotic mess, I recall thinking, “Maybe she’s right!  Maybe I will never have what it takes to hold down a job.” However, at some point after the humiliation, another “classmate” referred back to the “princess” comment as great “help” given by a “teacher” to me. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and interrupted my school-induced coma; my inner rebels knew that my school days were numbered.

Now, on looking back, I see my need to confess as ridiculous. I felt like a sinner because I quit a $9/hour coffee shop job. The truth is that — as an adult — I had made a sane decision based on my gut instincts and personal history. There was no reason to justify or confess this decision to anyone – I knew in my gut that I wasn’t going to grow into this job. I knew continuing it was going to be an empty exercise in trying to be someone I am not and that it would only rub salt into my frenzied, depressed and anxious state. I knew that it was the worst thing I could do for my emotional health, because I was trying to contort myself into a role that I could never fill and that I was marching into another employment failure, driving home my already-well-branded sense of entitled Jewish-American princess who will always struggle to find and keep work.

But you see, dear readers, what I knew was to be dismissed and swept aside; I was to bow to the voice of the “school” wizard. Therein lies the most damaging aspect of “school”. It wears away at your soul, until you become its empty, fear-driven vessel, malleable, pliable and easy to manipulate.

When I honored my instincts and said no to the job, I began to wake up to the truth: I couldn’t continue the “school”-sponsored job search. My inner compass and instincts were in direct conflict with “school principles.” I had questions about aptitude, natural proclivities and strengths, but I never asked them in class because I knew, based on witnessing and receiving five years worth of “help, that “school” would wave them away. These considerations were inconsequential. We plebes did not know our aptitudes and strengths. Still, the quiet inner voice kept whispering, “there is something wrong” and increasingly she butted up against the louder “school” voices that proliferated the message of with “help” from “school”, you can transform from lazy, entitled Jewish American princess into a “real woman”.

Between the low hourly rates I received for domestic work, the running around, the constant searching for any paycheck and the repeated rejections, my already worn down sense of worth started to wear through. My bedraggled psyche felt pulled in several wrong directions; I longed for the day when I could focus on and walk towards those things to which I felt innately drawn. I had been waiting for “school” to grant me permission; I started to know that “school’s” permission would never come. But I was festering in the fear that if I left “the help” my life would only get worse. Thankfully, at a certain point, my husband heard the quiet inner voices that I kept dismissing and he pushed me to open my ears. When I finally heeded them and decided to leave, I told myself “If my life goes to shit, at least I’ll be able to say that it did so on my bidding.”

When I did leave, I found the opposite to be true.

Work and Money Conclusion: “School”-Free Life is Good

Work and Money Conclusion: “School”-Free Life is Good

Gratitude

Thanksgiving, 2012, kicked off the holiday season recently, and it inspired me to tell you, Dear Readers, a few things for which I am grateful:

  • After I left school in August of 2011, I stopped my insane school-sponsored job search. With real help from a vocational counselor, I relaxed and clarified who I was, why I dismissed my personal strengths, and what type of work environments would be best for me.  I now work at a Harvard-affiliated facility that is tops in my chosen field. My days are meaningful and purposeful; my fear of being unemployable dropped away, along with my lifelong occupational restlessness. Today I live internally driven days, with focus and my aim. I no longer squander my days away, wishing to somewhere else, doing something else. The work I do requires that I be in the moment.
  • As a second job I provide music therapy to developmentally-impaired adults. Ironically, every Thursday night, at 6:30 — when I would have been in “class” — I drive to Billerica to work with a father and son. The son wrestles with many cognitive challenges, including limited language skills; he reminds me weekly what gratitude is, how to be in the moment, and how to connect with the essence inside another. There are no classes, lectures, or orchestrated “discussions”; there are no hierarchies, unreasonable demands, or proliferated deceptions. There are no surprise projects, or parties, thrown in out of the blue to sweep aside my insignificant, inconsequential life. Simply the presence of these two souls — loving father and son — our respect for each other and our mutual love of, and connection through, music has taught me more in the last year about higher vibrations, gratitude and freedom than anything taught by “school”.
  • That said, I am grateful to “school” for what I did learn there. I would never have encountered the ideas Gurdjieff unearthed without it — granted, I had to leave “school” to learn that Gurdjieff existed. I probably wouldn’t have read Hans Christian Anderson and Grimm’s fairy tales, either, or a slew of other classics: Emerson, Tolstoy, Twain, etc. But the most enduring and life-altering lesson came from “school” pushing me into a corner and forcing me to ask myself this question — should I continue living the school way, or do I follow my internal compass? Only then did I comprehend the lesson we all learned from The Wizard of Oz —  the answers I had been seeking externally lived within me all along. “School” is simply a group of men and women hiding behind a curtain and presenting a fallacy as truth. When I stopped seeing those men and women as superior and enlightened and instead raised the curtain on a group of fallible humans, caught in a web of deception — at that moment — I walked into that illusive state of “ready”.

Over the past year, my husband and I have been joking that “school’s” real aim is to make life suck enough for its students that they wake up and say, “Wow, this is really fucked. If I’m going to ruin my life, I’d rather do so on my own terms, thanks.” We often hypothesize that Robert secretly cheers on the heretics, congratulating us for graduating, while in the hallowed halls he condemns us as “disgruntled ex-students.”

As one of the “disgruntled ex-students,” I have come to see the “school” experience as a necessary detour on my meandering yellow brick road. That path led me in, through, and out of the life I never wanted. It clarified the life I dreamed of, imagined and ached for. It was exactly what I needed to learn how to follow my inner compass to my yellow-brick road, as a woman who has become “ready” to live the life I am meant to live, and to be the woman I am meant to be.

My father has been gone four years now; today, given the experience of losing him, and having had joined and left a cult,  I finally get his parting gift — “People do things when they are ready.”