As my vacation time drew near last month, I found myself wondering what I should do with my free time. Yes, I was going to Seattle. I was still expecting to sit around for a fair portion of my days, with nothing to do. I joked with my coworkers that I'd call them while I was away, begging for a task to occupy my idle hands. One replied, "Work on your art!" and continued, "I haven't seen anything new from you in so long..."

That part struck me. Even now, I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps I thought no one was simply paying attention anymore. Or maybe I was so focused on my sheer inability that the thought of an audience was lost on me. I felt a pang of guilt, coupled with frustration. What the hell is wrong with me? I thought.

For the last two weeks I've been trying to answer that question. I've tried thinking about it, I've tried writing about it privately, but neither worked. Eventually, I sought the council of a friend to help me sort out my psychological morass. She suggested that I've been on a downward trend for a lot longer than I expected. Not just a year and half, but over three.

It seems that prior to my current job, I felt I had more liberty to express myself online. Large retail corporations care little about the creative efforts of some little cog in their machine. While I didn't want to lose my job, it wasn't as if I'd ruin the career I've fought to enter for years. I also felt I had more annonymity online back then. I worked at one of the stores, not at the central office.

Today, however, I work in a small IT company -- at the central office. Everyone knows everyone else. If I hadn't been so quick to seek approval, I might have kept mum about my website and my creative works. It's far more difficult, however, in a small company. You chat, you talk, you make friends. And like any normal human being, you like to talk about things that are important to you. I talked about my art, my writing, my website.

Now my problem is that I feel there's a Sword of Damocles over my head regarding anything I do that website. If I were to create honestly, I would no doubt offend someone. That someone could be someone at work, that someone could even be my superior. 

"Don't be silly," you might say, "there are legal protections about that sort of thing." Well yes, this is true. The problem is that I don't feel I can afford to lose my job right now. 

I'm at a critical juncture. I'm a year away from SRS. I still have eight grand left to save. While I can make this easily if everything goes smoothly, it'd be a disaster if I were fired. I'm also uncertain about if I could find another job in this economy. Everything is telling me to lay low. 

And laying low is slowly suffocating me.

It doesn't help any that throughout 2007 there were several events in my private life that exacerbated the effect. A good portion of my social life collapsed mostly due to my own actions. Old ghosts returned to haunt me. Paranoia and fear of losing my chance at SRS caused me to dig myself into a ditch. 

Now I need to dig myself out.