Scent Notes: Spicy chai tea with apricots and honey.

Melissa was exhausted. She wanted nothing more than a day to her damn self to do whatever she wanted without question. But with a full-time job and two part-time jobs in the gig economy, she had barely any downtime. Factor in trying to be a good partner, running errands, taking care of herself and her dog and her partner on a daily basis, and all the other minutiae that factor into being a living, breathing human in the twenty-first century left her with almost no downtime. Months of working without a real break were taking their toll: her sleep was erratic; exercise was nonexistent; balanced meals were a joke. Her partner, thankfully, had a stable 9-to-5 in a profession they loved but she never fully understood, like whatever Chandler Bing did that made him good money but none of his “friends” knew what it was.

The rat race was getting to her, and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep up with all this work. The simple answer would just be to quit one-plus jobs, but life is never that simple, is it? Or, rather, she knew she could, and should, give up her day job, but leaving stability for the unknown is always a terrifying leap. Add in a hefty dose of “hey you need health insurance” mixed with “your bank accounts are actually positive for once from all this work,” and it made it hard to leave. What Melissa wanted to do was make her side hustle into a full-time job. She knew her partner was cool with this plan; they’d been discussing it for what seemed like an eternity. They could tell how tired and drained she was every day, how hard she worked, and how much she longed for a break yet was fierce about maintaining her independence. In no world would she rely on a partner while she could work.

Tonight, she lay in bed while her partner cleaned the kitchen after dinner, then went to take the dog on a walk. Melissa was in bed with her laptop, under deadline pressure from her formal side job and her day job, putting her fun side business on the back burner yet again while she typed frantically under the weight of other people’s expectations. An hour later, she put the computer down for a break, and turned on the television. Some history program was playing, talking about the history of labyrinths and mazes, how they could be seen as both protective devices against intruders, and as a meditative walking path. There could be a ferocious monster in the center, or nothing at all. There’s two ways of looking at everything, Melissa thought, sinking into her pillows.

Moments later, she found herself in the midst of a labyrinth, dramatic smoke billowing through, the omniscient voice of her boss urging her through the twisting passages. She would run, then stop, checking the walls for hidden passages. She could sense other people in the maze; she wasn’t alone, and yet, she never actually saw another person. It was the strangest sensation. She was alone yet surrounded, trying to navigate paths others were also working their way through, the voice of her boss occasionally breaking through to tell her to keep going, just go a little further, that’s it. Don’t give up now! Stay on the straight and narrow path like all these other people!

Melissa’s heart started racing. She didn’t want to be like everyone else; she wanted to forge her own path, make her own mark, not follow this prescribed maze. She didn’t even realize that she’d been running. She stopped, panting heavily, and went to lean on the wall for support. Instead, she fell back, managing to land on her butt. Turns out the wall wasn’t solid at all! In fact, sitting there on the ground, she could see that the walls weren’t real. There was a path straight through and out; it had all been an illusion of solid walls. She’d just needed to shift her perspective. She stood up and started running again, the voices around her changing to a solid chorus of “Noooooo! That’s not the way!” Melissa screamed with glee, and started yelling back, “I’m making my own path! I’m making my own path!”

She awoke with a start. Her partner had gently nudged her back into consciousness, apparently; she’d been dreaming, and apparently not for very long. “Babe, you okay?” they asked softly. “You were talking in your sleep again; something about a pathway, or a parkway, maybe Anne Hathaway? You mumble a lot.”
Melissa grinned. “I’ve had the best dream, and now you’re going to help me forge my own path.”

Scent Notes: Spicy chai tea with apricots and honey.