At a Crossroads Without a Compass

by Mariann E. Danko

In 1995, at the age of 34, I walked out of a dead-end marriage. I was beyond stressed, not just about my marriage, but work too.

Anyone who has ever worked in advertising or marketing can relate to the ridiculous levels of stress one can experience in this world. In the beginning it was exciting, but one can only take all that BS for so long, and I had been at for 15 years.

I felt trapped at work and home. I felt like there was no way out.

Dead End Sign Maze No Way Out Danger Warning 3d Illustration

It was a co-worker who encouraged me to just set a date, and leave my husband. At first I thought the idea was nuts.

How do you just do that?

The worse things got though, the more it made sense. 

I knew I could only tackle one life-sucking situation at a time. Leaving my husband was a lot easier than figuring out what to do about my job, especially because the stress of the two made me brain-dead.

After I left my husband, the brain fog began to lift and I could see all possibilities before me. It was a very liberating experience.

In addition, the pressures of the job didn’t seem as intense, which allowed me time to do a lot of soul-searching.

It also allowed my true creative juices to ignite, and lead to the discovery of my love for writing. Although I enjoyed graphic design, I was seriously burnt out on it. Finding writing opened my eyes to a new world I knew I had to explore.


As I noted in the “About” section of this blog, screenwriting became my passion, that was until I met the love of my love, lived a screenplay, and became a Mom. Once my Son was born in 1999, he became my passion. 

My writing took a back seat to raising my Son and I was OK with that. It wasn’t until my late forties when a health challenge hit that I realize I wasn’t “whole” if I didn’t feed my creative side.

I resurrected my screenwriting, but with time I realized that a single mom in her late forties living on the east coast dreaming of becoming a full-time screenwriter might just be too big a dream.

At least until my Son was in college and my time freed up.

By this time, my Son was a full-blown teenager and heading into high school. It didn’t take long for me to discover the teen years would be more challenging than his toddler years. My sweet little boy had turned into a snarky teen who bucked me in every way possible.

I knew I had to find a way to connect with him on a different level. The parent/child thing no longer worked.

Coincidently, at this time my Son was getting into the TV show “The Walking Dead.” I thought for sure it would be a passing fad. When it became an obsession, I figured I’d check it out. Much to my surprise, I too got hooked.

As we began to bond over the show, I realized the show was my way to get through to my Son. It was an AHAH moment and became the catalyst for this blog.

Waking the Walker

That was four years ago and throughout that time, this blog has been therapeutic for me because I’m writing. It’s very different from screenwriting, but I’m writing.

AND, it has been an aid in helping me work through the struggles of being a single parent with a teenager.

Fast-forward to the present.

My Son has been in college since August. I’m officially an empty nester.

I should have more time for me, right?

Time to get back to the things I put on hold while raising my Son.

I should be less stressed and spending more time playing.

I should be considering jump-starting the screenwriting dream I told myself I’d revisit once my Son went to college to find out if that is still a dream I want to pursue.

Note, the operative word here is “SHOULD.”

Instead, I feel like I’m back where I was in 1995 when the stress of my job and marriage were making me feel trapped with nowhere to go.

Sleep Deprived Woman

My simple customer service job for a small print shop who’s only clients when I started were doctors’ offices, has gone from a basic low to average stress level job to high stress and excessive overtime because the competition within the hospital-owned physician groups is brutal and all this ties in with marketing departments.

Note – I do appreciate some overtime because who can’t use a little extra cash, but when it exceeds a few hours a week on a regular basis it takes it’s toll on you.

When I took this job it was the perfect fit for me while raising my Son. It encompassed all the skills I had acquired between the advertising and restaurant worlds, yet was flexible.

There were stressful moments, but they were few and far between. But, as the world of medicine became more and more competitive, and more and more individual practices were cobbled up by hospital systems, we were no longer working with individual practices, but with huge hospital-based groups with many practices under their umbrellas, all of whom are competing for patients.

Each one of these groups has a marketing department that dictates what the products should look like and the majority of the time it needs to be produced in a rush because the approval process within the group takes forever.

I do have to note though, the saving grace in all this insanity is my co-workers. If not for them, I believe I would have gone mad by know. We keep each other a float through some thoroughly frenetic days.

41665792 - ring of hands teamwork in nature

So, although I walked away from the high-stress world of advertising in 1998, with no desire to ever return, I can honestly say I feel like I am there again.

AND, it sucks.

This time I am stuck. I’m in no position to even consider looking for a less stressful job. (Do they actually exist?) I’m fifty-seven years old, four years away from even considering retirement. I have a kid in college. I have a mortgage and a car payment.

There were times over the soon-to-be seventeen years I’ve been at this job, I came close to looking for another job, but the benefits outweighed my reasons for wanting to leave. So I stayed, never thinking it would get to where it is.

Even now I tell myself, I just have to hang in till my Son graduates from college. Up until this month, I thought this would be easy enough as long as I kept writing and had time for me.

In the past month, both have become a challenge.

For the first time in years I feel as though I have lost my way. My compass feels completely out of whack.


Being a Mom will always be my soul purpose, but there is life beyond parenting and without time to explore, how do you find it?

At my core I tend to be an optimist, and although I have had some low moments this past month, I try to remind myself there is always a way through.

And although I may not see a way now, as was the case back in 1995, some how, some way, the right path will reveal itself. I just have to hold the faith and believe there is always an answer.

I do believe one way to help me will be the transition of this blog into the new blog “Waking the Woman Inside the Mom – a Mother’s quest to rediscover herself after her Son leaves for college.”

Just as “Waking the Walker” has been therapeutic, and helped me work through parenting problems, so can the new blog with my own crossroads dilemma.

It is my goal to have the new blog up and official in the New Year. By setting this goal it forces me to put my energy into something positive, and not dwell on the negative energy the stress of my job creates.

And, in so doing, maybe, just maybe, through all of this I can get my inner compass back on track and find my right path.

Following the Right Path


© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2018. All rights reserved.