It has been a rough road lately - even more so than usual - because I did not realize my confidence was shot until I damn near bled out from the pain.
Let me explain.
As many other people have or are experiencing, I worked in a very toxic environment for over 5 1/2 years. It would get to me at times, but I put a lot of effort into leaving the drama at the door once I left the building, so that I could put on my mommy hat and give my son all that he needed of me without the stress at the office invading our safe space at home. Before getting this last assignment, I'd done some long-term temp work at only 3 different companies over the coarse of a little over a year. Each assignment that I received was always extended because I was such a good worker. I would always get the compliment of surprise that I would get so much work done (and here I was thinking that a temp's objective was to do work, but what do I know). And it was great - set hours, set pay, and also the freedom to not get entangled in office politics. There was a time when I actually did not want a permanent gig because I felt so free just being able to come in, do my work, and leave.
The last assignment, which lasted 5 years and 7 months, was a roller coaster ride. I landed a spot at a very prestigious company with a long history and reputation in this country. It really was time and chance that landed me that spot. It was nearing the holidays, I'd been out of work for a couple of months, and I was running out of money. I also went against my fear of working in Manhattan again (after a horrible personal and work experience I started having anxiety attacks and realized that staying away from Manhattan was necessary in my recovery). With this latest gig I figured the commute was a straight ride, no transferring; if I get on the express train I'll be get to the office in a half hour (which was 15 minutes shorter than my longest commute to White Plains in heavy traffic), so I thought 'ok, I can do this 6-week assignment and then get the heck outta Dodge!'
It's interesting. I knew, the first day, the first couple of hours at this place, that it was not a place that I would be able to commit to without falling back into depression, anxiety, migraines, and resentment. I knew this within 2 hours of arriving at that office. But I stuck with it, for the money, the easy commute, the set hours (which was something I had to fight for even there - apparently they don't read contracts that they sign), and the work. The work fed my penchant for project management - taking a bunch of moving parts and bringing everything together. The work, even when it was crazy, was not difficult because I was in my lane. The problem came with the personalities - including my own.
I care about what I do. If my hands touch something, I take this weird kind of ownership for it. I feel responsible for seeing it to completion, and while that sounds great on paper, in practice that kind of behavior threatens egos. And my responsibilities grew, because people trusted me (and seemed relieved to have someone they could trust), but that threatened egos. My interpersonal connections with people - whether they were working for me or me them (I like to say that I work "WITH" people), it threatened egos. My ability to fix things when one part of the machine didn't do their part, assure the moving parts who were inconvenienced, and ask how the family is doing at the same time threatened egos. My popularity - from just doing my work, and being respectful and understanding, but by no means a pushover - threatened egos. Compliments from people from the basement to the top floor, from a VP to a Security Guard, from a business partner to a service provider threatened egos. And what happened when an ego is threatened? Like a cornered rat, the threatened strikes out.
In the beginning, it would happen every once in a while. After feeling like I'd gone to trial and then proven innocent again and again, the outbursts from those bruised egos would brush everything under the rug. Then came blatant rudeness, which I would address directly with the offending party in private, because I get it - sometimes things get overwhelming and you snap at the wrong people. Then came the constant rudeness, and with an audience. And that, my friends, is where I draw the line. That is when the money doesn't matter when you're getting migraines everyday from trying to decide if you're going to stand there and take it or stand up for yourself because, at the end of the day, your assignment is to do the work. Not to walk into battle everyday against a soldier who's supposed to be in the same regiment as me.
I kept a log while continuing to politely stand up for myself. Oftentimes I wondered if I was being pushed to react in a reality-show-black-girl sorta way. I refused to do that. I thought being professional would work. I was wrong. I knew the end was coming and I attributed it to us outgrowing each other, and after an incident that shocked everyone who witnessed or heard about it -and, if I were a permanent employee, I could sue for - I stated that I would not accept that kind of treatment anymore. This time I made sure everyone on the floor who heard me get screamed at while on a conference call heard this as well, and even then I was quite nice about it considering the circumstances (I consider not dropping any f-bombs or threats as being nice). I submitted a written complaint, which was the cherry on top of several incidents that I had 'discussed' with HR over the years. A week later, after I'd left the office for the day and went shopping, I was informed that I was not to return. And then I returned my purchases from Sephora!
I didn't have much time to really absorb the enormity of what was happening because I was immediately pulled into several directions offering support to two important people who were going through health problems. After spending half of my summer concentrating on other people - and not 'feeling' the emotional effects of the loss of my job - I was feeling ok. I was busy, I readjusted my budget, I was approved to receive unemployment benefits. Even though I'm tired of it, struggle wasn't new to me. I decided to finally embark on the mission of business ownership, I was looking into taking classes - I really saw this as an opportunity to enhance my life. And then my son started his second year of middle school and my mood plummeted.
The phone stopped ringing to go to another doctor's appointment with someone. Friends were busy with their lives. My son was busy with the new school year. Finally, for the first time since this whole ordeal started, I felt alone and unwanted. And I struggled with that - still do to some extent.
I am so used to being of service to others that even when I crave affection and support, I always find a way to suppress that need until it overflows and I explode. After my breakdowns, the tank would be empty and then I would fill it back up with denial and distraction. This time I reached out, to someone I loved. To someone I was there for during a very scary time. The minute I displayed my vulnerability, the moment I said "I need you," he shut down. And that broke my heart.
That's when you start going through your sales receipts, reviewing all the money you spent at Target without even realizing it.
- $45 for driving to and from another state 2 times a week.
- $30 for sitting in a doctor's waiting room watching The Chew.
- $50 for driving around with no real purpose.
- $62.50 for walking through the mall behind him while he hardly says anything.
- $85 for giving and knowing you're not receiving when he says "I'm done."
- $100 from driving across a bridge despite being so exhausted that you could fall asleep at the wheel.
Sometimes we spend money, thinking we're investing in something. That's how I do, because I would prefer to go without something that I might want than part with my hard earned dollars. I would prefer to keep my purse closed than find out that when I hand over my dollar to someone, they wipe their ass with it instead of folding it up neatly and putting it in a safe place.
One of the worst feelings in the world is feeling like you've been used. But I supposed in reality we all do it. I use people to listen to me or to lift my mood when I'm down and vice versa. Key words: vice versa. It must go both ways. When I give - whether it be to my job or a man - I have to feel like I am getting something in return. In the case of my circumstances, it's respect and affection. And when I don't get it I feel more broken than Humpty Dumpty who keeps getting put together with cheap glue from the dollar store, only to fall apart once the glue has dried.
So the question is, do I go back into some very familiar caves, lick my wounds and not come out for another seven years (in looking at my history, I noticed a pattern - it seems to take me 7 years to get over a broken heart)? Do I continue to not trust the word of an HR director (I didn't in the first place, which goes to show that I was done with that situation before it was officially over). Or do I listen to my son who gave me a hug yesterday and said "I know you're sad. I know there are things that are holding you down and I know it's hard, but you have to let those things go, even though you it hurts." My eleven year old told me that. And so I struggle with it. Up one minute and down the next. Knowing where my heart should be but fully aware of where it is right now. Knowing that real resolution is change. And knowing that I can only control my actions and not the actions of others. I don't know what's going to happen, and I wish I could pretend to be in pep-rally mode with this latest do-over, but I'm going to do it anyway, because I have to.