I’m writing this blog post in a rush. I finally pulled the trigger. At last I’ve addressed one of the root causes of my restlessness and anxiety. I quit the job I’ve had for the past five years.
When I first got the job I thought it would be help me be less boring. After staying at home with my babies for three years, I’d run out of things to say to another adult that didn’t involve children. I hated myself for compulsively singing Wheels On The Bus, even when I was alone and getting a job seemed like a good way out.
It all started off well. But after a while I started feeling restless, then anxious, then mildly depressed, then hugely depressed about going to work.
I must admit this is a bit of a pattern for me – doing things that I think are going to improve my self esteem, but actually make it much much worse.
Like the time I asked for improv classes for my birthday.
“It’ll be great,” I explained to my husband. “It’s all about getting out of my comfort zone and thinking faster on my feet.”
“That doesn’t sound fun.”
After being married, he should know that the only thing more fun for me than being uncomfortable is making other people uncomfortable. So improv really did seem perfect.
Until I got to the class.
As soon as I walked in the room, my gut did a little roll because it knew right away I was probably in the wrong spot, but as usual my brain completely ignored my gut’s advice.
Eight other people, all under 30, had also registered because they were obviously very serious about improv. Every other person began the class by standing alone in another part of the room, holding a bottle of water, doing yoga stretches or voice warm ups. When we stood in a circle, taking turns introducing ourselves, more than one feigned humility as they listed off their performance resumes and one described the most powerful time in her life as the summer she spent at Second City.
I immediately and completely regretted that I’d shown up sober.
The first exercise involved one person saying a word and making a corresponding action. A second person was to immediately follow by saying another random word with an action and then a third person was supposed to tie it all together with a single phrase.
A statuesque woman, dressed entirely in Lululemon, jumped up on the stage, assumed the position of a cat licking her paws and said, “A baby kitten’s ear.” A guy in very tight hipster jeans crouched beside her and growled, “A rusted out tractor.”
Trying to look natural, I lept up on the stage and said, “What my vagina feels like without lube.”
Silence. The faces around the room twisted into expressions ranging from confusion to disgust.
“Just wait until you hit middle age, then you’ll know that joke is completely hilarious.”
By the mid morning coffee break, the instructor, who seemed confident that he was speaking for everyone in the room, told me I hadn’t enrolled in the right class.
“Ummm. Maybe you should try something else. Maybe something more basic.”
I called my husband as I walked home, somewhere between laughter and tears.
“I thought the class ended at three.”
“ I just got kicked out of my self-esteem-building-class.”
“Of course you did.”
I hadn’t been able to articulate what was making me depressed about my job until I passed by a dog park that morning where I stopped to pull myself together before going home. Watching dogs interact is such an enlightening experience. The dynamics played out are all about these creatures deciding then agreeing to who is dominant and who isn’t. On this day, this little dance seemed very human.
There was one black lab cross, obviously young and a little agressive, who insisted on humping anyone who’d let him. Another white, slightly smaller terrier, just stood there and submitted. Finally the lab wanted to really make a statement, so he moved around to the terrier’s face and started dry humping his nose.
Holy Shit! I thought. This is an exact model of my work dynamic.
Every year my boss asks if I’d be willing to get humped in the face – which would be the dog equivalent of reporting to Angela and every year I respond by making gagging noises. This doesn’t stop Angela from trying to dump her shitty jobs on me. I can tell she’s getting off on the little power surge, knowing I can’t refuse since she’s a Senior Manager and I’m only a Manager. And also because she just came back from a week long holiday with our boss and her kids. I know she’ll take full credit for being a superstar, “Angela, you’re just amazing. I don’t know how you manage to do it all!”
The final straw came a few weeks ago when she insisted I write a proposal for her. “I’m just swamped,” she exclaimed while heaving a pile of file folders onto my desk. “It’s for one of my biggest accounts, so get this to me by Friday.”
Thursday evening, just as I was putting on my coat, Angela marches into my cubicle. “I want to check your progress,” she said folding her arms in front of her.
“Progress?” I ask innocently.
She huffs and juts out her hip. “On the report you were to complete for tomorrow.”
“I”m sorry. Remind me about that again?”
“The report. That you were to complete. For that big account. I gave you all the files.”
“Oh. Wow Angela.” I said looking confused. “I don’t recall getting any files.”
“I put them here. On your desk.” Her voice getting shrill. My cubicle neighbours poked their heads around the partition to see what was going on.
“I gave them to you Monday. I put them right here.”
“I’m sorry Angela, but I’m not sure what you’re talking about and I’m afraid I’ve got to go now and pick up my kids. Maybe we can talk about it tomorrow.”
“It’s due tomorrow,” she shrieks.
“Sorry. I can’t help you right now. Perhaps you should have made time to chat about this earlier.”
Emily texted me that Angela was still tearing my cubical apart looking for the files.
“She’s really pissed off. Where are they?”
“In the filing cabinet, as per our policy.” I wrote back. She found them a few days later, filed in the wrong place.
Fucking up is one way to effectively end this sort of workplace abuse. But not quite enough to gain anyone’s respect.
About a week later, in order to save money on professional development, our boss asked Angela to facilitate a series of mandatory workshops about “respectful communication.”
Angela had taken a course and read some books and was now an expert. To kick off the first workshop, she passed around some scenarios typed out on pieces of paper. She divided us into smaller groups of four in order to read the scenarios and discuss the corresponding questions. Here was the first one:
“Samantha and Chloe are co workers in the same department. Samantha is a Senior Manager and has a lot of important accounts. She has also been given responsibility for managing budgets for the entire team. She is a valued Excel expert and also very busy. Chloe is Samantha’s junior and much less experienced at her job. While she does not report directly to Samantha, she is expected to learn from her and assist as needed since she is not responsible for anything of importance. One day Samantha asks Chloe to complete a simple task on a deadline. Chloe misses the deadline, loses the files and then refuses to take any responsibility for her failure. How should Samantha respond to Chloe’s incompetence?”
So I quit.
Have any of you been humped in the face recently?