Posts Tagged ‘the world of work’

Some Day when I’m Awfully Old

stressed-womanThey had warned me not to talk. So sure were they that I would push the air with my finger, or disturb the delicate boardroom balance, they had warned me not to talk. They were much more experienced in these things than I. They had witnessed verbal outbursts and assertive behavior and wished to shield me from any bias that may result if I talked. So I wrote out my words and I practiced reading them, straining to keep my face neutral, my demeanor calm. I answered all of their charges skipping over any judgment. I had decided I could be content in this job that had lasted the longest of any I had ever had. I heaved a heavy sigh as I  realized I could stay if I did not talk.  As long as I did my job, I thought no one could complain. I had practiced the ritual of being employed for a life time.  Desperation could not force me to reconsider now. Work, filled with tedium and monotonous repetition,  was a worthy pursuit. One could pay the bills. I had compromised; passion for pay check. Along with my coffee I gulped down doubts every morning and got in line behind hundreds of other women masterful in the art of subterfuge. And it almost worked. For awhile.

 

There are often very crooked paths that get us to any given destination. The way is not always perfectly straight. So much so, that even when we turn back and run, the way from which we came is blocked – permanently and we have no choice, but to push forward. Like the day they said we are deleting your job and here is a list of all the others you can choose to occupy instead. You have a month to decide. Let us know. I thought I had chosen wisely with my little yellow highlighter marking out the ones I qualified for, crossing off the ones too tedious, circling the remaining possibilities and finally identifying the winner. Terribly complicated it all seemed initially; “We don’t know who we’ll choose to train you for this” they said, when presented with my choice. “It’d be best if you sat out for a week while we think about it.” In hindsight, that should have been a clue. But I was new and eager and scared someone might think me stupid so I sat out for a week. The first two weeks on the job I met my boss three times; once to be introduced, and twice in the office of human resources to identify the myriad ways I had failed to measure up; all within the first two weeks – quite a record, even for me. “Go home.” They advised. They had presented me with a list. All typewritten and neat, there on the table, complete with bulleted form and its own envelope. They made it official with the help of the rather tired and vacant looking personnel officer who only echoed the supervisor’s regrets. I had not just failed, but I had failed in so many ways and this with only four days on the job.

 

I’m not sure where it comes from but in circumstances that have every appearance of smelling badly, I am filled with a righteous indignation; a genuine compulsion to set things straight. I wasn’t sure just what the record was, who had been keeping score or exactly why it mattered, but I decided to take advantage of all those union dues I had paid over the years and request their attendance at a grievance hearing, where I promised not to push the air with my finger.  I would sincerely love to report they saw the error of their ways and expressed regret for the anxiety and inconvenience to me they had caused. How different my world would be if they had admitted the error, and welcomed me back. It was not until much later I could reflect upon the futility of the stammering union rep as he pointed to the lack of training, the only  misdemeanor he could prove. Maybe it was the point during questioning where her cell phone went off and she left to answer the call that I realized something. No, that’s not really true. I didn’t just realize something. I had an epiphany. Like a heavenly choir filled with angels singing from on high. I walked into this meeting today all ready with my defenses and my explanations and none of them were necessary because I came with the same dignity and integrity and a life-long quest for authenticity that I will leave the room with; unless I let them take it away from me. I understood that what was playing out before me was outside of my control. Some initiative, some edict, somebody’s assurance that the favored girl whose job I took would get it back and I would be asked to go home. The situation would be fixed.

 

So I went home.  I could be there still in that place where one tucks away dreams with your keys in your purse in the morning. I would be kind to those same women, two of whom sat across the table from me that day and by all appearances had achieved the success and associated status that eludes so many. They had tried to convince me that I had no value and this was why they had to meet me because I had failed. When all was said and done the union rep came to me and said, “They want to know what you want.” I told him there wasn’t enough time to tell him, I had to get to the rest of my life.

Words Past