Thursday, April 24, 2014

Career Suicide/Resume

This post may very well be career suicide, but I guess I've reached that point of despair and I am ready to jump. I'm hopeful for the afterlife. 
Everything dies, baby, that's a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back. ~ Springsteen. 

After seven extremely long years of bottling my feelings about my work environment, I'm taking the risk of writing about why I am unhappy at my job, why I need to find a new one, and why it's been incredibly difficult for me to do so.

I will not use the real names of the agency or people, because I believe that there are some good people in the same building that is my personal hell. Some of them are doing good work for the environment and I don't intend to malign the agency.

Before accepting my current position, I worked as a kitchen designer for a big-box retailer. For seven years, I wore a bright orange apron over my work uniform of jeans and a polo shirt. I enjoyed working with most customers. There was a creative challenge to improve the existing floor plan while appealing to my customer's style which I had to delicately unearth with open-ended questions about their cooking habits, family life, and entertaining needs. Do your kids tend to do their homework on this existing breakfast bar? Oh, I like the Ravens hat, sir! Will you be hosting a Super Bowl party next year? Your sailboat sounds fantastic. Would you like to incorporate some white rope molding to go with the nautical theme that you love? I found it easy to talk to my customers. I was good at designing kitchens. I am not a salesperson. I couldn't sell you a kitchen unless you wanted to buy one. But if you wanted to buy one, I could hook you up with a great floor plan that matched both your budget and your dreams. I went above and beyond to help my customers because I wanted them to be happy with my work. I worked with other departments to help my customers select flooring, kitchen, bath, and lighting fixtures, paint swatches, and more. I really like making people happy. Having customers invite me to their homes to enjoy a cup of tea in their dream kitchen that I helped create? What a thing of beauty for my people-pleasing heart. My supervisors appreciated my work and they told me so with merit rewards, raises, and words.

It wasn't all wonderful, of course. Working in retail wears on you after a while. The erratic hours that always included weekends meant missing a lot of fun and important events with friends and family. Eventually, during my time there, I decided to return to school. After earning a BA in American Studies, I searched for a job that would allow me to wear nice work clothes in a clean office where I could hang my newly framed degree. I got married and found a job in finance. During this time, my husband and I started to care for his ailing grandmother. The stress of the long commute and the great responsibility at home was too much. I wanted something, anything, closer to home. I accepted my current position thinking that I would learn a lot about Human Resources. Surely I will grow in this entry-level position since there is so much to learn about in this field. I was excited. I had no reason to be.

It did not take long to see or feel the stark difference between the customer-service centered retail world and this quasi-government bizzaro town. I smiled and said hello to people in the hallway. Some said hello, but I was struck by how many people kept their eyes fixed to the floor or grumbled a response to my greeting. Being the kind of person who takes such things personally, I wondered if they were unfriendly for a reason, or just miserable humans. Were they afraid I would try to keep them in the hallway for a half hour to chat about last night's Grey's Anatomy or Real Housewives? Good God, I don't want that either. I just want to see friendly faces while I'm earning a paycheck to support the people I love and would prefer to be with. Let's make these 40 hours of forced togetherness as pleasant as possible.

Meanwhile, back in my office...

As I was learning my new responsibilities, I asked questions to the girl who I worked with the most. Paperwork came down with very ambiguous information. It was not filled out correctly, but I was told that this person is never held accountable. My office mate called the person who sent the paperwork. By the end of the phone call, none of her questions were answered. I asked how we were supposed to know what to do next without the critical pieces to our puzzle. She shrugged her shoulders. I'm not really sure what ever happened to that particular transaction. A piece of paper will travel to several desks before being filed away. It's not the most efficient system but it's made even worse when various people involved are unapproachable and rude. Some employees would tell me about such issues with their supervisors or coworkers, but I never let on that I felt the same in my position. I suggested that they take their concerns to the director of Human Resources because I was a lowly Assistant without any power or authority to help them. I'm not sure if they ever meet with the Director, but I do see their names again when their resignation letters land on my desk as a cue to advertise their former job. They will receive an exit interview in the mail. Some will return it, but I'm not sure what percentage actually do. I wish we asked these questions before these downtrodden employees lose any hope of improving their work situations. I am not included in the proverbial "we" though, so my wishes mean nothing. Like most work places, my company has deep-rooted political issues that would require a massive undertaking to uncover and resolve. I have no interest in going there. I would just like to work in a place that understands that an employee's job satisfaction has everything to do with an employee's productivity.

The same cast of characters inhabit every work place, I'm sure. The key difference between a bearable work environment and an unbearable work environment is the boss's management style. One day, I approached my manager with a problem. I explained that I was trying to work with someone who was very difficult to work with. She wouldn't share her knowledge, but was quick to point out errors that could have been prevented had she just cooperated in the first place. My boss chuckled and said, "Yes. She is difficult. Ha!" There was no resolution. She was clearly aware that this person was a problem, but she also decided that the problem wasn't hers.

For a long time, my only motivation was to not be hassled. There are no rewards for a job well done. There are no opportunities to learn and grow, despite the enthusiasm I expressed for doing so when I first began. After seven years, I make about $2 an hour more than when I started. I am no more qualified for any other HR position than when I first began. The incredible micromanaging and favoritism in some departments makes employees feel belittled and untrustworthy. After years of feeling scrutinized for every misstep and feeling as though nothing is ever right, my meager motivation to just not be hassled has fallen away. I just don't care anymore. My people-pleasing heart knows that there is nothing that I can do to simultaneously feel satisfied with my job and make my coworkers/supervisor happy. I no longer care about making them happy. My amiable spirit is broken.

I don't care anymore. It is heartbreaking ambivalence. Like many working parents, I have a photo of my child on my laptop background screen. I used to look at that photo and think, I am going to try my best today, not for my boss, not for my coworkers, but for this little girl. I am going to focus and do my best until something better comes along. It kills me every time I look at my child's beautiful face, to know that I am spending time away from her doing something that doesn't matter to me or anyone else. I do my job with a heavy heart because it isn't making anyone happy. And maybe I need therapy since I seem to thrive on making people happy, but there sure seems to be enough people hellbent on doing the opposite. 

I am not sure what I want to do for the rest of my working years, but I know that I want to put my heart into it. I know that I am capable of more. I want to use my brains and creativity in exchange for a proudly earned paycheck. I need some guidance and wisdom or a big glaring neon sign to tell me which path to pursue. I have had a couple of offers, but I know that they weren't the right fit for me either, and I don't want to make the same mistake I made seven years ago of accepting something, anything, just to escape. While I would love to do something meaningful, I don't believe that I am "above" any kind of work. I considered going back to the world of retail just to have that mostly pleasant interaction with other humans, but my husband already works crazy hours. As the primary caretaker of our daughter, I cannot work an unpredictable retail schedule anymore.

Deciding to publish this entry is risky, but staying silent and stuck isn't really working for me, either. It was very therapeutic to write all of this. I may revisit this space to brainstorm future possibilities. I will never quit my job. I can't afford it. I will show up tomorrow. I will stare at my daughter's picture and my heart will ache to be away from her joyful little spirit. How can I teach my daughter that she can be anything if I am nothing? I will look up graduate school programs. I will send an application or two. And then I will do my best until something better comes along. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I'm ba-ack!

Hello blogger, my old friend.
I've come to write in you again,
I guess I've been a little occupied,
Since my husband and I multiplied...

It feels weird to be in this blogger window. I know this sad little spot on the web needs to be improved aesthetically and maybe a little cohesiveness with the subject matter, but, and I don't mean this in a pathetic Charlie Brown kind of way, nobody cares. If I ever decide to write about a subject all of the time, I'll worry about a pretty, presentable website. For now, I'm just going to enjoy any of the time that I'm not chasing a fast and curious one year old. For the record, I am completely in love with the time spent doing that, too.

So, just some random thoughts tonight...

I needed a toilet brush and I remembered this fact as I was driving near this local grocery store that I rarely visit. I love going shopping with my daughter. There are almost always sweet old ladies who tell me about their grandchildren and dote over my kid. My girl waves enthusiastically at all of the big kids and smiling adults. It's very sweet. Anyway, I pick up the toilet brush and almond milk and I head to the register with the shortest line. You know what? From now on, I think I'm going to pick the longest line. Maybe these people are keenly aware of something that I don't know. Maybe they know that products dropped on the conveyor belt of aisle 9 are going to be handled by someone with an infectious cough, bemoaning that they sure hope they're not coming down with something, hack! cough! hack! SNIFF! blech. Or maybe the people in this particular grocery store, knew that the kids working the otherwise vacant aisle were seriously creepy little shits. The cashier seemed like a typically aloof teenage boy. He was annoyingly texting with his phone on top of the register while I waited for him to tear my receipt off to sign. Whatever. The kid behind him, bagging groceries? I felt a chill in my spine as he willfully avoided eye contact. He was smirking as he stared into the distance. I try to believe that most people are good (I totally do not believe that, but I want to,) and I try not to let a person's appearance influence how I feel about them, but he just gave off the creepiest of creepy vibes. I wondered if he was 18 or younger. I wondered if he recently visited the gun shop around the corner with the big sign saying, "Hurry! Get your assault rifles before the ban takes effect in October!" I wondered if his mother hugged him when he was a baby, or ever. Oh God, my baby with her pure little heart is starting to wave and squeal and say hi to this guy. I can't explain intuition and The Gift of Fear and avoid people like this. And then I wonder if it's the right thing to avoid him? Maybe I should also be persistent in trying to make eye contact so that he can see a friendly face smiling at him. I'm really anxious because of the mass shootings and bombings and threats of war and freaking watching Breaking Bad. I'm anxious about the things that I cannot control. (Okay, I can control the Breaking Bad anxiety by not watching, but I can't not watch now!) I felt desperate for my smile to be reciprocated by this kid so that I could convince myself that I would not see his face on the news next week. I am desperate to know how to heal this broken world.

Believe it or not, I'm in a good place. Despite the fact that I'm stuck in a boring dead-end job and I'm really tired a lot of the time, and I don't know how to make time for all of the things that I need and want to do, I am feeling very fulfilled as a mother. I am still hopeful that the bad things will change, and grateful that the bad things aren't worse. Sometimes it's a comfort that nothing is guaranteed in life. I know that I need to embrace the beautiful moments that make up my day. My kid is crying right now so I need to go comfort her. I can't solve the world's problems or even bother to make this ending paragraph relevant to this post,  but her crying? I've got this.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Baby, Baby, Baby.

Before I had a baby, I wasn't sure if I'd ever have a baby. I didn't know if it was something that I wanted to do because the world sucks and people are terrible and I like going on vacation. I was defensive about not having children. I didn't know if it would ever happen, and I hated the pressure that I felt as a 30-something married woman. I was a regular reader of the blog, STFU Parents, and I still enjoy the snarky fun that the blog pokes at oversharing or otherwise obnoxious parents. This may seem a little mean-spirited, but usually, a point is being made. Nobody ever needs to see pictures of your kid's explosive poop diaper. Parents are often featured if they make Facebook posts that suggest that the world revolves around their child.

When I found out that I was pregnant, I swore that I would not be one of those parents featured on STFU Parents. Ten weeks into this parenthood thing, I am often apologetic about posting excessive pictures of my girl on Facebook. I try to insert a little bit of humor in some of my posts, but sometimes, I just want to share that my daughter is damn cute. The thing is, and this may be obnoxious but I'm way past caring, I am so deeply in love with this baby. She really is the best part of my world right now. I think that I'm doing a reasonable job of balancing what I am sharing and who I am sharing with. For example, nobody needed to know how relieved my husband and I were when our uncomfortable daughter finally pooped after a couple of unproductive days. That news, and the method that I employed to help create that movement, was communicated only by text to my husband. When my ten week old baby discovered her lower lip and made her first pouty face? That was all over Facebook. I knew my family would laugh at the absurd adorableness and I could care less if friends didn't "like" it. I'm over being apologetic about it.

I still have other interests that I want to talk about. I'm still paying attention to world events, listening to music, reading books and looking for a job that I love. Without a smidgen of guilt, I look forward to getting out of the house once in a while. I was even looking forward to going back to work until that actually happened and I remembered that I really don't want to do this job for the rest of my life. I established a goal to be on my career path by the time my daughter enters Kindergarten. What an epiphany! Imagining the possibility of my future has been a breath of fresh air after such a long time spent lamenting my job history. I still have 30-some years to do something I love for a living! I have my daughter to thank for helping me reframe this ongoing dilemma.

I still think the world can suck, people can be horrible, and I really hope I will go on more vacations, but none of those things matter (except for the vacations part), when my gorgeous baby is gurgling and smiling and cooing. I hope that my close friends keep me in check and I'll always consider whether my FB posts are potential submissions for STFU Parents, but there's no way I am going to feel bad about sharing my greatest source of joy. She may not be the center of anyone else's universe, but she's the bright spot in my formerly dark world.

Keeping people who suck from sucking the joy out of life

My friend has a friend who is kind of a jerk. Jerkface has some redeeming qualities, I guess, but Jerkface takes my friend's friendship for granted and I think that sucks. It amazes me when high school drama rears it's pie-faced head in adult lives. I always liked Oprah's quote, "Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher." Of course, nobody is perfect and everyone lets you down sometimes and we would all be pretty lonely if we ditched our friends the first time they disappoint us. Still, if someone consistently makes you feel bad, and for no good reason, why keep them around? There must be moments between those two that keep my friend hanging on. I just hope that she knows that she's worth more than the bullshit that she puts up with.

My friend's friendship came to mind when I thought about a certain relationship that I am in that I have to tolerate.  It's a long story and this person, let's call her Queen Bitch, she has Google so I'm leaving specifics out of this, but I am working on escaping this toxic relationship. (Before people get stupid, I am not playing a pronoun game and secretly plotting a divorce or anything like that. This person is not someone I have *ever* held in high regard.)

Anyway, I was talking to my friend who is friends with Jerkface about how it makes absolutely no sense that I give a shit that Queen Bitch is such a bitch. Why do I care that someone who I have no respect for has a personal problem with me? She is a terrible person. She is selfish, obnoxious, and still possesses that high school mindset that being popular trumps being kind. She hasn't figured out after a few decades on this planet that being a popular bitch doesn't mean that people like her. They may be entertained by her, but there is no question about her character. Bitches be bitches.

Sometimes, I am amazed by how small this world is. It's weird when I find out two acquaintances who I think have nothing in common, know one another. Here in Baltimore, they call this phenomenon, Smalltimore. My worry is that if someone doesn't like me, she is going to make sure people that I care about have a tainted opinion of me, too. Cripes, get over yourself, right? This notion was kind of put into perspective today when I saw a certain comment on Facebook. A woman was complaining about President Obama's re-election saying that "Everyone I know was voting for Romney? How did he even win?" Thankfully, the world is actually much bigger than whatever local radius you want to assign to everyone that this genius knows. (That person is going to find this blog post and then *shudder*, she isn't going to like me anymore, either. Oh, well.) Me imagining that Queen Bitch's influence matters is just as dumb as someone thinking that all of her local, Republican family and friends represent all of 'merica.

QB probably has some redeeming qualities. She is... um, well, ... I don't know what they are, but I refuse to believe that she is inherently evil. Maybe she wasn't hugged enough as a child. Maybe she is sensitive like me, but chooses to be an icy cold bitch instead of internalizing everything the way I (and all good, polite ladies, as they should) do. (I don't really feel that way.) (I like parentheses.) Until I can walk away, I am going to hold my head high, knowing that I am a good person. And while I'm probably not bringing anything positive to the relationship these days, I'm going to try my best to not drop anymore poison into this dying, obligatory acquaintanceship.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Adolescence, Part II.

This is a long time from now, but I was just wondering how in the heck am I going to prepare my daughter for the douchey little kids she'll go to middle school with when they say and do cruel things. I remember being that age and thinking that it only happened to a few unfortunate souls, and then as I got older, I realized that nearly every middle schooler is a tortured, awkward little fledgling. (But yes, some more than others.) Having a baby is awesome. Feed them, change them, make goofy faces at them. Happiness. But 12-16 year olds? Oh shit. I guess I have to relive the torture of adolescence through my kid. Just when I got over my own... I probably don't have to worry about this for at least another decade but, here I am, worrying.