It has been a trying few months.
I have been that friend. You know, THAT friend. The one who’s like Rachel Dratch’s SNL character “Debbie Downer,” who never has anything nice to say and really knows how to shit all over a party.
I don’t like being that person who no one wants to invite to happy hour anymore. I love happy hour too much.
The main source of my Debbie Downer anguish has been career-related. Or lack-of-career related.
I think everyone has been at a crossroads in their career where they were unsure of what the next steps were. Like a holding room. Except I think I’ve overstayed my welcome here.
As much as I’d like to believe I can have a happy and productive life when I have a shitty career situation, that kind of idealism is just that: idealistic. In the US, your job *is* tied to your life. You want to believe it isn’t, but at the most basic level it’s a cultural standard to want to be happy with what you do. So referencing the happiness of people of other countries is irrelevant because job satisfaction isn’t valued more anywhere than it is in the US. I’m sure that’s a statistic. Somewhere. I’m not here to school you though.
As much as I’d love to fill you in on what I do, the details aren’t important. I should err on the side of caution anyway since my behavior at work lately has been equal parts apathy and insubordination. While the mental trauma (for lack of a better word) of work is racking me up some frequent flyer miles at Total Wine, I still need a paycheck. Some of you reading this can attest to the bullshit I’ve endured that would legitimize my “drinking problem.”
Recently, several of my professional relationships were compromised, burned and essentially ruined, not by my hand, which created an entirely different set of disturbing problems. It really makes for an uncomfortable and awkward situation in which I have to continue playing nice when it’s not in my nature to do so. It’s something I still need to learn how to do: not take it personally. If you don’t take it personally, you can continue to play nice right? More importantly, I need to learn how to either not react inappropriately or be smart about striking back, however in this situation striking of any sort is not an option.
It’s hard not to take things at work personally when you take your work to heart, particularly when you are busting your ass. I guess if I didn’t care about what I did, I wouldn’t be so offended. No one else seems to care, moreover, no one seems to notice when I dial myself back. So is the solution to just stop caring?
It doesn’t seem like the most prudent choice or like a solution at all, but I’m at a place where giving less of a shit is the option that’s going to get me in the least amount of trouble. Relatively, that’s still a lot of trouble. Relatively, on the integrity scale, I’m still scoring pretty high if that tells you anything about my surroundings.
Professionally, this is a death sentence. Personally, it is exhausting.
Instead of accepting that something like this is….acceptable, I’ve made some decisions that could be categorized as bridge burning. There’s this negative connotation that comes with that phrase, but in the right conditions, bridge burning is necessary. Who’s to say that there’s not a river I can jump into that will take me elsewhere? Why is it always a bad choice to deliberately burn a bridge?
That was really corny, and I kind of stole it from somewhere, but it’s true. I hate it when someone says not to burn bridges because that person is assuming that the action is strictly retaliatory and not productive. People who say that assume that only bad things can come from making a disconnect-that one day, you’re going to need that entity or person on the other side. Sometimes, that divide has to be made. It’s not the best choice all of the time-use your best judgment and common sense to make the determination that the action is appropriate for the given situation. In other words, be an adult about it.
This recent experience really forced me to evaluate my priorities and I discovered that what I value is more important than the perceived consequence of detaching myself and “burning a bridge.” I’ve had to really figure out what’s important to me so I can start to dig myself out of an incredibly deep post-grad career and life hole.
It’s the same kind of evaluation I’d usually do around New Year’s: what are my next steps, what changes am I going to make, how do I get there. Questions I avoided this past New Year’s to curb the usual holiday season meltdown that is usually experienced at 11:59:50 on December 31st. I hate that. I hate sitting in front of the TV and yelling at my local newscasters to stop the clock because I’m not where I’m supposed to be yet. I hate feeling unaccomplished at that very moment where I’m supposed to be embracing the New Year with hope and excitement.
Resolutions usually fail for me because they’re built on panic, and usually made in those final seconds when filled nostalgia and drunk on my own naivete (amongst other things), am thinking “I’m going to make this year count!” While everyone else is toasting champagne and counting backwards from 10 in unison, I’m drinking straight from a bottle of Martini Rossi Asti and making pacts with myself to stop eating cheese quesadillas until I lose 30 pounds.
While I wouldn’t refer to my plans as resolutions, I’ve pared it down to acknowledging a few things:
1. I want to work for myself. While I haven’t ever worked in the public sector, I’ve had my fill of answering to entities whose professional integrity would disturb the likes of Bernie Madoff. I may not be the most seasoned professional, however I am professional which is more than I can say for about 80% of my colleagues, and I use that word generously. I’d like to set and keep those standards and maintain some sense of integrity, something I’ve had very few good examples to learn from. I don’t know what the challenges are of being self-employed but I’m not dense enough to think that anything about it will be simple or easy. I’m not even sure if it will be fulfilling. I do know that what I’ve been working with has not worked for me yet. I haven’t completely ruled out working for someone else in the public sector. I imagine the public sector is a little more up front about being dishonest which I can respect more than veiled “good intentions” that are nothing of the sort.
2. In order to work for myself, I need to go back to school. Sure there are people out there who don’t need a business background to leverage a career boost or start their own business, they’re entrepreneurs goddamit! But. I want credibility. More than that, I’m finally in a place where I want to go back to school because I want to go back and not because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. I’ve been operating most of my life choices on “Logically, I’m supposed to do this. It’s what everyone expects me to do.” Well everyone else doesn’t have to live with my choices-I do. So I’ll go back to school and at the very least get some really decent networking out of it. After 5 years of dicking around and waiting for things to happen, I need to make it happen for myself not because I think it’s what everyone expects of me. I should have expected better of myself.
3. I need to move out. While living at home is convenient and void of any responsibility, I need my own space. While my mom has been gracious to let me come home, we aren’t eye level about most things which has made living at home stressful. I like to entertain and have people over. I like a neat and organized kitchen. I like to listen to NPR on the weekends and not have the TV on for 10 hours at a time. I like to follow a schedule when it comes to keeping the house clean and orderly. My mom does not like any of those things and because she’s at an age where being set in your ways is a rite of passage into senior citizenship, there’s no changing that. I can’t guarantee that my mom and I will get along better after I move out, but she will finally have a chance to transition into the friend role something that I don’t think she feels like she can do as long as I’m living under her roof. One day, we’ll be able to get to a point where she can stop dispensing advice as a mom and start listening as a friend, knowing that sometimes not saying anything at all is what I need.
I imagine we’ll never be these Gilmores:
But at some point, we’ll likely get to be these Gilmores:
No more settling. No more complacency. No more playing it nice or safe. Nice and safe isn’t going to make me happy or get me anywhere.
Committing metaphorical arson will.
What I’m spinning: Making Plans for Nigel~Nouvelle Vague.