Hands that hold me down
Lately, I’ve been feeling all sorts of things I don’t particularly care for.
In the face of some truly astonishing and very happy, life-changing things coming my way, I find myself in a state of self-pitying discontentment. When I see myself in my mind’s eye, it’s a vision of me thrashing against all the real and imagined hands that hold me down. (When you’re done here, you should go listen to Two Gallants’ The Hand That Held Me Down. You won’t be sorry! And, dang, there I go ripping off blog post titles from musicians once again.)
So, what’s my problem?
In a word, work. More specifically I’m grieving for a way I used to be empowered to work. To do my thing. To contribute.
Obviously, I can’t name names, but anyone who really wants to know can figure out where I work and with whom I work. So, I’ll just say this: My employer does good stuff. The work we do changes lives. My work is generally meaningful. The CEO is a visionary and has pulled off some big and important things in a short time. I respect him. All of this important, right?
Many of my colleagues are my soul team mates. We operate the same way, stand for many of the same things, wish to be rewarded and recognized for our skills and our work, instead of for, shall we say, other intangible and vague assets. This, too, ranks at the top on my List of Important Things at Work.
Past managers gave me wings. Now, I feel I’m being kept hostage, chained to my uncomfortable desk chair and allowed to speak only when spoken to. In my previous 6 years on the job, I can’t believe the things I’ve learned. I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone, made my brain hurt with technical work, problem solved, and used critical thinking skills I didn’t even know I had.
Each new assignment that came my way, I embraced. I embraced those opportunities because I was made to feel I would be a success. If I couldn’t figure it out and needed help, I asked for help and I received it.
Pile on top of that ever-increasing job satisfaction a flexible schedule and the ability to work from home for part of the week, and that’s the formula for a great gig. A dream gig that I’ve worked hard to hold on to.
All good things must come to an end, apparently
A revolving door in my department has meant 5 bosses in 18 months, restructured job responsibilities, old staffers leaving, new employees coming (and then going), and all kinds of other change. Change I don’t mind – except, of course, when it screws with all the things that matter most to me in my work. See list above.
Combined with that revolving door and a lot of growth, comes the inevitable growing pains. As of late, there’s a prevailing sense of lawlessness and unfocus in my workplace. While projects are seemingly assigned willy-nilly, morale declines. Frustration grows. Accountability is non-existent, but finger-pointing reigns.
My contributions are diminished and out of the scope of my job description. Instead of new challenges, I’m handed projects someone 15 years my junior could be doing. No longer a valued team member, I’m relegated to that of the help. The worker bee. The once demanding, compelling, and ever-changing digital part of my job – the work that my employer entrusted me to learn and to do with success and efficiency – seems to no longer be part of my responsibilities.
When I arrive home after a day at the office, I’m agitated and unpleasant. I spend my evening first talking myself down from the day’s frantic and conflict-filled activities. Then, I spend the second part of my night psyching myself up for the next morning when I get to go in and do it all over again.
I hate being a whiner. Hate being that person who waits around for other people to make things happen. So, I haven’t sat still (but, I have whined). I’ve done my best to stand my ground. I’ve initiated and endured countless awkward conversations. Sought counsel. Remained diplomatic, smiling, and professional even as my blood pressure rises dangerously. I’ve pushed the envelope here and there – gently, then not so gently. Oh, and the emails and documents I’ve written on behalf of what I perceive to be the right thing…well, that seems like wasted time. Effort and energy expended that have led to no positive end.
Should I stay or should I go, now?
Recently, a colleague said, “Sandra, you’re no quitter. This will be figured out.”
It’s true, I am persistent. But, damn, I’m weary. My patience is nowhere to be found. My spirit has taken about all it can. The internal conflict rages nearly constantly, leaving me distracted and checked out on the people I love. At work, I worry my bad attitude and negativity are infecting the very people I so respect.
So, why stay?
Ostensibly, it’s because I’m the single head of household. A 17-year-old son, a mortgage, dog food, health benefits, and impending tuition are all great reasons to not lose my shit and fly the bird to those whom I perceive to hold the key to the cuffs.
But, I also don’t want to be the woman who gets run out of town by the villains in this story. And, it’s because my employer, in the big picture, is a really important part of the community where I live and work. I like my employer. I get satisfaction out of being part of my employer’s big picture.
People like that saying, this too shall pass. In fact, it’s been said to me as I’ve sat despairing in a trusted colleague’s office. For the record, it’s been months and it hasn’t passed. Or changed much, in spite of my efforts to make change.
So, I keep my resume is up-to-date. I watch job postings on my various feeds vigilantly. I interviewed aggressively for several months. Some positions I didn’t get, some I walked away from. Nothing felt right. I convinced myself for weeks it was the universe’s way of telling me not to give up on my employer just yet.
Where to go from here?
My goal is that someday I will walk away from it all. I’ll open up shop for myself. Work from home in my yoga pants with Very Bad Dog at my feet. Or from a tropical beach, if I work really hard and am a little bit lucky. I’ll get to that point in my career. That, I don’t doubt.
To combat the dread that fills me from moment the alarm shrills in my ear, I meditate for a few minutes – and ask for fearlessness and energy. I’ve been pushing back against some of those hands for a while now, and I’m flagging under the strain of it all.
It’s not in my nature to be stilled, to be hushed. At some point, my words and actions will effect that positive change. Or, I’ll quietly slip from beneath those hands and be on my way. A third option is those hands will release me altogether – a favor, perhaps – and I’ll join the ranks of the unemployed, maybe hang out that shingle a little sooner than anticipated. It could be that thing about one door closing, another opening.
But, it’s always my preference to do this things on my terms. And I’m pretty confident I’ll know when the time is right to fight harder and make my voice louder. Or I’ll know when my heart isn’t in it any longer, and I’ll pack up the photos of my beloved, locate my portfolio materials, and high-tail it on outta there. We all know I’m completely replaceable, and they’ll carry on just fine without me. In the end, I could be okay with that.
For now, I’m going to brace myself for the storm that’s likely to be my work day tomorrow. That, and send off a resume or two. Keeping all my bases covered seems like a good idea.
Stay tuned. I’ll let you know how it all shakes out.