December 7th, 2011

Star Wars - Fly away...

iDwell (thoughts of the newly unemployed)

And we're to the dwelling stage.

I'm good at dwelling. I'm good at worrying at a stress-causing thing, worrying about a tough situation, second-guessing myself about what led to something difficult; I can get Wrapped Up in something very easily.

Now that I'm unemployed -- and having to realize that I actually don't know the technical, functional difference between "being laid off" and "getting fired" -- I'm thinking about how I got to this point. I'm thinking about how I was treated at that office. I'm thinking about how I worked. Because:

A) I need to do my best to figure out how I can be better next time at the next job, and not make the mistakes that contributed to my getting fired.

B) I need to figure out what problems with that job were completely the hell out of my control.

Did I really have a chance to do better? Was I really ever going to be able to get more hours (I was an hourly employee, which has surprised more than one person there) and more work? Were my bosses defining loyalty as "do everything just to help us," while putting me in a situation where I was ineligible for, for instance, company health coverage? Would I really have had a chance to move up in the job? To earn enough to save and to invest in improvements to my life? Was I, in essence, a second-class citizen from the word "go"?

And how much of what I said in that last paragraph is self-serving bullshit?

I dwell on such stuff. And I have the maddening knowledge that several of the people I worked with are not going to dwell on this at all. I'm going to feel wounded, and worried, and scared, by what I feel was an unfair situation...and the people I used to work for will move on. (In other jobs and in other situations, I've dealt with people who genuinely hurt me with what they said or how they acted, and they probably quickly forgot that what they said hurt me. I dwelled, they definitely didn't.) I know enough about myself to know that, sometimes, I have trouble moving on. But I hurt no one but myself by doing that. It certainly doesn't affect my now-former co-workers. And I'm not enough of a jackass to try and somehow inflict the effect on them. (But I can be tempted. Get me angry and frustrated, as I've been lately, and I have to resist the desire to mess with people much the way Andy Kaufman did.) I do have friends and allies in that office, people who will likely feel bad that I'm gone from there, but they have their own lives, their own issues and their own jobs; they'll focus on that. If I focus just on how this is unfair, I'll stay stuck. And that only hurts me.

Dwelling made it hard for me to go to sleep last night. (Not unprecedented. In 2004, when I got fired -- downsized, to be more technical -- from the call center job where I'd been for three years, I had so much trouble sleeping due to stress that I took a prescribed sleep medication for the first and so far only time in my life, I had a checkup and the verdict was "The only thing wrong with you is stress, and you can ease that by getting more rested." I used the medicine concertedly for only about a week, held onto it for a bit, used it maybe twice more a month later, then threw the rest of the pills away and committed to getting more sleep in non-drugged ways. I hadn't liked the effect the drug had on me. This situation is, thank everything, still better than that.) Last night, I kept thinking about what had happened, and I'd get spun up again, unable to relax and rest. I woke up and quickly was thinking about it again. Very handy way to start feeling, once more, stuck.

A friend once admitted to me that back in the Nineties, after he'd gotten out of a terribly draining situation -- a bad relationship, in his case -- he didn't realize how physically and emotionally exhausted he was until he spent a week sleeping 12-hour days. I hope I don't need that much recovery. I do need some, but there's a difference between recovering and just dwelling. I must not fall into that trap.

But for now, honestly, I will try to get some more rest. For now, that sounds like a good idea. It's also time to be gentler with myself.
Sally Salt Disgusted

There's a lesson here. Really. (A pretty specific post-job look back.)

These are two former job-related bits of business I'm willing to share, but not as widely as the overarching "it's a former job" bit of business. Thus, Friends-locked. I'll be admitting maybe more than I should, but if I can't trust y'all by this point, who can I trust? Don't test that.


Bit The First: I made a scene at the office last Friday. I slammed a door. Really slammed it. The door is fine. I wasn't.

Soon before this, just before lunch, the now-former boss called me into his office, and told me that he was going to be out of the office for the rest of the afternoon, and did I have enough to do? I froze up. Here's why: This year he'd really been cutting back my hours, sometimes with very little notice: I'd get emails from him at home at 8 p.m. saying "I'm gone tomorrow, please take the day off. Thx." And I was one of the few hourly-salary employees in the main office.

Would you say "no" to that email, even if you should have? "Sorry, high-powered Executive VP guy, I need hours so I can do better financially than just mainly pay my bills, so I'll disobey you and be there. I'll find something to do." No: he would've said I was arguing with him, and not to do that.

And this time, in his office, because I didn't answer within three seconds, the now-former boss said "Sounds like you don't have much, take this afternoon off." I tried then to say that I had things to do, like [x] and [y], but he said "Those are long-term projects. They can wait until next week." Which he hadn't told me that morning when he'd given me those things to do.

I'm sure to him, the question was innocent...but to me, it was like he'd said "Defend your job, NOW!, or you don't get to do it." So I wound up about to start an unexpected afternoon off. Unpaid.

He left. I tried to find a quiet place to stew, to deal with how frustrated and angry I was. I went downstairs, then through doors to the 20th floor lobby -- the construction company office is on the 21st and 20th floors -- to that floor's bathroom. I wasn't getting better. I security-carded my way back into the office, and BAM slammed the door against the wall.

(The following exchange then happened. 20th-floor employee: "Is the door okay?" Me: "Door's not broken." Her: "Are YOU okay?" Me: "Door's not broken.")

Someone who is, I am very glad to say, sympathetic to my then-current situation sat down with me for a while to talk about what happened, why I did it, and what I needed to do to improve my situation in the office. So the reaction was "Why did you do that, and what can you do to get better so you don't do anything like that again?" instead of "You caused a disturbance," which would've been the more likely corporate reaction. Not that it matters now.

On the flip side, something else could have mattered that I took care of so it won't matter, which is

Bit the Second: I was the custodian of my department's petty cash. Some months ago, I noticed some of the money wasn't there. Someone, um, above me in the department (NOT the above-mentioned boss) was placing small IOUs in it. This person is sloppy in certain ways: he's never figured out where to put the copies of the Daily Journal of Commerce newspaper after I organized them into the well-labeled categories of "Last Month's" and "This Month's." He doesn't pay attention to a lot of things. And he'd mixed up how much money he'd taken out one time, so he thought he owed less than he did. I made a note that I needed to replenish that, because honestly I was annoyingly passive and waited too long to say "You think you took out $[x] but really you took out $[y]." Since I hadn't fulfilled my responsibility to get the money from the person who'd messed it up -- or even asked said person not to do that -- I needed to swallow my pride and replenish it myself. Yes, I was moved to give the billion-dollar company money. Which I did in my last half-hour of ever working there, along with turning in the last petty cash reimbursement so that those receipts wouldn't get lost and there wouldn't be further discrepancy.

Here's why.

With my luck, any discrepancy would've been discovered. It would've looked like I'd taken money, or at best that I'd not been responsible with it. So on top of no longer being a good fit for the job, I'd be untrustworthy. I knew I shouldn't have trusted him..., someone, or more than one someone, might have thought.

At the bad job I had in 2009 at a dog show-running company, yes like in Christopher Guest's Best In Show, it was bad because I had a co-worker who didn't like me. Who thought I was, and told me so to my face, an "idiot" and a "liar." That...that messed with me. Venting about that resulted in this blog entry from October 2009 that I'm very proud of.

And here I was, faced with the chance, just the chance, that someone at this office where I worked until yesterday would think I'm a thief.

I'm not an idiot. I'm not a liar. I'm not a thief. And I wanted to be sure no one in this office, an office where I liked my co-workers, had cause to think any of those things.

What I did means that no one in that office will ever know there was any discrepancy. They won't know I'd done my best to be responsible there. I did the right thing. It cost money. Maybe there would've been some perverse satisfaction in leaving that discrepancy, but it still would've felt like stealing. And -- again -- I'm not a thief.

Message, Mr. Spock? None that I am conscious of...okay, that was a reach. Message is, both events happened because either I asserted myself badly (that poor door), or I didn't assert myself when I should have (asking that other person "Hey, about the petty cash..."). That it was an often-dysfunctional office didn't negate that I can't be afraid to assert when I need to be. I've asserted before when I've needed to. It's not that scary, Chris. Really. Or hard.

So: I've learned something.