Reflections Upon Leaving (Or, I Swear This Is The Last Time I’ll Bitch About My Job)

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The last buckets have been washed, the last petals swept, the last hostile critiques and disapproving stares weathered with a nod, a smile, and a silent fuck you.  At 6pm on Friday, I walked out of my job knowing I would never again lay eyes upon my boss–her cruel visage thinly veiled by the comely disguise of flowers–and a giant, stupid grin broke across my face.  Freedom!

Before I began this job, I held such romantic notions of working in a flower shop.  I think most people do.   It evokes dreamy visions of chic, vintage furniture blanketed in seas of fresh blossoms with kind-faced shop women wielding gardening shears and carrying bouquets bundled in craft paper and ribbon–and those visions aren’t wrong.  But people think only of the the sweet perfume of roses and lilac–not the stench of rice flower, like pungent weed and the must of old books (a smell I’ve admittedly grown to love), or the peonies that sporadically stink like hot sewage. They think only of the jeweled hues of hyacinth, with petals of amethyst and sapphire blue–not the strands of mucus that cling to its stems, reeking of onion.  They fail to notice the shop proprietor silently judging them from behind her dazzling display of blooms.  It’s easy to be distracted by such beauty.

Lurking beneath the romance is reality–the ugly, the mundane.  I wouldn’t have minded the drudge work one bit–it is a job, after-all, and I’m no stranger to manual labor–but labor of any kind becomes unbearable when carried out beneath the hawkish gaze of a boss whose palpable disdain permeates the air, mingling with the scent of geranium and muscari like an odorless poison.  And while the flowers that line the shelves of the coolers—ranunculus and freesia, dianthus, tulips, and arabicum— might be the same species as their wild counterparts, they seem a sad specter of their former selves.  There’s a certain melancholy about cut flowers—plucked in their prime from sun-drenched fields to languish beneath the flicker and buzz of artificial lights.  It is a stark reminder of the finite nature of living things and the fleeting essence of beauty.

But there is relief to be found in the knowledge that, just as beauty is fleeting, so too is horror.  Life contains both in infinite magnitude and it is this study in contrasts–this interplay between light and dark, cruelty and kindness, rose and thorn–that imbues the world around us with such wonder.  A monotonous world would be a boring one.  All things perpetual are destined to be taken for granted and even beauty and joy would grow indistinct and unappreciable if not balanced with hideousness and despair.  There’s a reason we find ourselves captivated not only by the delightful, but by the macabre, as well.  We’re drawn to nature in all of its incarnations, arrested by splendor and sorrow in equal measure, and all the more awed by the surprising harmoniousness of the two.  To discern value in each of these qualities is the means by which we’re able to fully embrace life.

So, am I relieved to be rid of this aesthetically pleasing horror-show?  Of course!  But I won’t discount the experience.  I can appreciate the beauteousness of flowers while recognizing that they are all the more exquisite for their ephemerality and occasional repulsiveness.  I can denounce my boss’ scornfulness while also admiring her commendable qualities–her design talent, her business acumen, her intermittent moments of kindness.  Humanity is a form of nature and no one is bereft of benevolence, nor malignancy.  To forget that people are an intricate mix of all things, great and terrible, is to deny them their humanity and to deny yourself the clarity and compassion to experience relationships unmarred by ingratitude and ignorance.

With this insight in mind, I chose to leave on good terms.  Ever the gracious doormat, I thanked my boss and coworker for the opportunity and offered praise for their spectacular artistry.  (Their work really is amazing.)  Then I pushed through the front door without looking back and said a silent prayer for whoever takes my place (here’s hoping they have a superhuman capacity for speed, or maybe a functional coke habit), before skipping all the way home.

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So Long And Thanks For The Crippling Self Doubt

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I quit–the two most freeing words in the English language.  Just the sound of them–I quit. I quit. I quit!–like music to my ears.  If I were holding a football, I would spike it and do a celebratory dance.

After eight months of dealing with passive aggressive jabs and a boss whose rapid fire mood swings left my neck aching from the whiplash, after eight months of trying to be a diligent, hard-working, considerate employee, wanting so badly to please her, but always falling short in her eyes, after eight months of micromanagement, of being told I wasn’t sweeping fast enough (it’s called being thorough) or stacking and carrying boxes correctly, or that I really ought to use six staples instead of five, after eight months of keeping my head down and trying to anticipate what was expected of me only to be told I should do something differently, or work on something else entirely the moment I began a task, and then, when I dared ask what she’d like me to work on–just hoping to get things right, to make sure I was giving her what she wanted–being told I should already know despite the fact that she changed her mind on a daily basis–after eight months of this mishegas, I am finally free.  I could go on and list examples of this insanity, of the cutting remarks and ridiculous one-eighties, but why waste any more time on this cluster-fuck of misery?

The thing is, maybe there is someone out there who’s a better fit for this job, someone naturally suited to working at break-neck speeds and handling constant critiques with patience and a can-do spirit.  Maybe, despite my efforts, I was actually falling short. Who’s to say?  I’m certainly biased toward my own experience and, as with all things in life, each party has their own view of the truth.  So I’ll be gracious and admit that it’s possible–maybe I wasn’t the employee they were looking for, maybe there were ways in which I could have been better.  But even without assigning blame (or going so far as to assign it to myself), trying to force your square peg of a self into a round hole of a job until it chips away at your edges leaving you fractured and small is as good a reason as any to say, That’s it–I’ve had enough.

I started this position during the fall of last year, just after beginning ketamine treatment.  I was a new person at a new job and boy, was I excited.  I was buoyant, I radiated positivity, and I felt exceedingly capable and eager to work after years of being too ill to have any real capacity to achieve.  I went into this job with a killer attitude and, for the first time in my life, I felt such a sense of accomplishment and pride–I was finally the hard-worker with the sunny disposition that I had always dreamt of being.  Because things started out on such a high note, you can imagine how the aforementioned trials and tribulations of this job and my tenuous relationship with my boss came as that much more of a slap in the face.  It wouldn’t have stung as much when I knew that my capabilities were lacking, that I was sick and it was affecting my work, but for once that wasn’t the case and my self confidence took a real hit.

I have a nasty penchant for second-guessing myself, for ceding the high-ground to others for fear of laying one ounce of unwarranted blame.  “I can handle the heat,” I tell myself. “Even if this person is mistaken, even if I’m correct in thinking I’m the wronged party, let’s play devil’s advocate and grant this person their version of the truth.”  And in this way, I allow myself to be stripped down and I hand over the knife that does it.  It’s trying enough to be dressed down by your boss on a regular basis, but when you don’t have the faculties to stand tall and remain secure in who you are–when you’re a dedicated and competent employee, but the moment someone suggests otherwise a little voice in your head pipes up, “Are you, though?”–it cuts that much deeper, and the mental gymnastics involved in parsing it out in your head are enough to make anyone cry, Uncle.  (You would think the fact that I’ve always had excellent relationships with my former employers and coworkers, despite my illness previously preventing me from living up to my full potential, not to mention the wonderful relationship I currently have with my employers at my second job, whom I love dearly, would be an indicator that maybe it’s not me–but obviously my mind isn’t capable of such rationality and clear-sightedness.)

I’m a firm believer that there is something to be gained from every experience, no matter how positive or negative that experience may be.  This job had its good moments, its moments of beauty (how could it not when you’re working with flowers?), like, um–well, I’m sure I’ll be able to recall them once this cloud of rage and resentment obscuring my recollection has receded.  In the meantime, I will try to leave this job grateful for what small joys it has provided me–an abundance of free flowers rescued from the trash, a deeper knowledge of plants and a more passionate appreciation for their diversity and splendor, the ability to remain mindful in the face of adversity and contempt, and the ability to staple boxes and wash buckets really, really fast (though, not fast enough, apparently).

So, was it irresponsible to quit my job six weeks before I had planned to?  Was it fool-hardy to give up that (admittedly small) chunk of change with no other plans for income in sight?  Of course it was.  But, my god, does it feel amazing.  Good fucking riddance.