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.

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.

Drug-Life Balance

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While it’s well documented that intravenous infusion of ketamine is, by far, the most effective route of administration for the treatment of depression, there’s been some debate on the efficacy of intra-nasal ketamine in maintaining ketamine levels between infusions.  My doctor falls in the camp of believing these interim doses are beneficial, so I take intranasal ketamine three times a week, as prescribed.  Having never gone longer than a week without the interim doses, I have no real basis for assessing their efficacy at prolonging the effects of the infusions, but I certainly believe they have their benefits.  Sure, I won’t deny the appeal of legally permissible psychedelic drugs, but the real appeal of these interim doses is the grounding effect they seem to have.  With my mind’s tendency to veer off course, to spiral downward or become stuck in a rut, taking a dose of ketamine interrupts that trajectory and brings me back to center.  It’s kind of like a reset button.  I don’t take for granted how useful this effect is in stabilizing my mood and preventing relapse, but I will say that mild, four-hour long drugs trips three times a week can sometimes be a bit of an inconvenience.

Ketamine is a drug that lends itself well to mental endeavors.  It elicits contemplation and introspection, it invites you to recede from the physical world and take up residence in the vast, inner-workings of your mind.  Because of this, ketamine highs are well suited to creative and intellectual pursuits.  That worked wonderfully in the winter when there was an abundance of time spent indoors (can you say cabin fever?) and I wiled away the hours writing, studying, and drawing.   But spring has finally sprung (after taking its sweet, fucking time), and now I want nothing more than to spend every waking minute outdoors, being active and reveling in my ability to leave the house without six layers of pants on–and I want to be present in this revelry.

When strolling along the lakefront path, I don’t want to be this ethereal, disembodied orb of consciousness, untethered from my bobble-headed meat-suit as it drifts aimlessly behind me like a wayward dog on a leash.  I want to hike, bike, swim, and paddle with my brain and body working in tandem and all of my faculties intact–feeling every heartbeat, every twitch of muscle fiber, every droplet of sweat.  I want to connect with the world around me, to bask in the sunlight as it bakes my melanin-deficient flesh to a tender crisp like an oven-roasted butternut squash.  (Just kidding–in a total rookie move I forgot my sunblock and now my skin is an arresting shade that can only be described as “lobster bisque.”  And if you’re wondering how I landed on that particular produce, I will admit that it’s something of a childhood nickname on account of being born with a head shaped like a butternut squash.  My mother takes perverse pleasure in reminding me of this by posting pictures of my face carved, drawn, or photoshopped onto butternut squash in varying stages of preparation and cooking with comments like, “Oh my?  You’re beginning to look a little feverish!”  All the psychological damage is starting to make sense now, isn’t it?)  So, it would appear that mid-day dosing is no longer a viable option and night time dosing messes with my sleep schedule–what’s a girl to do?  Luckily, the answer came to me after a particularly agonizing day of work.

Last week, upon coming home from a job that has been slowly eroding my spirit and sense of self worth with the patient brutality of Chinese water torture, I blinked back hot tears of rage, feeling like the lowliest spec of shit in a vast, cosmic ocean of the stuff (a sub-atomic shit-spec, if you will).  I ranted, I seethed, I took a really, really long shower, which is kind of my go-to move when I come home foaming at the mouth (having finally subdued my previous go-to move of putting my fist through the wall), and I played every moment of my shift and every shift before that–every jab of passive-aggression and shred of confusion and uncertainty–over and over in my head, sputtering to myself through the torrent of hot water like a lunatic (no surprise there).  I lamented the steady stripping away of my joy and positivity– something I’ve discovered only recently after having spent the better part of two decades searching for it.  But, before I could descend any further down this precipitous road to hell, I gave myself a pep-talk.  I employed every cliche in the book–If you stoop to their level, you’ll only be hurting yourself.  Don’t let them win.  Take the high road.  Don’t let the bastards get you down!  Eventually I settled on a “nod and smile” approach to work.  I would get in, do my job, keep my head down, and get out as quickly and painlessly as possible.  And do you know what helps achieve that zen-like, level-headed approach to a tenuous work situation? Ketamine.  Here was my shining solution: I would enjoy my days of adventure and athleticism, take my ketamine dose before work, float through my afternoon shift, and emerge on the other side bright-eyed, hopefully not shaking with rage, and ready to greet the world once more.

Some of you might be wondering whether it’s ethical to take drugs before work (you bunch of narcs, you). But firstly, I’m not driving, operating any sort of machinery, or engaging in any activities that could remotely be considered to pose a risk to myself, others, or even inanimate objects, and secondly, ketamine isn’t like other drugs.  Its high (extremely mild at the dose I’m taking) doesn’t impair my ability to function at my job in the slightest, and to the contrary, it actually wildly increases my productivity, focus, and motivation, allowing me to stay on task and approach work with an incongruous enthusiasm for what is essentially the world’s most boring job.  Also, I wash buckets for a living so, really, what do you people want from me?  At least with ketamine on the brain, I can spend those bucket-washing hours when my mind would otherwise be void or contemplating making a break for the fire-exit, focusing on internal productivity–hell, I wrote half of this blog post while scrubbing scum from an endless tower of glass vases!

So, there you have it: drug-life balance.  It sounds like a joke, I know, but anyone who’s ever dealt with an illness that requires medication can attest that finding a routine that works for you and allows you to make the most of your time while still managing your health is no easy feat.  I’m just thankful the medication that works for me has pleasant side effects and the super useful ability of allowing me to maintain my job without quitting in a blaze of foul-mouthed glory and Kool-Aid-manning it through the plate-glass windows to sweet, merciful freedom.

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