Have you ever had an opportunity to separate yourself from what you once thought was your destiny or even your home, only to find out it was in fact a very unhealthy place to be?
Hindsight’s 20/20, no?
That’s the realization I’ve come to lately. Life has done a 180 in the last five months, and though it was surreal at first, now I can’t imagine being where I was back in December.
I’ve mentioned my previous job in passing over the last several years on this blog. Nothing too specific, usually only alluding to the people I worked with. People I absolutely loved. People I do still adore. The thing is, my feelings for those people kept me in a scenario that was unnatural for me in many, many ways. And I stayed much too long.
I ended up in corporate America. Somehow the girl with inclinations toward music, toward art, toward literature and theater and film and journalistic, free-minded pursuits, ended up in a corporate setting. (Truth be told the setting was the most un-corporate “corporate America” could be to the outside, so you could understand my confusion at first.)
I was having a time in school. Back when my time there was being bankrolled by a Hope Grant, I flitted about from one major to the next for two years trying to find out what was really “me.” That plan was derailed, I had to take some time off, and when I got my stuff together and got back into school my focus became find a stable income, STAT and my efforts of soul searching were, rightly, forsaken. I headed toward journalism and was steered into public relations, something I have to admit I never found to be horribly alluring. Even while in school I had fears that one day I’d bail out of the field and head towards something more creatively suited to me. But I stuck with it. I led student organizations. I networked my ass off. I graduated and landed myself a kick ass internship at a company I LOVED. Life was good.
I loved that company and the people in it so much I barely noticed what happened to my own role there. But it didn’t matter. I got to go to work in an adorable office in the cutest town with people who made me laugh every single day. How could I find fault in that? Then the PR internship I’d landed, which was supposed to last for three months, went past its end mark with no one saying a word. I inquired about it, and was told to be patient. And I was. Why would I want to leave the funnest office there ever was? Brick Store Pub was like our second conference room, for god’s sake. I was kept at intern status for another four months.
I was having so much fun I barely noticed when my career path was rerouted from public relations to marketing. Same people, right? Same clients. So I got out of the office less, worked with spreadsheets more. Boring, sure, but look at how lucky I was! Then I was placed into a role of account management, dealing one on one with a handful of regular, sometimes
soul-draining difficult clients. Some whose roles were blurred by their close relationships to our firm, and whose at-times unprofessional and hurtful behavior I had no recourse for.
I began feeling out of control, and I was starting to feel unhappy where I was. These people, my coworkers and superiors that I so loved, didn’t come to my aid when I needed it. Suddenly I started to feel like their dedication to me was nowhere near mine to theirs. And I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. I felt in over my head. I was good at my job, but was constantly second-guessed, something brought on by those client relationships mentioned above. This led to my being insecure in my position, which led to my seeking counsel for many things I normally wouldn’t, which then led to my being criticized for not taking the lead on my own projects.
A few years into my time there, during drinks with a client, she pulled my boyfriend aside and told him she thought we needed to work on our relationship, and that she hoped he knew that I needed a lot of validation in my daily life.
This angered me beyond words. One, because she felt the right to assume a “friend” role and meddle in my relationship. Two, because she was in essence describing the monster she had in part created. And three, because I had begun to have a sneaking suspicion that she was right.
I never wanted this type of job. I never wanted to be in marketing, to sit behind a desk, to be expected to climb the corporate ladder, so to speak. I was content, until that time, to keep my head down and work hard–naively thinking that alone would reap the benefits I deserved. After a few years, though, I realized that wasn’t enough.
My natural demeanor is one of a people pleaser. When I turned something in, good as it was, my first inclination was to ask if I could have done anything better, or could I do anything else? If a coworker was swamped, I was the first to jump in and help. When someone was tired, I was the first to offer to go get them coffee. That’s my personality, and I won’t apologize for it. It’s not one that thrives in a corporate setting, however. In my office, I’m coming to realize, I was viewed as a doormat.
I was supposed to champion my own work. I was supposed to compete against my coworkers. What I once thought was a family setting turned out to be the opposite, and when I didn’t scramble to get ahead of my colleagues, I was left in the dust. And the work I did–excellent in my eyes and in those around me–was credited to my superiors.
It was around this time I started daydreaming about different careers. Different lines of work where I wouldn’t have to pretend to be someone else in order to be considered strong or competent. I went to interviews for massage therapy school. I sent in applications for flight attendant positions. Suddenly being in a role close to servitude seemed lightyears ahead of the corporate culture I was steeped in, one that I used to love.
Unfortunately, my own damn loyalty kept me down. I couldn’t bare to think of quitting. I loved my colleagues and my bosses too much. I was learning more and more that it was a one-sided relationship, and yet I stayed. I was passed over for reviews. My position changed again and again. And yet I still loved them. I had a stable job, after all. I made a steady paycheck. Most people who saw my job from the outside were envious. How could I leave?
After five years, the final decision was taken away from me, and I can say now that I’m so thrilled that it was. I wasn’t healthy there. I wasn’t happy. But I wouldn’t have left on my own. Now five months out, I cannot imagine being back there. I miss them dearly — I really do. I run into my coworkers around town and am always glad to. But I’m in such a better place now it’s unbelievable. Forgive the dramatic air, but I’ve come back to myself again.
I feel healthier, stronger, more confident. Thanks to the boy, who has been unbelievably supportive through everything, I’ve been given the luxury of time to stay still for a while and figure out what I want. And the answer is unequivocally to begin a new creative direction with him. Said new direction, hereby to be known as Baskervillain, will focus on design, film editing, writing, photography, and other creative pursuits to come. I’m so excited about this next step and hope to share our progress here.
I don’t think of myself as someone who has a lot of regrets. And I’ll certainly never regret working where I did. I learned so much, I made fantastic memories, I’ll treasure relationships I made there for the rest of my life. Who knows where I’d be now if that place hadn’t been a part of me for so long. I just know now that in the larger scheme of things, I really didn’t fit.
For the first time in five years I feel in control of my own destiny. And I couldn’t be happier.