Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Ornament 2005

This ornament represents kind of a best and worst moment in my life. It was purchased in November or December 2005, from the Ten Thousand Villages store in the O'Bryanville area of Cincinnati. This ornament might look quite familiar to some, because we bought a lot of them and tied them onto everyone's gifts that year.

We were living in Cincinnati at the time. Since February, I had been working at a job that made me completely miserable. I was so depressed, actually, that I was taking antidepressants for the first (and still only, up to this point anyway) time in my life. I cried all the time. When I tried to enter the work building, I could feel the tears building up. My boss was horrible, there was too much work to do, not enough time to do it in, and no recognition that I was given an impossible task, with an impossible manager, and doing the best I could with hardly any training or support.

I stuck it out for as long as I could—much longer than was reasonable, because I'm stubborn like that. But I finally handed in an ultimatum at the end of November to the department head: You've been promising me for months that you would remedy all of these complaints, which you have agreed are an issue. I'm tired of promises, so either fix it or consider this my two weeks' notice.

She called me in for a meeting the next day and said she accepted my resignation and it was effective immediately. She gave no acknowledgement that the situation was in any way her fault or responsibility. I was unreliable and a quitter was the undercurrent in the room. I had the rest of the day to clean out my desk and get everything in order.

I started crying because I was so shocked, even though I shouldn't have been. I was not treated well the whole time I was there—why should it start now? But I got myself together and went back to my desk. I only told one co-worker what happened and asked her to keep it quiet, and then spent the rest of the afternoon working away on my computer and pretending like nothing had happened. I hung around until after 6, when most people had already left. This wasn't unusual, since I had regularly been working 50-60 hour weeks ever since I started. I cleaned out my desk, said "good-bye" to a couple of people who were still there, and left.

I went home and told Keith and cried. I had no idea if I was relieved or upset or which way was up. This horrible job had been consuming my thoughts and emotions for months—many days it felt like it was consuming me—and suddenly it was gone. What next?

What does one do after essentially getting fired? Go shopping, of course! Keith took the following day off work and we went Christmas shopping. We had a really nice day together, because every time we are together we enjoy it, and we bought most of our presents from small shops close to our apartment. We walked, we talked, we shopped, we ate.

Slowly, the anxiety that had been squeezing my chest into a knot 24/7 started to ease. I began to think that there would be life after this horrible job. Something would work out .... and no matter what it was or how long it took, it would be worth it because I wouldn't be at that place anymore!

This ornament reminds me of just how dark that time was for me, but how far I've come since. I learned a valuable lesson that if the whole situation seems bad from the beginning, it probably is. I should trust my instincts and move on! And I should also know that I'm a good, hard worker. If I'm trying my hardest and I can't meet someone's expectations, those expectations just might be unreasonable. So instead of working myself into the ground to meet them, I should take a step back and think about what's feasible, and recognize that I need a work/life balance (emphasis on the "life" part) to be content.

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