This post is LJ only.
And this post is really, really long.
And this post is mostly for me, typing into the familiar white box of the familiar LJ layout I've refused to change since 2001.
I think I need some time to type and think without worrying if I'm making a good blog post (as if I've been blogging enough to really consider myself a blogger, who am I kidding, I'm pretty sure I'll be inconsistently post-spurty for the rest of my life, I should just own up to that). LJ's my home for that, and if anyone takes the time to read this all the way through (and I know at least one of you will, and you know who you are, and you'll probably comment, and I love you), then, I don't know, you win The Award*.
I don't even know where to start...I love how I think posting somehow sorts out my thoughts, when usually it just jumbles them up more, but if nothing else, I enjoy the tactile sensation of typing while thinking, it makes my thoughts more real, more focused. Which, in the case of this swirl of general indifference I've found myself in as of late, may not be a good thing. BUT OH WELL. I'M DOING IT ANYWAY BECAUSE...BECAUSE.
So I had this job. Yep. Had. I quit the job. The job I only had for six months. The job that paid $14.22 an hour, $4.12 an hour more than any job I've ever had in my whole life. The job that was supportive and the job where all of my managers told me on a regular basis how great I was and how I could basically do anything I wanted there because of my high performance. The job that paid me $200 cash for hooping on stage for three minutes. The job that was paying for my eventual trip to Bikram Teacher Training, the only job I can really see myself maintaining for any amount of time, but comes with an initial $12,000 price tag.
I managed to save $4,000 of that, but I quit. I quit because the work itself was awful. And it really, really, genuinely was awful work, at least for me. I had nightmares about it, I would cry before I had to go in, that sort of thing. But at the same time, quitting this job was not the joyful occasion that quitting normally is for me. I didn't want to boast about it on Facebook or my blog that I'd given up on yet another job. Because this particular job, I worked really, really hard to keep myself from quitting.
I had a jar of beans on my desk, where each bean represented an hour of work toward my goal of $12,000 for teacher training. I moved eight beans to a second jar at the end of every day, in an effort to create a physical and visual reminder of why I was there on a daily basis. Each bean broke down to $2.50 a piece, so any time I made more than the amount I regularly set aside, I got to move more beans. By the time I finally gave up, I had quite a large gap in the original "full" jar that made me really happy, and would encourage me. For about two minutes.
I had pictures of yoga postures and yoga classes pinned up all over my cubicle. I had motivational sayings tacked up. I had a reward system where I "won" an incentive of my choice for each month I didn't quit.
I have never in my life worked harder at staying in a job I hated this much. It was such a weird place to work, because I loved a ton of aspects about the job. I bonded with almost every single person I worked with in a way I've never connected with co-workers before (save a few here and there at past jobs). My managers and team leads were amazing, supportive, provided actual, genuine job performance feedback without being rude or critical. The pay was insane, as well as the opportunities to earn more, in a variety of ways; overtime, learning new skills, earning high quality scores, even winning company contests (I got money this way a few times, sometimes in cash, sometimes in the form of a gift card). The dress was casual, the environment much more welcoming and fun than any other desk I've ever sat behind, the whole call floor felt bright and open, not dank and prison-like. And the hours were perfect for me: I didn't have to be there until noon, I stayed until 9 PM when call volume usually slowed down quite a bit, and I didn't have to work Mondays.
But company policy was awfully rigid about a lot of things, and while it turns out I perform really, really well in a highly structured and monitored environment, I also will stress myself out over the tiniest things due to that same structure. I like to follow rules, and at the beginning of a job, I will do my best to stick to the rules. But if there are no consequences for not following them, I will slack off, slip up, take seven miles when they give half a centimeter.
This job didn't allow any room for that. In the past, I've been chronically late. It's my worst feature, job-wise. I'll be ten to fifteen minutes late on a good day, twenty to thirty on a bad day. (I've even showed up an hour late if things are really, REALLY bad.)
However, if we were even one minute late at this job, it was four points off of your monthly scorecard. Four points is a LOT on a scorecard where your goal is 50 points. And "late" was quantified not by when you parked your car, or even when you walked in the door, but when you logged into your phone with your system pulled up, ready to start taking calls. The entire six months I worked there, I was late exactly twice: Four minutes once when I got a flat tire on the way to work and had to call Green to bring me a jack so I could fix it (and they wouldn't let me "flex" time to come in late and stay late because I had a training session scheduled that morning), and one minute when I went home on my lunch break and didn't give myself enough time to get back to work. Two occurrences that, at any other job I've ever held down, would have been seen as an incredible achievement for me, cost me four points each at this place. I learned that despite claiming to have a serious problem with tardiness, I actually just had a serious problem with lack of discipline.
The flip side to this is that I had frequent and very real-feeling nightmares about being late to work. I'm talking every single night in the beginning, mellowing out to once a week near the end. I also had nightmares about the work itself, but that's another story.
Another thing that would cost you points on your scorecard was calling in for the day. For any reason whatsoever. Even if you were legitimately sick. You got sick pay, but taking that sick day would cost you a whopping seven and a half points on your scorecard. The only thing that lost you more points were your quality scores.
Which meant that the one time I did get sick, it just so happened to be the month following the two months in which I had acquired my two less-than-five-minutes-each tardies. Which meant that another "occurrence" would make it a "pattern", and I'd be put on an "action plan". Which meant that despite my body screaming at me to stay in bed and let it rest, despite being a person who believes to her core that no job has the right to make you feel guilty about taking a sick day when you genuinely need it, despite working at a place that takes calls every god damn day for the healthcare industry so you might think they'd have a vested interest in keeping their employees healthy, I went in to work because I didn't want to lose those seven and a half points on my scorecard. I requested to go home early without pay even though I had sick pay available to me, because if they let me go, it didn't count. If I asked to go, it did. And on the third day of my requests to go home early so I could rest being denied, I lost my shit and cried at work to the people in charge of letting you go home early, and to the team lead of the department next to mine (since my team leads both had the day off), about how god damn frustrated I was that I couldn't just go home even though I was sick.
Not to mention the other things you could potentially lose points for, including: Low call quality scores, logging in/out from breaks too late/early, being logged onto your phone without marking yourself as "ready" in the system, being logged out when you're supposed to be logged in (read: taking bathroom breaks outside of your allotted breaks and lunch), and not upholding the company's core values well enough.
And the actual work I had to do grated against my personal values so hard that it frequently negated all of the good parts of the job. If I had been doing the same sort of work I did at RAZ or Alamo Door in an environment like the one at this place, I guarantee I wouldn't have had such a tough time sticking it out the required year I had predicted it would take me to earn enough for teacher training.
But I had to take calls. I had to take them whether I was in the mood to take them or not, whether I was focused or not, whether I was emotionally stable at the time or not (there were a few days where I spent my entire fifteen minute break shaking and sobbing about how much I didn't want to log back in and take more calls).
I had to make sure I said the four billion things we were required to say on every single call, regardless of whether or not it was true or whether the person on the other line wanted to hear it. ("I'd be happy to help you with that." "How did you hear about this information line?" "May I have your zipcode?" "We're here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week." "Is there anything else I can help you with?")
I had to lie on a daily basis about my location. If the call came from New York, I had to say I was in New York. If the call came from Washington, I had to say I was in Washington. I had to pronounce "Puyallup" correctly without ever having heard of the town before or risk revealing that I did not actually work at the place people thought they were calling. (If you're wondering, it's pronounced "Pew-AH-lup". As in Pepe Le Pew.)
I had to ask for the name, phone number, alternate phone number, address, e-mail address, and whether or not they'd lived in the area for more than a year, of anyone who wanted to find a doctor, before I even knew whether or not we actually had a doctor that could help them (sometimes even knowing full well that we didn't).
I had to listed to pill poppers beg for a doctor that would prescribe them medication. (If you know me, you know how anti-meds I am.) I had to extol the virtues of bariatric surgery and vaccinations. I had to listed to hypochondriacs tell me about all of the health issues they had and how many doctors and prescriptions they needed, all the while thinking of how much a good diet, yoga, and meditation would probably cure at least half of them.
I had to be empathetic toward anyone who expressed even the slightest medical issue, regardless of whether I was able to make it sound sincere at the time or even if it was appropriate to say given the context of the call or the caller's tone. Seriously. They would count points off if you didn't say "I'm so sorry to hear that" if the caller mentioned ANY malady. "I have a cold." "I was diagnosed with cancer." "My son broke his foot." "My toe hurts." I'm not very good at expressing empathy over the phone, especially when I have to fake it because I can tell from the caller's voice that they just want their issue taken care of, they're not digging for sympathy.
I had to talk to crazy people and try to help them as if they were making perfect sense, when they were obviously legitimately crazy.
And I had to listen to people cry. I had to stay on the phone trying to help people who were so at a loss for what to do next that they were in tears and could barely choke out a sentence. People whose family were dying. People who didn't know where their loved ones were and were calling the hospital as a last resort. People who had crippling health problems but no insurance and had already called every doctor in the phone book and none of them would take them. People who were so overweight they felt they had no other choice but surgery because they didn't want to die before their children.
And I gave up almost everything I enjoyed outside of work. I barely hooped. I was unable to make it out to weekly and monthly spin events due to my schedule. I couldn't make myself blog because I didn't feel any passion for anything. I lost my enthusiasm for fucking Green. I thought about eating healthy but it seemed to overwhelming and much harder than just ordering pizza. I went to yoga, but fell back into all of my old bad habits and made very little progress despite going to class every day. When I was not at work, a large chunk of my time was spent decompressing from the work day and trying to recover for the next. The rest of my time was spent sleeping. I completely lost any sense of self I had discovered a year ago.
So yeah, I quit. But I've never felt such shame in myself for quitting a job. Because I had a Plan. I had a Goal. Because this was supposed to be my Last Real Job Ever. I would stick this one out, be a good girl, make it to the finish line, and EARN my dream job in a marathon of endurance, blood, sweat, and tears, Good Solid Hard Work. Because that's what you're supposed to do before you're allowed to live the life that you want, right? You're supposed to do the sucky things that get you to the finish line and then relish the reward of finishing. You're not supposed to drop out a third of the way through the race.
But that's what I did. With exactly one third of my goal money saved up, I dropped the plan completely because I couldn't stomach going in one more day.
And now, on top of still not feeling quite like myself, the self I know I CAN feel like, I have this disgusting and gnawing sense of aimlessness. I feel like I should be looking for more work, but it's the last thing I want to do. In my mind, Beryl WAS my last real job. I had drilled that concept in so deeply that every idea I have for new employment reeks of "You are a failure." "You gave up too quickly." "You will never make it because you can't see the forest for the trees, you are too weak, you don't push yourself and your life will be a string of these meaningless, soul sucking jobs forever."
Still, I pushed through all that and submitted my resume to a temp agency, thinking, maybe if I KNOW the job is temporary, I can do it, I can do the whole learn it-do well-leave before it gets too monotonous thing and keep saving money, keep pushing forward.
I went on my first assignment today. I went in at 8:30 in the morning. I spent the night before freaking out and panicking because I did not feel ready to go back to work, so I got very little sleep. I didn't plan my morning very well, so I had no breakfast and no bottle of water to bring with me because I hadn't filled the Brita pitcher and I didn't think about it until I was walking out the door.
I got to the place and the dreariness of this new office environment enveloped me like a sickening pool of murky water. My orientation guide took me around, barely smiling, showing me the grey halls and the grey desks and they grey chairs, the tiny break room that looked as bleak and hopeless as every break room I've ever been in, trying to make it seem inviting due to the free coffee and tea that I would never drink because I hate coffee and tea, telling me about the company policy, dress code, time clock info, etc. and making me sign a bunch of things.
All I could think about was how the same-ness of office work will never stop baffling me, how people can throw themselves into a career at a crappy company I've never even heard of but to them is the center of their universe, shuffling paperwork, having meetings, sending e-mails, answering pages, shipping orders, all of it is the same, every place I've ever seen is the same. Except after being in an office that actually made an effort to be different and unique, that same-ness was all the more crushing and depressing.
Then I spent about half an hour sitting next to the receptionist who talked incredibly fast about the job I was going to be expected to take over for on her first fifteen minute break. I saw employees come and go, people for whom this is their every day, feeling more and more distressed with each passing minute.
Then a supervisor came by and told me to pull up my top because there is a company policy against showing cleavage. The only business casual top I own, the top that I wear a tank top under for the express purpose of not showing cleavage. Then, two minutes later, the same supervisor tells me to call the temp agency. The temp agency says she wants me to drive over to their location so they can talk to me about the company dress code. The dress code that I have already had explained to me in the paper signing process. And their office is on the other side of town.
And as soon as I walked out the door, after being there for an hour and a half, I knew I wasn't coming back. I went to the temp agency and started crying like a lame, sucky loser. I explained how I was wearing the only nice, presentable "office-y" outfit I had. The lady listened while I sobbed about how even though I'm GOOD at office work, I really hate it. I'm not good at presenting myself in a businessy way. I don't think I'm ready to do that type of work again right now. I should probably just find a job at a part time, simple place that doesn't expect that much of it's employees just so I can take an emotional break from office work. (To her credit, the lady was incredibly sweet and kept saying over and over how she'd do what she could for me, she'd see what she could find, even though I was trying to tell her I didn't really want anything she could offer, I wanted to work somewhere like Subway or Tom Thumb. She also seemed confused by why I was sent there for having too low a top.)
I cried the entire car ride home.
Then I cried on Green's shoulder about how I just want to be a yoga teacher so this fucking job bullshit can be over, and how I wish I could just pretend to be normal and figure out how the hell other people swallow their pride and go in to work every day, and what the hell is wrong with me, why can't I hold down a job even when I want to?
And I love him so completely because he said all the right things, like who gives a fuck about being normal and holding down a "real job", and that there are other ways to make money, and that even if I can't take out a loan myself, I could find someone who could take one out for me and pay them back, and that it was okay if I wasn't ready to go back to work, because we had plenty of money to get us through for a little while, and that everything would be okay, and that I should take a deep breath, calm down, and work on my corset.
But I can't shake this feeling of unease, this feeling of failure and dread, of stagnation and hopelessness. That there might truly be something wrong with me that keeps me from getting where I want to go. I don't know. I know I need to figure out a way out of this funk, but everything I'm trying seems to only help a little, and for a short amount of time. This morning was awful, and I know it would have been more awful if I'd stayed at that place, but my own self-doubt and confusion is starting to drive me mad.
I have no idea what to do at this point except listen for tiny twinges of feelings that feel right, and try to follow those. I'm setting up a new, small, once a week hoop class. Baxter's coming to town and I'm doing the whole "rally the troops, get everyone there" thing. The corset is coming along nicely and I'm in that lovely obsessive phase where I get pleasure out of consuming any type of media about the corset-making process. And I'm trying to trust that doing these things will get me out of this hole, and, eventually, to teacher training.
*The Award is nothing. You win nothing if you read this entire post. But if you wanted to make yourself a button that says "The Award" and pin it to your shirt and wear it everywhere you go, you can totally do that.