Five thirty in the morning. I leave my house. It’s late March but you couldn’t tell from the seventeen degree air outside. The sky looks almost non-existent. Dark with no visible stars. The only light is from the parking lamp which reflects off the frost over my windshield.
I remind myself that it’s March. But it’s Ohio. The weather never makes sense here. The motto should be, “Ohio: If you can’t take the heat, wait an hour.”
I get in my car and start to drive. The road is alive and hungry. Potholes litter the surface, waiting for a weary tire to fall in so it may consume it. I pass by at two cars on the way with flat tires. Poor souls.
In my car, I have a lot of time to think. And I do. It’s not an option. Every thought I don’t let myself have at home comes rushing to me like a puppy excited when their owner comes home.
They’re still with me at six in the morning, when I walk through the doors to the office. It’s still early, so it’s just me, some lady with a bouffant, and about a thousand empty cubicles. All battery slots, waiting for the right battery to fit in them so that they can be drained of their energy.
I wonder to myself. Why this? How did I even find this place? Why is this even a place? It doesn’t make sense. I’ve had jobs I didn’t like before. Everyone has. But this job seems to bend over backwards for the purpose of providing a negative environment.
There’s no consistent structure. Almost every rule in the company can be explained with a question mark. And any time you think you understand it, the upper management shuffles departments and suddenly there’s an entirely new play book.
Heck, currently, under the new one, I’m fairly certain I’m not even supposed to be utilizing WordPad like I am to shave off some of this dark cloud over my head.
They sat me down yesterday. In this small, private room across the table from two women that I swear was doing a “good cop/bad cop” routine. One was dressed colorfully and was all smiles; the other was in a leather jacket, never making eye contact with me, just occasionally grimacing while texting on her phone.
They brought me in to let me know I was being too social with people. That it’s something currently being “cracked down” on. I face palm internally. In the last two days I’ve seen so many things borderlining on sexual harassment that wasn’t addressed. I’ve seen people keeping drugs in their desk. I’ve seen people having sex in the parking lot. But my habit of showing humanity to my coworkers is frowned upon. Sure. Let’s do this.
The good cop looks at me and asks if there’s anything they can do to help me be the best that I can be. The bad cop nods at whatever she just heard, continuing to text on her phone. She says its work related. But she should probably not let me see the screen and try to get away with that at the same time.
How can they help me be the best I can be? Obviously they don’t want a real answer to this. If the best I could be, involved me being a data entry person getting 10 to 15 cent raises every year in a company that seems to promote people based off skirt length, I think I would be allowed to jump off the highest building in the world with no one stopping or questioning me. I’d hit the ground and everyone would just nod, turn to each other and then say, “Makes sense” before returning to their lives.
The real answer is something I know wouldn’t be acceptable. The best I can be? What, are you going to help me start my own business? Or privately back me while letting me stay at home and focus on my writing? Because that’s when I’m at my best. As I found when I taught and when I had my coffee shop, my best is when I’m in a position where I can make change and express myself. That’s not happening in a company with an outdated authoritative hierarchy and a need for compliant drones.
It’s worrisome too. I’m trying to find a way out. But in the meantime it’s just sucking the power out of me and I feel terrible about it. I don’t come home anymore. Well I do, but I no longer walk through the door. I pour in now. Like a thick cloud of dark smoke that blocks all the light from my wife and kid, flooding the kitchen.
Then my son smiles at me. That sudden realization in a newborns face that their dad’s home. That look that says that they’re not old enough to judge what you’ve become and they’re just happy to see that you’re home. I love that.
It blows the smoke away like a heavy gust of wind. It reminds me why I’m still here. Why I’m still heading out into the darkness and traveling into the bleak.
But I still need to fix this. I can’t have my kid be my anchor. He’s not even half a year old yet, he doesn’t deserve to have that pressure on him, whether he knows it or not. Whether he realizes how good he is at pulling me out of the well.
I need to find a new job. This is no longer a want. It’s a need. They’re right, I need to focus on being my best and that won’t happen in this cubicle.