It has been a while since I posted here. I've got tons of posts in draft form, some quite old now... that I never finished. Ideas I started, then let languish in the beating sun of my intolerable existence at work. Things have been weird. And amazing. Please, come in.
One month ago today was my last day at work. June 25, 2015 was the last day I worked.
Not just my last day at my job. This is an important distinction. It was my last day "at work". I quit my very last job. The last time I will trade my hours for the currency determined by others so I can make them more money, or make them look better. If we're using my time and talents, I'll be the one making the decisions, thank you.
Let me back up a bit. It really has been a while. When I read this later, I might not even be able to make sense of what happened without a record of it...
About 5 years ago I was looking for a job. That was the intention I put out into the universe. I hated my employer and left to save my soul - and had nothing lined up. So I was desperately looking for a job. I said it over and over...a job, a job, a job.
I only put one small caveat around 'a job' and that was that I knew I needed some sort of meaning to my work so I wanted to go to work for the public university or community college system where I live. I got my education there and I knew how important it was to find someone who knew what they were doing to help you on your journey. I wanted to be that person for others. To democratize higher education. Just because you don't come from money shouldn't mean you don't get the same chance to do something with your life, right? Right! So that was my thinking...
As the universe does, it provided. I was hired to the community college system. Day 1 was a nightmare and the next 3 years were just compounding layers of terrible. I met the worst boss I have come across in all my years of working. Things went from bad to worse. Not only was I not doing anything meaningful to help students, I could not afford to quit. Depression set in and got comfortable. I fought the good fight. Then one day, a manager threw something at me in his frustration with another manager....I was quickly transferred to another campus. Mostly so I wouldn't sue.
This seemed to be a great change. A period of wonderful things ensued. I met an incredible boss who gave me the first look I have ever had at leadership without dictatorship. THE.FIRST.ONE.EVER.
Nearly a year into this, when I was unsure of my future, toeing the waters of maybe going to graduate school again and putting that idea and message out, the universe provided again. Somehow all of the "gifts" bestowed upon me have seemed more like an anvil dropped from a cliff, but hindsight is 20/20 and I know now what a present this one was.
The college decided that I was doing such a good job, that I was so competent, that they would see what I was really made of. A dean who had successfully sued the system several times for discrimination (and had a long history of people working for her who would leave in tears,) was dropped into my lap after her secretary walked out.
Already overworked and without authority to change what was happening, I started calling out for help from underneath the weight of this new development. I used the tools I had been given, the path promised to employees to rectify situations like these. I was not hired to babysit this incompetent dinosaur. I had 500 students to be responsible to, for federally mandated disability accommodations. That cannot go unnoticed, right?
I learned a few things in this effort; namely, that people will do anything to stifle the screams of someone hurt by their own actions. Also, that being right was not the same as being vindicated. I learned that you can go to work every day, do your absolute best, be loved by coworkers, supervisors and students, and none of it matters if the rock dropped on you screams louder than you do. A number of changes took place at a level I could not see and the path evaporated....people suddenly left or retired with no notice. I was alone.
I spent months in a strange place. I loved my students, I was proud of my work, I was abandoned by my leaders. I let the college know I was planning to leave in the summer to attend graduate school. Truly, if this person had not been dropped in my path, I would have stayed longer. Too long. I needed the push to get me out of my complacency. Since things weren't as terrible as before, I would have continued on. An object in motion and all of that...
Another amazing thing happened. My boss, the one shining light throughout the tunnel of bureaucratic bullshit, put in her notice. I knew I couldn't stay without the buffer zone she created, and I made my last day the same as hers. That forced me to put a date to the end and stick with it. Together, we walked out, leaving a vacuum to fill where two dedicated, competent and overworked people had been. Not only had I gotten the anvil off my chest, I had the distinct pleasure of dropping it off right back where it belonged, onto the laps of people who pretended I wasn't crushed underneath it, begging for their help.
During the darkness, I discovered things about myself with clarity I cannot ever expect to have again, so I made the most of it. I am not a worker bee. I never have been. I spent years fighting that, because I believed that I had to just work harder at it and I would BECOME a better worker bee. It is alright, there are hundreds of people who need the jobs I have left. I don't feel guilty. The students will get the help they need or they will go elsewhere, like every other consumer. If the school doesn't do the right thing by students with disabilities, the government will shut their doors. The institutional problems that plagued my time at the college system I so admired are not mine. I did not make them, I did nothing but try to help and I know I left things a damn sight better than I found them. I take comfort in that and I sleep very well.
I cannot take orders from someone who is being floated along. It does not make me an asshole that I can't make a daisy out of a pile of shit everyone refuses to pick up and throw away. That is the work of earthworms and I am not one of those either.
To be honest, I don't know what I am. I've been searching for years to find myself. There have been so many things in the way of me, that I couldn't get a clear vision. Some of the things I put there myself. I just found that out. Again...even more this time...
I quit my job and I'm not looking for another one. I have not determined what I am doing about graduate school yet either. That's right. No job, no plan. I spent a year doing the only thing I could control and that was figuring the money part out so that I could walk away. From the job, and from the version of myself that was taught to sit there and take it, so I could exchange my pride and intelligence for a measly paycheck.
That was the hardest step and the first step. So often they are the same.
I spent a year reading personal finance blogs and inspiration pieces and listening to meditative music on YouTube to quell the panic attacks. I wrote and rewrote our household budget, over and over and over again. I knew I needed out and I was looking for permission. No wonder I haven't figured out my life yet- I just realized that I am the one in control.
So I gave myself permission. I changed some things in my life so I could change everything in my life. Maybe, just maybe, with enough perseverance, the clarity of space and time to figure out who I am, and the passion to create a better existence for others- I can change a lot more than that.