Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The Final Countdown
I woke up this morning, after having a very peaceful dream to the sounds of the birds outside of my window chirping away. I smiled, sat up and stretched in bed, drew my legs in close to me in their peach colored pajamas, and caught a glimpse of the mirrored closet reflecting me and the view from outside of my window. Blue skies, few clouds, sunlight. I got out of bed and threw open the window and let the sunlight and warmth in to bathe in its beauty.
It was 8:30am. I just quit my job yesterday. I start a new one on Monday.
Throughout a person's lifetime, it is said that we will transition through seven to 10 career position changes, something I'm already well on my way to achieving. When people ask me where I will be in five years, I shrug and smile. I stopped planning out my life after I graduated from college. Prior to that, I knew everything. I knew what I would be doing from the moment I woke up to the last hour before I went to bed. I liked to have a routine and a plan, with goals in the future and steps set to achieving them. School set a nice confine to life and allowed me to live within a time frame of predictability. There weren't many surprises and when they did happen, it threw my schedule into a crux and taught me how to adapt to change, even if I didn't like it.
When I think about my future, I see writing. I see long hours hunched over my computer, typing furiously and gazing out the window with a never ending playlist in the background. I see myself traveling to new cities, exploring the landscape and the world around me with all five of my senses. I see myself laughing mostly, spending time with good friends and family. These are really the only glimpses into my future I get. I'm not the kind of girl who is aspiring to be chained to one place for too long, looking for a husband, children, a home. The only room in the house I see myself really giving great thought to is the closet and just how many closets I can find that hold my clothes! I've always intended to live out of a series of suitcases and be forever on the journey to finding all of the puzzle pieces that make up the girl I am. That, and make out with pretty boys, but who doesn't want to do that in their lifetime?
My roommate referred to me once as "untethered Heather." There's so much truth in that. My future is bright with the written word and shine of a glitzy party dress, but while I see that, I also see how very passionate I am for one day being able to create scholarships in colleges, this dream I have of creating a chain of bookstores modeled after one I used to go to as a child, and to be influential in supporting non-profit causes for children. It has always been my firmest belief to keep both style and substance hand in hand with the work I do. If I'm going to change the world, the change will be to better the lives of others while keeping in tune with creating aesthetically pleasing environments for others as well as myself. One cannot exist without the other. You can't be all work and no play. It leads you to the story of how I quit my job that I'm about to tell you.
It needs to be noted that my tolerance level for bullshit is exceedingly higher than most. I also tend to handle my anger differently than most people do. I've dealt with numerous unfair and outrageous situations and have often been a changed person afterward, more wary and careful to guard myself. All in all, I want to believe in the good, the kindness of people, but I've also known that some people just aren't capable of it. When I'm mad, I won't say it. I tend to look too nicely dressed and just smile at people. After someone yells at me, something begins to snap in my mind and while I won't lash out at that moment, I'm gearing up for a retort in the future. Sometimes you have to pick and choose your battles wisely to leave the right imprint upon that person to never, ever mess with you again.
For the last nine months, the job I had was my battle. My copywriter position. I had the position that advertising majors, PR graduates would easily push me out of the way for. I wrote all day long and received recognition for it. Writing for a yellow pages agency, I was able to use my versatility to translate into descriptions on any topic you could name. Locksmiths, French bistros, novelty stores? Ceiling repair, florists, escort agencies? I did it all and I did it with gusto. My work was often referred to as flawless by the upper management and I was determined to stay one year to get the experience I needed to move on to a bigger company (this one was too small to advance in).
What ended everything for me would ultimately be the upper management. It was the age-old case of CEO's who were all for one and one alone with little to no perks given to the employees. Nobody likes to see this written, no company wants to see their former associate trash them on the internet, but damnit it needs to be said and hey, at least I'm not so spiteful to include their name. Everyone in upper management with that company, from the president to the thorn in my side office manager, was on a power trip 24/7 with no end in sight. They would praise your writing one minute and scream at you to stop talking or else you could see yourself out of the door the next. There was never a "good day", only days where you wondered if the next one was your last. In that way that art imitates life, my life began to disturbingly resemble the film Sucker Punch, in which I was trapped within an awful reality and needed to escape inside of my head to better places, daydream myself somewhere nice to avoid where I was and getting dragged into that damn office where I would have to answer some inane question over a spreadsheet that we already went over four times.
I knew things were ending in December when my supervisor, who is one of my closest friends, quit because she was so unhappy. When she quit, the wife of my boss who also serves as the HR head actually told her that they normally wish people good luck when they leave, but in her case they weren't going to. My hatred for my bosses only grew seismically after this-and not just because at the time they had moved my desk to the corner of the office, alone and cut off from everyone else. All I did was talk. I get it when you talk too much and can't get any work completed, then yes, you need to scale back and focus on your task at hand. But when you get all of your work done on time and are just asking your supervisor how their weekend was and boom! The office manager runs out and bitches at you to be quiet. They moved my desk into the corner "to free up some space" but all of the girls knew it was to separate us. That day was the first, and luckily the last, that I went into the bathroom to cry because I knew it was all downhill from there. I was being punished as though I was in first grade. If wearing hats was allowed, I would surely be slapped with a dunce cap. But I knew better now. Through my tears, I knew they weren't going to get away with this.
I would not go down without a fight.
The endless list of things you couldn't do there was staggering. You couldn't eat at your desk. You couldn't wear sleeveless tops, open toed shoes, hats. You were not allowed to go online to check your email or even upload a picture for your computer desktop. You weren't allowed to talk to your coworkers, about anything. No one in the copywriter department was allowed to take a lunch break together. The bagels ordered on Tuesdays for the department were inexplicably stripped from us by the boss' wife. It was, as I put it in a rather un-PC way, turning into a concentration camp run by a bunch of Jews (the bosses were Jewish).
For the rest of December, I took action into my own hands in the isolated corner of the office, far from my former department. I began to work harder than ever while writing and disappeared into my own mind in a fantastic fantasyland where I was a superhero and flying at breakneck speed in the air, where I was on a plane flying to a new place, where I was laughing and free. I had some fairly regular fantasies swim in my head during that time, some of which were old memories I would rehash. Some of my fantasy sessions included being in and exploring London and various other countries, returning to the winding streets of San Francisco and imagining the life I could have had there that I gave up last May, the thought of seeing my family again (its been two years since we last were all together), and this last one is terribly tragic, but on occasion I would envision my ex-boyfriend from college and I getting back together. Very rarely still, I would even have the Cinderella fantasy that he would magically come bursting through the front door and save me. I used to have this thought about other friends of mine, that somehow they would be able to feel my pain and come find me to save me from this room, with no windows and utter silence for nine hours a day with only the sounds of my white trash office manager, bragging on the phone to clients that she was "seven years sober" and who would casually tell everyone in the lunch room about how she was once arrested for grand theft.
The thing about fantasies and daydreams is that no matter what, they end and your reverie is shattered by the reality all around you. My reality began to change in January when I felt it begin to fall apart all around me. My former roommate quit her job out of the blue in February and declared she would move out, barely giving me and my other roommate time to find a new roommate for our apartment even though she was supposed to find us someone. I began to apply nonstop for new jobs, everywhere and anywhere I could. No time zone could get me out of that hell fast enough and while I looked for a new job, we found a new roommate after countless horrendous interviews with potential girls who were just not right to live with.
You can fight or flight in these situations and while curling up in a ball in your bed is easier, while grief will invade your spirit and suck you free of joy, while you can hope that someone will rescue you, the only thing you can do for yourself is fight. Fight for your dreams, your ambitions and goals, remain optimistic, and never let go. No one will come to you, no one will fight your battle in your place. EVERYONE struggles and hurts and my pain can hardly be compared to the pain of others so I had to keep everything in perspective and live as carefully as possible. Careful to be ready for anything to change in a moment's notice. In my case I could have been gone (literally) from my beautiful apartment and on a plane home to my parent's house before I knew it.
You have to know when your time is up and when it all comes to a head, just what you will do. When the last straw has been broken and when you are no longer skating on thin ice, but drowning in it.
My time came to a head one week ago.
The final two weeks prior to my leaving the company were marked by a series of events. My current supervisor quit, leaving me next to take the seat that four people quit in the span of one year. That evens out to a 3 month longevity, ironically enough the same amount of time before my lease on the apartment would be up. So I could be miserable for 3 months and get rewarded with a resignation or a potential firing. Let it be known, upon hearing that my supervisor was resigning, I mildly considering quitting. I didn't though. My two roommates were the reason I stayed because I loved and cared for them too much to put them, and in the case of me and my other roomie who had just been down that road, through the anxiety and hell of breaking the lease.
The next series of events were my parade of job interviews, oh excuse me, my sick days. In the span of two weeks, I went on four job interviews. That is A LOT in this economy and for each one, I wore my best suit, nicest Calvin Klein heels, and brought in various portfolios and resumes of my work in, determined to wow them over. There is a point in the interview process where you can kind of tell if you're connecting with the people you're speaking with and in my case, I watched three interviews go up in flames despite my best attempts to get the interviewers to smile and laugh and you know, display human emotion. These people literally had no idea just how much they could have saved me from drowning in my reality, but in perspective, who's to say that their "saving me" would have led to a better life? I like to think that by not getting those jobs, it was always for the best.
The last interview last Friday went wonderfully well and I left it feeling very hopeful, with little worries built up that I would not get the position. Because even if I didn't, I accepted early on that everything would be okay. How, I didn't know, but I'd do everything I could to make it better. Thank God for the girls I worked with in my department. They were my sanity, my saving grace. They still are. Something brought us together and I know in my heart it was for the best. There were also five of us altogether, just like in Sucker Punch. Life imitating art once more. Jeez, I need to stop comparing my life to the movies so much.
The catalyst that set everything into motion for my departure occurred before the final interview in the foursome. My former desk in the corner had been restored to a new room, next to a window where I sat with two of my copywriter friends in front of the CEO's office, where the door was always open. The desk was restored in February and sitting with these two girls allowed for me to begin testing a little...something. A trick up my sleeve. My nickname at home used to be "The Instigator" because I enjoyed bringing up topics nobody enjoyed discussing because of bad memories. I also have a terrible habit of laughing when people get into arguments. You can trace this to my early childhood where my parents would find me at their first apartment, pressed up against the wall, chuckling at a fight between the couple next door like it was an episode of The Simpsons.
I began to test out just how much I could get away with talking. Each day, I would be sure to say a few extra sentences, raise my voice a bit louder, with the other girls encouraged to follow suit. I'm a fairly quiet person in general, but this rule, this lack of zero communication allowed, for a former communications major, this put me over the edge. What stemmed from this were the best conversations of your life, the ones you'll remember when your old and gray, because they were from girls fresh from college who didn't mind discussing everything and then some under the sun. We were the left side of the office, the more progressive side that could discuss Russian dynasties, viral Youtube videos on bedroom intruders and leprechauns that "coulda been a crackhead", serial killers, liberal drinking habits, and Katy Perry's tits all in stride. Anything goes and it did, growing all the more louder and louder with every passing day. We all did our work and well so there was no argument for us to not talk if it led to getting everything done in time.
The day my boss broke the final straw, I was wearing my hair in pigtails a la Babydoll in Sucker Punch (consider this the Easter egg of my post) and was excited for the movie to be released that Friday (same day as my final interview). The last words I spoke before the hammer fell were to my coworker, quoting a line from Half-Baked when Dave Chappelle mentions that he's "in custodial management, but a janitor if you want to be an ass about it."
"Heather!" My boss' voice boomed behind me and I turned around in my swivel chair, a half-smile on my face lingering still as he shouted, "You are no longer allowed to talk here! Not before or during work or else you and the rest of you girls," he nodded to the girls sitting around me, "are dismissed and can go walk out the door. No. More. Talking!"
Then my raging bitch of an office manager came right up behind him and announced, "No more talking ladies or you're out." She walked out of the room behind him.
My coworkers and I were unable to speak, we were that much in shock. My friend, A, sitting on my left raised one trembling middle finger to the wall where my bosses had just left.
I saw red for the next three hours until I excused myself to go to the bathroom where I sat on the floor, unable to cry, only able to fight and dig myself the fuck out of this job. I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror, where a pale face with blue eyes and red lipstick stared back. She was set. She was determined. She would leave and go somewhere better, where the pay was good, the people could talk, and hats could be freely worn.
I left the bathroom and passed my office manager in the hallway, waiting to use it after me. The look we gave each other was one I will never forget. Worse than looking at a stranger, it was a look empty of every emotion and of being human. The end was fast approaching and we both knew it would be me leaving next, by either getting hired somewhere else, quitting, or getting fired. She would lick the boots of the CEO and his wife if it ensured that she could stay because her employment life was over. 35, locked into a family, and with a criminal record. No matter where I went or the girl I became, I would be free because I would never choose to put myself through illegal activity, even if I could never handle the reality in front of me. That simply isn't how I was raised. I was taught to believe in integrity, honesty, hard work, and never resorting to becoming a second rate version of myself.
After the interview on Friday, I didn't expect to hear back until Wednesday and sat on Monday with the phone in my lap, tucked underneath my skirt so my bosses wouldn't see. (They can't tell me to lift my skirt, a big plus in keeping the phone safe.) I felt the phone begin to vibrate and saw the number for the company appear on the screen. I rushed out of the door and walked down the corridor, closer to the light after the last rainy weekend. Come to the light. So I did and heard on the other end of the phone that yes, I did get the position. Yes, they would pay me what I wanted and yes, I could start on Monday. And most importantly, yes, they were excited to work with me. Just as much as I was with them to manage their social networking process, my new position.
My coworker D was the first to find out because she was just coming out to go to the bathroom when I got off of the phone. "I GOT THE JOB!!" I screamed, delirious with joy and ran to hug her, as she was equally overjoyed to hear the news. I was done. DONE WITH THIS COMPANY FOREVER. The relief and the sudden rush of loads of endorphins overflowed within me until it felt like I might drop from exhaustion right on the spot.
I went back in and told the girls immediately who were all beyond excited for and with me. My office manager, She Who Cannot Keep Her Nose Out of Things Not Her Business, came out and critically viewed me up and down, "What's going on? Why are you smiling so much?"
I grinned extra wide at her, neatly smoothed my skirt, and looked her dead in the eye:
Oh, the look on that woman's face was priceless. Especially since this resignation came one week after my supervisor's. Hehe. HA HA!!! Suck on that, bitchface!
The next day I came in, dropped off my resignation letter to my bosses, ignored their begging me to stay because it was too little, too late (and boy did they beg, those assholes who nearly fired me the week before BEGGED me to reconsider staying in that hellhole), and kept my final day rocking with a sweet playlist of tunes all morning and afternoon.
And I did it all in cherry red high heels.
Cheers to my new job and all those fleeing their awful ones!
Love to you all,