all these buckets of rain
I take my work seriously. Probably too seriously. For a while, this aspect of my character almost broke my spirit.
I grew up surrounded by adults who worked very hard for very little–who never had actual careers–just jobs–that mostly chewed them up and spit them out. My parents were smart, talented people who got caught up in the cycle of poverty and addiction. The closest thing I had to a role model of the American Dream–or success–was my Papa. My Papa was illiterate his whole life. He only learned how to sign his name when he met my Grandma Brite. He worked his family farm until the Great Depression wiped them out, and then he moved his family to “town.” AKA Fargo. There, he worked on building the railroad, and he retired from the railroad decades later. Back then, such work was honorable, and often meant home ownership was possible if you just worked hard enough. My Papa was an immigrant who was ashamed of his non-American roots, but he proved his love for his country every single day and his belief in this dream fueled mine, too. I loved my Papa–probably more than any other adult on this planet other than my Mama. To this day, he is a total inspiration to me, and he is a huge part of who I am when it comes to work.
While my Papa made me a hard worker and a dreamer, my parents’ lives taught me everything I didn’t want to have in my life. Namely, I didn’t want to be a faceless cog in some corporate Hellhole. I was taught to speak up, so I never wanted to be told what to do. I never wanted to be managed. I was always aware of my talent and my intelligence. I was always aware of my bullheaded determination and ability to get things done. But for me, it was important that I received recognition from others. Being seen is really important to me. I can put up with many things, if I’m not creatively engaged, but not being appreciated is not one of them. My Mama knew that about me and often guided my teachers in how to handle me. Once I got to a place of feeling apathetic, it was hard to get me to support whatever goal someone had for me. And man, has that been true in my professional life. I need to feel respected, and if you respect me, I’ll be eternally loyal. If not, I will run faster than you can blink.
Most of my employers never appreciated me. It’s a big reason why I hated the work I did for so long–and why I felt like I needed more for so long. I would remain loyal to managers, but eventually, the dam would break and I’d stop giving a damn. Knowing I needed to get far away to be happy. It caused me to question why I did any of this if no one cared except me.
I really, really care about my work. And it bothers me when others aren’t as committed to doing the right thing. I’m often left cleaning up messes, so this can be a severe stress point for me and something that can cause severe depression if I don’t manage it. I just don’t enjoy this aspect of American work life.
A little over a year ago, I decided to leave the company I’d worked with for maybe the longest part of my life since my Mama died. I started working there at a very turbulent time in my life, and working there helped me get over a lot of the BS I had felt about my work before–things that took me out of the industry for a while. This new job helped me find higher meaning in a job that I previously felt was completely worthless. I was able to find inspiration through service. I recommitted in a big way and found a work family for a while. But things were unstable and difficult. I was betrayed by some people. My boss, though, was the one person who always had my back–so I didn’t want to leave and stayed longer than I should. Last year, I finally left–knowing I just couldn’t continue.
I was extremely picky about where I went. And, of course, nothing came easy. I found the ideal company, but I had some real qualms about the client I was assigned to, and I really really felt conflicted. Now, I still sometimes feel conflicted, but I mostly know that I am doing good in this world. That means sometimes I get to do big things. Today, I was part of strategizing some awesome things supporting social justice initiatives in my company, and I’m just so grateful. I’m grateful to work for kind, giving people who walk their talk–who want to help people and really empower all of us to do better.
I’ve always felt like major change only comes about as the accumulation of many small changes, done by many. For me, it starts with me–in how I treat my loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers. It starts with my home, my neighborhood, my state. My workplace, my school, my life.
I’m so happy to be part of a small chorus of voices who are all equally committed in being part of the change and not just whining about it on social networks.