Back in March, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty quit his job. It was biggish news. I saw it on twitter and I saw this photo with the tweet and I said to myself, That is a happy man. That is a happy man who just quit his job and dammit, I want to have that happy face too.
After I saw the photo I declared my last planned day of work — October 10th, 2014 — to be Flaherty Day and wrote it in my work day-planner, taking great pleasure in the secret of it.
A month later he died, which saddened me, not because I knew JF at all but because people should get to enjoy their retirements. I don’t want to call today Flaherty Day anymore, as it seems somehow disrespectful.
And, as it turned out, my last day of work was back in July and I have been slacking and/or parenting since then, but this week and its significance is still on my mind.
This week last year I went back to work for the first time since Eli was born. I was excited and nervous, in a healthy way. I had found a job that was half time — five work days for every ten week days — and I had sorted out child care and it was time!
Time to “…put a foot back in the door to see how I could edge the rest of my body through.”
(I’m quoting from a document of roughly eighteen pages that I’ve been adding to since last November. The document is entitled “I Call It Progress: An Account of One Year in A Horrible Job.” [That’s a working title.] <--That's a terrible pun. As you were.) I started work and it was okay for a few weeks. Then, the woman whose job it was to train me to do her job started training me. She had issues. The issues were nothing I could do anything about, but I am a FIXER and a PLEASER and I tried to fix and please for a long time before I realized, sometime in February, that it was never going to happen. We didn't click. She tried to train me and I couldn't learn from her. So I sucked at the job, and our boss took sides against me because, fair enough, I was new. No one could understand why I was so unable to do the job and I couldn't find a way to explain myself that wouldn't start an office war. How do you walk in to an office where someone has run the show for six years, including training lots of temps (first clue), and say, "you're bad at teaching people things and also very grumpy and disrespectful." I couldn't and didn't. That's where we started. It got worse from there. *waves eighteen typed pages* Oh but those are just details, things I wrote down because I knew once it was over I'd forget how awful it had been and try to excuse everyone at my own expense. The important part of the story is that I eventually got better at the job and also stronger and better at being a human being. Having never worked in such an emotionally poisonous environment, I tried to make it better and when that failed, I at least wanted to enjoy my days off, not spend them fretting about work. So I exercised more. I wrote in my journal more. I drank more alcohol. I bought more things because if the job is so bad, but the money is good, use the money! (Spoiler alert: it doesn't really work.) I read books like "One Minute Meditations to Calm Your Anxious Mind." I chanted mantras as I drove to work. I ate Rescue Remedy lozenges. I engaged in magical thinking around the songs I heard on the radio on the way to work. I tried to focus on the things I brought to the job, like pleasantries and positive energy, despite it all. I celebrated my persistence. I celebrated my professionalism; that I did not complain or gossip at work, that I continued to GO to work every week and bring my best game, that I saved my bitterness and misery for after hours. By breathing deeply and reminding myself that eventually I would leave, that other peoples' perceptions of me did not change who I was, that though I never received any positive feedback, the (eventual) absence of NEGATIVE feedback probably meant I was doing better, I eventually got to a place where I did not have panic attacks at my desk when I had to approach my unpleasant co-worker for the answer to a question. It never got fun. But I could eventually draw a clear line in my head between my issues and hers, and stay on my own side. It was June when I decided I would not stay on past my term ending in October, even if they asked me to, which was doubtful but you never know. A few days later, I was called in for a meeting and laid off because of financial constraints. That last month of work contained the most splendid of all the days. There was cake. There were other co-workers saying nice things to me and offering references. There was an absence of unpleasant co-worker, because she'd had a death in the family near the end of the month. Having come through it and feeling competent, finally, days before I left the job forever brought home to me that I deserve more, and better, and more better. We all do. Why do a job that suffocates you when you walk in the door?
So Happy Last Day to you all. I hope, if you are suffering in a terrible job/situation, that you can find your way out, or find something to redeem the experience, or some way to hang on until it ends. Let the happy face of Jim Flaherty — may he rest in peace — guide you towards finding that happy place for yourself.