Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Lying In It

I've never understood that old saying, the one that starts with You made your bed...but that's the phrase that keeps running through my head these days, over and over, like a soundtrack in a foreign language: You made your bed--now lie in it.

What I have made, truly, is a big old mess. I have somehow landed myself smack in the middle of an episode of The Office, except that my new boss is both competent and productive. So what's the problem?

Where shall I begin?

The flourescent lights, for one. They make my head hurt. The eerie, buzzing quiet. The recycled air on the 6th floor of a Metairie high-rise. The parking garage. The quota. The fact that, despite the fairly frank conditions I set forth in the interview, I am expected to stay until 5 p.m. or later every single day. This last one alone is enough evidence of my dilemma.

And so I find myself in an awkward position. I love the work, I love my clients (appropriately), I really love being a clinical social worker. But this is bad, so bad, and I don't know how to extricate myself. I have spent the last 3 weeks in a state of near-perpetual agony, wondering what in the hell I was thinking, why did I do it, how can I get it back, why am I crying again, am I really going to do this in front of the gas station attendant? Again?

It's funny: when a big crisis hits, I'm cool as a cucumber (see Hurricane Katrina, 2005). But when faced with a crisis of personal meaning, I'm all over the place. I'm a total mess.

I've found that in times like these I start to notice everything--I become hyper-alert, my senses primed for incoming stimuli. Maybe it's that survival instinct kicking in, searching for new information to counteract the old. Whatever the reason, I happened to be sitting in an office the other day, trying not to cry, when I noticed a small scrap of paper in a frame on the wall. The paper contained a quote attributed to Helen Keller:

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

Leave it to someone with real problems to make mine seem pretty inconsequential.


Emmy said...

Thanks for the beautiful quote. I'm going to steal it for myself.

I'm sure your new job has some probationary period, eh?

rcs said...

Jeez, my sympathies... is it just the acclimatization to the cubicle/structured environment that's proving rough? If that's the case, try to hang in there... eventually your psyche WILL ADJUST to the new routine. Because it has to. Whether or not this is a good thing in the long-term will remain to be seen.

I was laid off from a dot-com shortly after 9/11 and after an uncomfortable period of unemployment took a job in Baton Rouge. So I went from mornings spent telecommuting from Bayou St. John to a daily commute to and from BR - up at 4:45AM, home at 6:30PM. The job itself was cubicles and C-level types and fairly unimaginative work. This went on for almost 3 years. Eventually I adjusted to the long hours on the road and the boredom and fatigue. But that was more because I HAD to - the job itself lacked any potential. Looking back, it introduced a lot of stress into my life that I was ill-equipped to handle.

Counterpoint: my girlfriend at the time moved from personally rewarding but very stressful public-sector work to a Fortune 500 firm. New office, big raise, benefits... but initially she was VERY worried that she wouldn't fit in with the new culture, the new job wouldn't be flexible enough, etc etc... anyway, after a few months and with some work under her belt she became identified as a star employee and began to thrive in her new career.

So I guess my question is, does keeping your job have enough positive aspects to merit sticking it out for another few months and coping with the adjustment?

I hope these anecdotes lend some perspective; I'm not intending to directly compare our experiences nor trivialize your discomfort. I hope it works out for you.

Leigh C. said...

Ohh, honey. I'm so sorry. Hang in there. I agree with rcs: you gotta weigh the positives and the negatives about the job and see how you do. What you're feeling is not small at all. It is very real to you and can affect your life outside the job. Take it seriously, but not too. Balance, madame. 8-)

ashley said...

OK, I'm naive.

Can you ask for your old job back? As the current employer has violated your contract (the 5:00 thing), it seems to me like it might just be worth it.

Penso, logo existo said...

Great quote...

It seems to me that you need to put your foot down, and demand those things that were previously agreed upon. If they are not met, then I have no doubt you will be able to find something else that does, indeed, fit your needs and satisfies... Put yourself five years from now, and try to look "back" at your situation retrospectively... I think you may notice how easy it "was" to a)move on, or 2)lay down your own law...

As much as you may feel it right now... You are NOT trapped!

(jeesh, I should take my own advice!)

Charlotte said...

You haven't made the big ole mess, hon. You've just joined the real mess of the working world. What is said in an interview and what actually happens are two different things. You're a clinical social worker? Get ready for long hours, calls from panicking patients, endless mind-numbing meetings.
That's the M.O. of healthcare and healthcare-related work.

It's like that all over. Give it a couple of months. When I first worked in a Psyche hospital, I cried every night and every morning, I dreaded going to work and I was constantly stressed. But I hung in there and it ended up being one of the best jobs I've had, although the most stressful. It was stimulating, interesting and I learned alot.
Good luck!