Friday, February 27, 2015

Crossing the line

A terrible workday today, capping off a week of difficult workdays, yet distinguished not so much by my inability to complete all my tasks (I never get everything done) or even my realization that I would have to leave some things unfinished that I've always managed to complete somehow in the past--

But wait. Stop. It's that "somehow" creeping in, when I know precisely how. In the past, week after week, I've sacrificed time and banked it against these Friday deadlines. Not today. Today I needed to leave at 4:30, my scheduled time, and when I saw that it was assumed I would stay late, and when I felt pressured and was subsequently derided for not staying over, something in me finally snapped. Why do I do this? For whose benefit? At little more than ten dollars per hour, the difference in pay is negligible. How did it become so important to me to be the one (the only one) who always arrives on time, who can always be counted on to do more, to constantly interrupt my own work in order to assist others but get negligible help in return? How did I miss the line between hard work and exploitation?

Yet I knew this, too. The corporation that employs me doesn't care about my happiness or well-being; it has no interest in providing me or my coworkers with a living wage.

I'm good at my job. I'm very good at it, I think, and I think my coworkers would agree: I'm dependable, knowledgeable, capable. I take time to help and explain. But here's the thing I keep forgetting: I have been good at every job I've held in my adult life (the sullen teen years should not be counted against anyone). And the only reason I hang onto my current job is that the prospect of searching for, and securing, a new one completely terrifies me.

Okay. Not completely. Not now. When David died, I threw myself into my writing and gardening, choosing not to look for a job and living instead on some insurance money. When Randy died, I threw myself back into work after a week of immobilizing grief and shock. I had no one to go home to now, I remember thinking. But what an awful lie. I have me. When did I let my needs become so minimized? Why did it take me so long to cross the line and say, stop. Stop. This isn't working for me. This isn't who I am or what I want. And even though I'm still frightened by the open-endedness that follows saying No, the sudden yawning space of what-next and how to navigate that (emotionally, financially, logistically), I'd rather set out in fear than grind myself down in service to a soulless corporation.

I'm not quitting my job. I can't afford to, not today. But whatever happens, I am better than this. I deserve better than this.