Why a Great Job Is the Best Kind of Relationship

7 Sep

I don’t care what anyone says, there are times where you should just take a break from writing, even if writing is your job.

These past few months have been one of those times. After following the strict but sage advice of one of my writing mentors, Linda Formichelli, I read her book “Commit.” Unfortunately, “committing” to something also involves “un-committing” to everything else.

After an important conversation with my husband, I determined not long after my last post that I’d start looking for a job. A “real” one. That is one where the paychecks are steady and you actually are within a working environment around other people.

I sent a blanket email to a lot of then very important people in my life that I had committed to saying, essentially, “I’m sorry, but I quit.”

It’s the self sabotaging email that perfectionists with anxiety send out more often than they should.

I was really surprised at the responses (or lack thereof). Most of the people who I had recently committed to responded almost immediately and said, “I’m here. I can help.” Some of these people were barely my acquaintances, because I had just joined their organizations a short time ago.

Others I considered my closest friends ignored the email or later gave terse responses after some prodding. I was disappointed and was finally able to express that much later, but it reminded me that the only people in my life who are consistently there for me didn’t get involved much in my business  – that’s my tried-and-true friends and family.

Despite coming to this devastating realization, I moved on. A few weeks after Loving Day, I started a new job and, like any great relationship, I find myself not having to prove much of anything. It took one interview (well, three with different people in one day) and about a month to show that I know what I’m doing.

Again, I was surprised. These people barely knew me, and every job always takes a warming period. Because I’m an introvert and overachiever, I have to soften my motto of “I don’t come to work to make friends” or Scandal’s overarching theme that black women have to work twice as hard to get half the benefits. Because I only have one officemate and most of my co-workers are in other buildings, when I’m near their offices, I stop myself to say hello, to catch up. Most of them are usually very busy, but I like to preface my stops with that acknowledgement.

I want my stops with them to be like a gentle reminder that there’s more to work than just being stuck staring at a computer screen. Plus, it’s forced me to pull out of this social funk you tend to enter when you work from home.

So, like most new relationships, there has to be some effort on my part. You don’t expect to become besties after a few interactions. But I mean when I say, “Great relationships mean not having to try as hard,” something I learned from a former friend many years ago.

The right job (or relationship):

  1. Minimizes mistakes. Yes, the ideal job is supposed to be one where you grow and learn to lessen the amount of mistakes you make. But as someone with anxiety and bad run-ins with bosses and co-workers, I was afraid of even making the smallest mistake. My boss is quick to say, “It’s no big deal,” and she means it. She’s not going to bring it back up again or threaten to take away my job. If a boss (or friend/romantic partner) tells you, “It’s okay,” you’ve got a real winner.
  2. Celebrates the small wins. Every time I sent an email where I wanted to hold back on congratulating myself, I get replies that are encouraging, even when the final results of my project aren’t quite what I wanted. This is the marker of a great job or a great relationship – where folks make it a point to congratulate the smallest achievements.
  3. Ignores the things that don’t affect success. I’ve had jobs where I was told what I wore was inappropriate (the “yoga pants incident”). Or that my personality was too open. (Vague speak for “We are frightened by your drive/attitude/behavior because you’re too young/too angry black woman/not black enough.”) It was really demeaning experiences. I have roaring laughs, joke a lot and tend to get overly excited or enthusiastic about things. My bosses and co-workers aren’t (openly any way LOL) irritated or see these traits as flaws. In fact, my enthusiasm was a bonus during the interview process and still works today. (Although my boss will tell you it was my writing, not my winning personality, that landed me the job LOL) My husband has seen me with good hair days maybe 3 months out of the almost five years we’ve been together LOL. The rest of time it’s damaged, kinky, stinky or just boring. But he doesn’t care. Quirky or even annoying personality traits are simply hurdles to overcome in a solid relationship. They aren’t used as excuses to end things or make things difficult.
  4. Gives you reasons to stick around during the rough times. Despite the fact I’ve garnered something of a dream job, part of that “dream” includes all of the crap I have to endure – mainly the inordinate amount of walking during hot weather. Also, it really, really sucks to get sick when you don’t have a lot of sick leave and your boss is out of town at the same time. (Oh, dear Lord.)Life is fraught with problems. The older I get, the more I realize “Everybody’s got something.” It helps me to empathize more and complain less. My “somethings” may seem like the end of the world to me, but I have plenty of friends  whose “somethings” are worse.(This brings me to an aside: if you’re like me and you suffer from a mental illness like anxiety or depression, never, ever, ever downplay your “something.” That’s what contributes to the stigma that having an unseen illness isn’t “as bad” as someone who experiences physical illnesses or disabilities. I’ve been trying for years to get over that…to not see what I’m experiencing as something to just get over.

    What you’re experiencing is real. It’s valid. And when it affects your life, it’s okay to talk about it.)

Every relationship is a challenge, but it should never be a constant uphill battle. Sadly this was something I was beginning to experience working from home and within certain relationships.

Even the people we dislike the most have a “something” to overcome. We have the ability to use it to make our dream jobs or relationships come true.

But don’t work *too* hard at it.

 

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2 Responses to “Why a Great Job Is the Best Kind of Relationship”

  1. Ayelet Weisz September 22, 2016 at 3:21 am #

    So very, very happy for you about how well it’s going in your job, Willi! You sound really happy with it, and that’s what really matters. Plus, your coworkers sound like amazing people.

    Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your roaring laugh, tendency to make jokes, or your enthusiasm are negative traits. Hope you laugh out loud every day, as loud as possible :):)

    I know it’s tough when friends and family aren’t as supportive as we want them to be. I’ve dealt with that too, and it sucks. Not everyone really understands what we’re doing, or wants to understand, or they’re scared for you and trying to protect you instead of just being there for you the way that supports you best as you thrive. If they’re there for other areas of your life like you said, they probably love you a lot.

    Just keep doing what you’re doing. Keep stepping outside your comfort zone. Keep connecting with people at work. Keep a bottle of water on those hot walks. And keep realizing your dreams and laughing out loud, because you totally rock and I have no doubt you can create the kinda life you want for yourself.

    • Willi September 22, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

      You’re the best! I haven’t forgotten we need to do Skype calls. Just been kinda crazy.

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