05 May 2007

Shrugging off Girl Friday

It's been one of those weeks, folks...you know how they can be. On paper, this past week was supposed to be a good one...work three days and help out a friend in need (and her family) out in the western part of the state for about two, and help out another here locally going through some legal hell for another. Then...glorious weekend!...I would rest on the seventh day. In theory, it looked good, almost planned even. In reality, the week has been a total bust and I find myself too busy to even post or do much emailing this week (sorry about that) and too disenchanted today to do anything other than lick my wounds.

Work especially has been a corker this week, and that comes from some one who until recently was happily wrapped up in a ton of work projects. I had a pretty strong disagreement with one of my bosses on Monday, about my limitations as a worker and, specifically, how much I can reasonably handle. Depending on the week, I do about two jobs which, on paper, are assigned 20 hours a week on average each but always end up being closer to 30 hours each (with the salary of only 40 hours total). Recently, though, I've been handed yet another 20+ hours a week job which is pulling in me in yet another direction, with another set of goals, with another set of deadlines (same salary). So frankly this blow up about what I can reasonably do now has been a long time coming.

I realise fully that in some ways I have created this mess on my own...by being the Girl Friday to Everybody, no one thinks I have a right to say no and when I actually do say it, that seems to trigger some sort of in-house work emergency. (Monday's little spat started because I was on a conference call and couldn't be interrupted and no one except me recognised that need...on a day where I had come in from being off to complete a deadline, no less. And it just went downhill from there...) If I had pushed back earlier in my career here on what I would/would not do, I probably would still be in this situation a little (it's always been in my work personality to do and give a little more than others), but no where near as badly. Now, as I realised on Monday, apparently me saying 'no' or that 'I've got too much already on my plate' is simply not recognized. And it's infuriating to finally accept you're not a name, you're not a person with limits or a personal life away from work, but instead are just a 'cog in the wheel'. For a 'can do' person such as myself, weeks like this past one just sucks any inspiration, any drive, any enthusiasm for the work straight out of me.

Talking about it with a trusted co-worker only reinforces how much of a doormat I've been. It's always a bit amazing to hear how other people 'see' you, especially when you don't see yourself in that same manner. My friend sees me as driven ('to the point of being a workaholic like a man', whatever that means...actually I find men easier to work with than women as there tends to be far less drama), but as a person who needs to control the smaller details of things to perfection. That 'control vibe' makes others just come to me with the smallest of items for me to fix (one of the issues that got this all started was that two printers had paper jams and no one could 'fix' them except me, which was totally bogus) instead of handling it themselves. The friend asserts I've made them dependent on me, and I haven't done enough to make them stand on their own. While I see her point, I'm not sure I totally agree with it, as many people there can or did do all of these things once, but somehow these tasks 'became' my responsibility. And no, I don't know when or how they did, but I fully admit I've never thrown a fit about it, either. I've always been for doing 'whatever it takes to get the job done right the first time' and always have been, whether or not it's in the official job description or not. If I see something that needs to be done and I know how, I generally do it to keep things running smoothly. In other jobs, that's been a godsend between myself and my superiors; in the current job, it's causing some unraveling as the 'list' only continues to grow.

After reading up in old college texts I haven't touched in almost a decade, I feel like Pavlov and his dog now...as I've been studying how to correct and 'relearn' behaviours after certain response triggers. Will it work? Who knows...as I'm not even sure if I'm Pavlov retraining my co-workers or if I am the dog here needing to find a good trainer. Honestly, I'm not sure it's even worth the effort...I'm that unhappy. But I also recognize this negativity has been building well before this week. Maybe this and a host of other little trespasses on my ego...I didn't even get a card for Administrative Professionals Day because, you guessed it, I didn't get it for myself when I got the other secretaries, etc, their cards and gifts...is quickly becoming the straw that breaks the camel's back. Again, I don't know. All I do know for certain is that I'm completely worn out physically, mentally, and emotionally. So, yeah, happiness and success with my work is really important to me. In that sense, maybe I am like a man as my job defines a good deal of who I am as a person and because I don't have a spouse or children to dote over like so many girlfriends of mine. (Egads! At age 37, too! I suppose I should have multiple cats by now or something.) But also, for the first time in many, many years, I dread going to work.

I realise quickly that there is a serious disconnect between what I need from a job and what I want, and that's not necessarily a new phenomenon. In times past, I've suffered through because I had bills to pay or a had acquired a recent promotion. But eventually the bloom comes off the rose as I learn (far too late) that I've given far more to my employer than I could ever how to get back in a tax-deductible wage and benefits package. I've never been one for in-office politics so much, and that's another drawback that keeps coming up: if you're not a 'player', you might as well be a piece of furniture. I'm in a bit of better place financially now (although no thanks to the car repairs also from this week, another entry that will come when I've properly resolved it and calmed down), and I'm learning new skills and meeting new contacts outside of work...so there are places in which to redirect my energies. Language, computer certifications (at long last), human resources and training...all of these fields hold potential for me, if I can just get a handle on 'the how' to make them work to my advantage. And gather the mental energy to do so.

For the last few years, I had invested so much in getting the skills needed to help with my (hopeful) immigration to Oz, but due to the actions and decisions of others, that's not to be. Gradually, I've accepted this outcome and now rely on 'what goes around, comes around' karma to settle that score (with thanks to Oz immigration). For better or for worse, in the pursuit of the Oz goal, I took classes and learned skills for what I thought would be a good fit for an international employer; these classes and skills are good to have, mind you, but ultimately aren't serving any current work purpose. And, in licking my wounds this weekend being a sloth on the sofa, I'm making a list of what I want and what I don't want from my job anymore: not only with the current employer, but with future ones down the line. It's been rather cathartic really as I haven't done this since I really decided I wanted to move to Oz in 2002. Painful when realising I haven't moved forward much at all in those five years, but cathartic still the same. It's rather humbling really when I notice how much I've 'settled', how much I passed up on in pursuit of saving money or in how much I was planning on living 'there' and not 'here'...how little I was willing to give up of myself of in pursuit of that dream. Maybe that was the straw that broke this camel's back, but I've just had my head in the sand all this time and was too caved in to notice it.

Time will tell, I guess. In the meantime, it's back to sorting out 'the better job description' and I'll see where that takes me. And storing up some inner 'drive' to go to work again on Monday.

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