Deep Breaths

The first 3 weeks of work have been interesting to say the least.

The role has changed back and forth multiple times. I have been unclear on what the role should be so I’ve done my best to contribute where I can and lie low.

I know from many years of experience with design groups to cultivate a relationship before I show my skills. They just don’t want to know. It’s the most ass-backwards culture on the planet. Fucking Fashion.

They landed on the role late last week and my office location changed. I’m back to a 1,5 hour commute each way. So much for any kind of financial or time break for me. That one thing, saving an hour a day, really might have been a saving grace for me. In any case, it’s done and gone.

So I move into the new role yesterday and get the clarity that it’s exactly similar to my old role in that design doesn’t want the role and design doesn’t want operational boundaries. Different from the first year of my previous role, there is no executive support on the design side. I now know what it feels like to be supported in a difficult or impossible role and then to be unsupported and be the fall guy. Being that fall guy nearly cost me my sanity and my life. I am NOT going back there.

I get the sneaky suspicion this is exactly what they want me to do. Go in, see what can be changed for operational profitability and force the change down designs throat.

No thank you. I cannot do it again.

That year was the worst of my life. I spent days crying and sobbing how I couldn’t be effective and how my boss was cruel to me. I hated that design didn’t like the “edicts” passed down through my department. While some of those rules still exist a year after my departure, and the boundaries are still in place, no one cares (meaning my boss) that a human was lost in the equation. I was a small price to pay for his success in this area. Oh, and the CEO was fired a month after me – so most of what I was working on went out the window with that CEO.

Thinking about and writing about last year causes me severe anxiety. I feel the tightness start low in my belly and come up through my chest. While I was sitting in my temporary space listening to the challenges ahead of me, the feeling crept up on me. That’s not good when my body is reacting before my mind has actually fully processed the pros and cons of this role.

The role is temporary with an opportunity for full time. I was covered to hire a maternity leave and now I’ve been placed into a brand new role that has never exhausted before. All my spider-senses are telling me to run for the hills.

Except. Except I need money because I have a family. Except I need money because I have a home. Except this company was in my top 5. Those 3 reasons alone are enough to suck it up buttercup.

So now the question is, how? How do I keep my mouth shut? How do I NOT demonstrate my strongest skills (the level is significantly below where I’ve been operating). How do I not make waves? I’ve been a leader for so long that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be entirely self sufficient. This is clearly a side effect of always being a leader of a large dept. I actually don’t even like some of the minutia I have to do because I haven’t done it in 20 years. That causes simple frustration on top of a learning curve.

My friends and family help to remind me I must work and this is a good job until I find what’s right. I also recently read an article in The NY Times about commitment bias and how we tend to stick with bad decisions because we are letting past actions dictate our future even when we know it’s irrational. I stayed in that role last year because of commitment bias: I was convinced I could correct my mistake. I couldn’t. I have since accepted that and learned from it. However, now that’s putting the fear of god in me for any new role. The article was short but impactful as it went on to say how overcoming these mistakes can manifest themselves as physical pain. I am learning that what happened to me last summer was truly a perfect storm of bad choices culminating in a final breakdown and inability to cope with anything. It’s frightening that it happened to me when I have been so strong all my life and certainly helped me reframe where to focus my priorities.

So while I’m not happy, I’m not totally unhappy. Someone who is exiting the company to raise her children gave me excellent advice yesterday: “No one has ever been in this role and no one is really watching, make it your own. Blaze a new path and do it through relationship.” I thought it was very insightful advice. Also, very scary because I don’t build immediate relationships as I’ve always been an acquired taste – so this is something that would put me out of my comfort zone and tools I need to develop.

So we shall see where this leads and how much newness, change and pressure I can truly tolerate. I realize my mind isn’t where it used to be, nor is my level of ambition. I don’t think I’ve lost my ambition, but it’s still on vacation at the moment. I’m not hungry right now as I’m still nourishing my body and soul.

It’s such a shame our culture, the city I work in, and the industry I work for all use people up and spit them out. There is no real work life balance here and I have to ultimately determine if I can live with that and very little income, or go back to what I’m used to.

Author: Madeline Harper

My journey through divorce and an emotional and sexual reawakening. Love, laughter, friendships, family and heartbreak included. And there is sex, lots of it, so close your eyes and turn the page if that's not for you! While I started this blog as an endeavor to journal my thoughts and feelings in an attempt to better understand myself, it has become an amazing platform from which I have met some of the most interesting and wonderful people in my life. My path is often crooked, but I hope you will share in the journey with me.

4 thoughts on “Deep Breaths”

  1. Is there any way you can parlay your fears here into a constructive wish-list to share with a superior next time you have an HR_type checkin with them? Figuring out what you want and don’t want in your job is really empowering. If you are working with big-personality creative-types, it can be easy to fear that you can’t have these kinds of convos (I am immediately thinking of you working for someone like Anna Wintour!), but you can also set an example at your workplace as someone who sets boundaries around being treated respectfully, transparently, that you aren’t just signing on for whatever dysfunctional rollercoaster the office sociology manifests.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Nich! Yes, I will need to do that cautiously. They are still in these high level meetings working out the role because of all the push back from the creative leads. Luckily, they are defending a part of their turf that I really don’t want to do anyway – it’s just finding what will make the role worthwhile. I’m hoping the people I would be counterparts with will “let me in” as a shadow so I can get an idea of what it is I can contribute and would like to do. I am stuck in my own head on this one for sure.

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  2. Anxiety is really good at convincing us all the shadows are the monsters we have fought before. Give yourself some time. If anything, being in a role makes you more palatable than when you’re unemployed. And I agree that blazing your trail and making this job your own is a really juicy opportunity. Write up a manifesto. I agree with the above commenter that letting Your lead understand your concerns about it being wobbly is a good idea- but don’t present it as parallel to old role, or as a negative. Use the time to state your manifesto. ‘This is what I have to do, these things matter. And this (referring to the shit you’re not willling to be under the bus about) … this isn’t my job. And that way you’re carving out your destiny and making it clear you’re not to be trifled with. They should get behind it. And if they don’t, or it is terrible… Leaving is something you can always excuse with the commute change once you really have your bearings- if it’s the worst job ever, you leave talking of how the location changed early and you wanted to tough it out but the work life balance wasn’t working- that’s actually a really nice situation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s great feedback! This is also what my closest friends are saying. A lot of the anxiety is in my head. People are welcoming and seem to appreciate that I’m in a shitty role right now. I’m going to do my best to work with it. I think, in this case, a lot of it is disappointment in myself for a “lower level job” and really a job I no longer want to do. I can’t focus on the positive here for some reason and I’m stuck. This is definitely a situation where I need to get out of my own head and out of my own way if it’s going to work.

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