All in Vain or The Nail That Sticks Up Gets Hammered Down

Written by: A Vain Colleague at the Water-Cooler


It’s time to reboot.

From the time I was a child I was planning my career path. The Barbies and GI Joes I played with all had what I had always considered “suitable jobs.” Attorneys, doctors, nurses, businessmen and women, scientists, researchers, and then there was the occasional artist and singer. I envisioned myself single, sharp, strong, and focused. I imagined myself in a pressed business suit, starch white shirt with a precise collar line, hair pulled up tight and severe, and I even had the requisite glasses. I was always direct, in these little fantasies of mine, and that directness was a fresh breath of air to my superiors, springing me up the food chain.

Can’t even climb to the top without someone looking up your skirt. And it doesn’t hurt to climb that ladder in heels, either.

That is a vision that has been lost over time.
I have a career. That much I will say about it. It isn’t satisfying. I feel as though it “should” be (don’t “shoulds” get us into an awful lot of trouble?), and so does everyone else. Ever. It doesn’t help define who I am, as I had once dreamed it could. I’m sure any person who was career and success-minded wanted to find a career that was so utterly satisfying that they would be proud to say “I am a doctor.” Or, “I am an attorney.” They could say it with a swell in their chest and a slight ego boost at the sound of their own words laying their identity out for display.
I am a therapist.

That’s about right.

(Please note that the following text has nothing to do with the clientele, but rather the work environment.)
That doesn’t bring pride. That doesn’t help my ego. That doesn’t bring a swell to my chest. Those words almost give me shame. Why? I’ve become a twisted version of who I wanted to be. A “professional”, I rarely have the energy to wear make-up, do my wild hair, or wear pressed business attire. Hell, I don’t even own an ironing board (not that I would use it if I had one). I wear business casual- as comfortable as I can get. I am single, but ungracefully so.  Like I said before, I’ve let time wear on me, and while I was once sharp and focused, knowing precisely what my goals were and what my company’s goals were (which, as a child, were MY goals, as my made-up company was an extension of my own psyche), I am now dull, numb, and pretty much oblivious to the bigger picture of not only my life, but also the company for which I’ve worked. I haven’t committed to a job for any notable length of time since I graduated with my Master’s Degree. Sure, I did work for one company for 2 years, but only because my roles kept changing dramatically over that time span. And not only am I oblivious- I’ve come to not care about the office setting. While I’m direct, I’m also indirect. I’m passive aggressive. I’m quick to anger and anxiety. I’m emotional.

(Notice how so little of this is focused on the actual job itself? The people? The healing? The unconditional positive regard? And what happened to “Physician, heal thyself”??
I haven’t been delegated that task yet, sorry.)

I am a reflection of my own work environment. I am a reflection of those I work with.
The goal of my department in which I worked (at the time of this writing)? Keep doing what has always been done to bring the most people in, thus increasing our income. My goal? Keep doing what has always been done to bring the most money in, thus paying for the exorbitant amount of student loans required for a career that brings in so little, financially speaking.
The people I work with- passive aggressive, pawning of responsibility, shrinking from daily duties and waiting for others to pick up the slack (that’s where I normally come into the picture- I’m the person who catches their, uh, backwash), hostile, and manipulative.

Who would have thought? All things considered, anyway. While cognitively I understand that this is essentially like any other workplace, I suppose I had a higher standard or higher expectations of the other “professionals” I would be meeting.

How can I regain control and, by doing so, bring back my own identity (only a more serene and complete version of me)?
-Don’t take anything personally. What they do is how they’ve adapted to a highly stressful work environment. This is their coping.
-Pace yourself. It is easy to work at a frantic pace here to keep up. Either way, the job will get done, and people will be taken care of. This is the point, no?
-Find outside sources of relief. Don’t spend all weekend thinking about how glad you are to be away from work, or anticipating the end of the weekend and the start of the work week. You are still focusing on work even when you are not working. Take “work” out of your weekend verbage.
-Take care of yourself. If you even so much as take a restroom break around here, at times, people get upset because you aren’t there. Take restroom breaks. TAKE LUNCH BREAKS. Take a moment to just breathe. It makes a huge difference in your day and your perception of it.
-Start out by thinking that this is just passing time right now until you actively seek out something better. This isn’t where you will always be. It is a way to pass time and make cash. Seek fulfillment elsewhere- it isn’t here, and if it is here, it is here in small doses. Find those, work with those, and remember, you are not your job.
A Vain Colleague
PS from “Vanity Rush”: Here are some pretty look book thingies to glance at:






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