“Is this it”
I remember as I sat outside on my lunch breaking during my first full time job and struggling to find an answer. This chapter of my ‘adult life’ had only just started to unfold so I knew I was limited by my experience, but I wanted to believe that the past few years of school and university, was for something more than that this. I accept responsibility now, and understand the consequences of a ‘going with the flow’ mentality with little attention given to the future beyond the belief that ‘it will workout’. That’s exactly what I believed while studying, assuming I only needed to focus on graduating and that would also lead to a job which would lead to me being content and happy. Things would be fine.
I was wrong on both assumptions. Getting a job took months, which in my youth, naivety, and current emotional state, I was not prepared for. The rejections piled up, and given that I was still coming to terms with a recent break up, I mistakenly took getting dumped and struggling to find work as indicators of my self-worth. Things that I now know are just a part of life’s expected trials, no different to learning to walk and falling in the process. At the time however, I found myself progressively lying awake at night with a rapid heartbeat, holding conversations was hard, I felt a sense of panic in public, my mouth was always dry and getting out of bed was like running an obstacle course. On an inner level things were worse. Google told me what I didn’t want to hear, the funny, outgoing, motivated person that I was known as, was apparently ‘depressed’. A long visit to my family Dr improved my perspective on things. I had just encountered a ‘rut’, regardless how deep i was, my feelings were situational, thus had the chance to improve. Two years later, sure, it feels like I have gone from rut to rut, but I’ll continue with the story.
When I did eventually get a job, I could tell very early on that things were not going to be just fine. The company was full of people who were happy in their roles, but I discovered how I felt about something I had never done or given much thought to before, spending 8 hours in front a computer, repeating several of the same tasks and having the repetitive superficial conversations with customers. Of course initially, it was great to have a weekly wage, learn new skills and take on a new challenge. That was until I had learned how to do the tasks with minimal attention and the only challenge I had was from the hands of the clock that seduced my attention on an almost second to second basis.
Unable to disguise my true character like someone trick-a-treating in casual clothes, my lack of enthusiasm was evident. A self funded holiday, promotion and a drastic salary increase definitely added a bit of bounce in my steps when I would come through the doors ‘just on time’ each morning, but surly, it didn’t last as it only forced my attention to the future. What was in the future was another promotion and more money and the responsibility to watching someone do my job, these were all things that didn’t particularly excite me. This is when I made the decision to go after what I wanted (then). With an increased sense of comfort with the working world, I felt confident to seek out a job more directly in line with my studied field rather than settling for the first somewhat related job I was offered.
And I did exactly that, with far less difficulty than i encountered in my previous experience finding work. In fact , I got it through a co-worker who I had become close to at my previous job. This is when I really started to realise how connected the world is, and that events never do occur in pure isolation. My previous role suddenly had a new sense of value and meaning, without it and the people I had met, I never would have obtained my new job which at the time I did honestly believe ‘would be it’.
The sacrifices were huge. Substantially much less pay, over 1.5hrs commuting each day, $60 spent in fuel a week, $70 spent in tolls. But I knew I had been given a chance, and was desperate to prove to myself and others, I can work hard. I realised the only opinion that truly counts, and counted, was my own. I did struggle initially and even went as far as thinking I wouldn’t last a few months. This fear was more so perpetuated by my fear of the unknown than anything else in the actual reality of the role. Eventually I received a promotion, recognition, moved out of home for the first time in my life but once again found myself overcome with a feeling of stagnation. The way the company and industry was, there wasn’t anything visible in the horizon. My predecessors had all left after the 1 year mark which I was nearing. The words of my boss to ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing” were far from encouraging when I raised this issue.
In this job, I didn’t have a cubical, I had an office, which helped as unfortunately being a sole department, there was little to no social interaction except for with the others in my role at the companies other locations. What made it worse was the prisoner mentality amongst us, there were constant whispers about how bad the conditions where and who was planning to get out and when. This time alone however, did give me time to think, to meditate and really hear what my heart was trying to say. I had job, I could pay the bills, do many of the things I can’t do now, so in retrospect I should have been more grateful, but it was clear, I would be happier and needed something of interest ,passion and with greater future possibilities.
Like a dream had come true I found it. In an industry I loved (fitness), 5 minutes from home, and with significantly more money. But one month later I found myself in the park at lunch, with tears in my eyes and a feeling of overwhelming dread that things were far from what I expected. There was little to no responsibility in my role, or a challenge from the work, my ideas to improve things kept causing conflicts with a boss who was more concerned enforcing the law that her opinion was always correct. A change from the large nation wide companies I had worked for before, I now only had 3 co-workers who were excluding me from their social circle despite my ongoing attempts to interact with them. Where I did receive praise, it was for lying and deceiving customers into purchases and I never felt I was living true to myself. On top of the conflicts with my boss, I was just worried that there was not enough work to justify my position in the first place in such a small company. Once again the disguise wasn’t worn well but this time I was unfairly and rudely confronted about it. After a few sleepless nights about why my working life was going so far from my original plan, I realised that more than an area of interest, to be fulfilled from your job you need to be challenged, be learning, feel the future has potential, and be able to contribute and coincide peacefully with those who you work with. It seemed like the different jobs I had, each had a piece of this puzzle, but a one job was yet to present all these attributes together to form the perfect picture of my ideal working situation I have envisioned in my mind.
These thoughts drastically changed changed from being a late night realisation to a daily driving purpose. For making a comment about the irony of my boss’s criticisms, I was deemed unsuccessful on my probation for an ‘inability to communicate’. If there was an emotion that expressed feeling equally glad and sad at the same time, then I was feeling it. The only thing I was in fact sad about, was that the job paid the bills and now that would be slightly difficult. This alone proved that what happened was the premature birth of an inevitably ugly situation.
So no longer was I sitting in a office thinking about where ‘this was going’, and worrying the next year would only be the same as the current. Being unemployed, I was doing that from the comfort of my room, until now where I have been appointed a job in Tonga for a year. Had it been raised as a possibility anytime between the last few paragraphs, I would have found the idea irrational and too farfetched to consider seriously . But I’ve learned that life is farfetched itself. I don’t want to devalue my ‘career’ so far, its taught me I do value adventure, the opportunity to offer my opinion, and the challenge that comes with feeling like you’re progressing and learning at a reasonable rate of course. I learned I also find fulfillment in honestly helping others and fostering relationships, rather than fueling the growth of a corporation that offers me insultingly low remuneration and conditions in return. I’m have learned I’m not lazy but rather a person of passion, this is a gift and a curse, but it is me. Overall my career experience hasn’t been the best, but its given me a deeper knowledge and understanding of myself . Where I once only thought about paying bills, going to the gym and buying a few things here and there, I have found an even stronger source of motivation to wake me up each morning to go to work.
I understand everyone is unique in their weaknesses, goals, strengths, desires, motivations. But this is my story. I definitely have regrets and accept blame where it is due. That is the nature of action and consequences. The only thing I can do now is to avoid making those mistakes again and be true to person I have discovered and become through this experience. It’s a rule of thumb with endless applications from careers to relationships.
I have also debated with the belief that these ‘constraints’ are self caused. Maybe I just haven’t adjusted to the fact that this is how life is and unless I have the ambition and ability to be extraordinary, the consequence is an ordinary life. I could even be in denial and I simply don’t want to work and am justifying this fact in increasingly creative ways. After all, I’ve seen friends around me have great success and enjoyment in their roles and the companies they work for. Regardless if its my bad luck or my bad attitude, I’ve thought my future through, got a goal in mind, and have put in the hard work to get as far as I have come to secure a new role. The future will reveal if I do free myself from these constraints or tighten them on myself.