I’m going to back-track a bit. A few months after I stopped working last year, and following a lot of introspection and reflection, I came to perhaps the only solid conclusion I have: if I have learned nothing else, I knew it was that I would never place myself in a position again where I established vague and inconsistent boundaries, and let someone else walk all over me for the sake of a regular paycheque.
The very last position I held and the one I resigned from in late June was a great one, and full of supportive and wonderful colleagues. Unfortunately it came a bit too late. This position immediately followed a job that I had held for two and a half years. That particular job is the one that broke the proverbial camel’s back. If I go even further back and look at the two major jobs I held BEFORE the one that broke me, there again I was fortunate enough to work with some amazing people. In most of these jobs, I saw some hard stuff and I took a great deal of the work home with me, emotionally, but they didn’t destroy me.
The job that did finish me, was perhaps a perfect mix of less than great qualities, all of which combined resulted in a pretty brutal finish.
I’ve made it no secret that I am a classic, text-book push-over. Whether it is some of the Impostor Syndrome, blended with my historical poor self-esteem, topped off with my obliging tendencies (I tend to take my motivation from obligations to external factors) that make me a push-over, I’m not entirely sure. All I know is that I have push-over tendencies aplenty.
When you couple that personality with a stronger personality-someone who is prone to taking advantage of others and maybe doesn’t recognize when someone is drowning, you have a recipe for failure. Ultimately, it was that combination, weak and inferior coupled with strong and over-powering that did me in. I’m a great subscriber to Eleanor Roosevelt’s words “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent”, so I am very willing to take responsibility for my share in my own destruction.
Still though, it is that experience that has stayed with me and it is that experience which I never want to relive by placing myself so readily at the hands of someone who is willing complete drain me for their own benefit.
During the last few weeks I have picked up the job-hunting task and have been sending my resume off to various places looking for work. When I first began searching, my filters on what I was looking for were specific: something very low stress, maybe repetitive in nature. I wasn’t opposed to a more physical job either, like stocking shelves. I wanted something that would afford me the chance to clock in and clock out, without taking any of it home with me. I wasn’t sure if this was an ideal I would be interested in in the long term, but for now as I attempted to ease back into work, something fairly simple sounded really appealing. I didn’t even mind if it was at minimum wage.
I’ve had a few interviews since then, and have learned a pretty big lesson. As is so often the case with life-lessons more recently, I had to process it a bit with Ian before I was able to fully understand what was going on.
In two weeks, I have madly applied to any and all jobs that sounded even remotely interesting: dishwasher at Tim Hortons, daycare assistant, housekeeper and cleaning positions. While they have all initially seemed incredibly appealing, a few of them that went beyond the interview stage proved to be fruitless. I learned that with minimum wage paying jobs, certain things were common place: irregular, last minute and on-call shifts; disorganization and a lack of consideration; a sense of being a valued and respected employee all but disappeared. No regular hours. Expectations to drop everything and fill in at a moment’s notice.
I guess maybe I’ve learned two things now in these last 8 months: I won’t tolerate being someone’s doormat again, and I typically don’t work well in disorganization and situations where there is poor planning. I need some structure to go on.
I returned home yesterday, after an especially interesting experience, and after talking with Ian about it for some time, I asked him : “Am I being too picky in what I am looking for, when it comes to employment? The wage isn’t the big ticket item for me, and I am more than okay with the minimum at the moment. I do, however, want to be treated with respect and as a well-functioning adult. If I am given a job or a task, I want to be trusted that I can successfully and efficiently complete that task without having every minute detail of it checked over and scrutinized. Are my expectations- a job that pays, semi-regular hours and people who respect and value their employees – too high?”
Ian shared something then that I hadn’t really considered: my expectations were took high for the pay level I was comfortable getting. Minimum wage jobs generally are not jobs where there is a lot of respect and consideration for the employee. The wage itself serves as a pretty accurate representation of just how valued the worker is. If I wanted better treatment, I would have to shift the radius that I had been looking inside of and seek out the types of jobs, and employers I wanted.
Not wanting to waste anyone’s time, and desperately wanting to establish some boundaries now having a better sense of what I was willing to tolerate in a job setting, and what was unacceptable, I immediately halted a prospect that could have continued for some time.
I even mused to Ian that the particular individual in yesterday’s job prospect reminded me a lot of my former supervisor-the one from the job that broke me. When I first started working with her, I recognized that our styles were different, but I downplayed it to traits of quirkiness and scatter-brained-ness. It was a real moment though of noticeable and tangible growth, when I quickly realized that my former supervisor initially didn’t initially send up any red flags for me. It took a few months before I realized the dynamic that was going on, and at that point a regular paycheque was more important to me than my own mental health. In yesterday’s experience rather than wait it out, hoping that things would get better as I had done with the job that had broke me, I stopped it in its tracks. Ian pointed this out, and I have heard it from a lot of people: a person will always show you their true colours upfront. I have had to learn this lesson the hard way with a few individuals in my life, but I am getting more efficient with it now, and can recognize these moments more easily. Whereas a few years ago I would have given the individual multiple chances and many do-overs, I am a little more cautious and demanding with how I let people treat me. The process isn’t perfect by any means, and I still trip and fall a good deal of the time. But I am learning, and noticing these things more efficiently and ultimately, standing up for myself more often.