I’ve been reading Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden about a young man’s escape from a brutal North Korean prison where he was born into what amounts to slavery. You know, light summer reading. Reflecting on the unthinkable atrocities that occur in Camp 14, it’s a little hard to talk about my relationship to work here in the land of the free.
But I’ma do it anyway.
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Once upon a time, before I had a law degree but possessed about a tablespoon of self-esteem and a kilo of pent-up ambition, I took a job at a fancy place as an administrative assistant. I figured who needs to use her Master’s degree? Not this lady!
My boss was imposing and grumpy and everyone around the office was intimidated by his mood swings. I never saw any swings: he always seemed dour, critical, and negative. I tried with everything inside my codependent little being to bring him some sunshine everyday, including my cheerful mood (all fake), faxing things in a timely manner (and jamming the fax machine every other time), and pretending the job filled up every single longing in my life (gigantic farce).
He was never inched out of his bad mood no matter how perfect I was. I even stopped jamming the fax machine (mastery!) . Out of a boredom I thought would kill my internal organs, I started studying for the LSAT from my desk (something to do!), and I thought of ways to organize his “Honors and Awards” file that I thought would be most pleasing (it wasn’t). I thouht he might appreciate my ambition and my acknolwedgement of his.
It didn’t work. I was sure there was a warm center of him that I could crack if I only … if only … I didn’t know how, but I was happy to keep trying.
So, I tried. The harder I tried, the less his mood budged from his status quo. I stared at those LSAT practice questions asking me whether Sally was sitting next to a long-haired boy or a short-tempered girl and wondered If I was smarter, would he be happier? My thoughts returned to my boss like a tongue returns to a sore tooth. If I rearranged his incoming mail, might he soften towards me? I tried to grasp the logic of the LSAT test while figuring out how to please the unpleasable. Both of them confounded me profoundly.
I went to dark places during that job. Places where it seemed like the truth was whispered: I’m stupid. It’s my fault. He hates me. I can’t do anything right. But now I know those were lies. Or they were truths that didn’t belong to me. It was never my fault that his AMEX card was stolen while he was doing a speaking engagement in Ann Arbor. I wasn’t my fault when the thread count on the sheets were too low (or was it high?). It wasn’t my fault that the Dean of Yale College never returned his calls.
None of it was my fault.
Years later, I get to finally get behind that young administrative assistant and cheer her on. I travel back in time to assure her that she will find her path out of the miserable cubicle; it’s not her fault he’s unhappy; there is NOTHING she can do to fix it; and that Sally was most definitely sitting next to a long-haired boy.
Better late than never.
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In other news, if you have checked Facebook or Instagram or read any blogs lately you know that it’s
Miley Cyrus week back-to-school time. There’s puh-lenty of ink spilled about that these days, so here’s my two cents on how to support a MOM going back to work. I made a lot of mistakes upon returning to work. Don’t do what I did. Read here at Mom.Me about how to avoid my mistakes.