This autumn has been a season of peace and a time for letting go. For many of us, 2022 has been a roller coaster. For me, it’s been an especially wild journey of learning what I want for my future and also learning the definition of stability.
I owe God, my family, and my friends big for getting me through the lowest points of this year. The first half of 2022 was a haphazard journey that involved severe financial strain and the painful realization that, no, sacrificing sleep to the point of only getting five or less hours each night won’t expedite my goals. Neither will it make money magically appear in my pocket.
I’m so happy that I discovered how much photography means to me, but I completely regret throwing sleep out the window in favor of staying up until 4 a.m. doing photo editing. That choice caused a number of health issues.
But now, it’s time to let the Sun set on all of that.
And speaking of the Sun, this here below is one of the luckiest shots I got while returning to my favorite forest park where I live! I took this a few weeks ago on a Friday evening in October while hiking in the park. Fall is my favorite season, especially for giving us beautiful moments like this.
For much of my life, I’ve struggled with holding grudges for a number of reasons. Letting go of my anger when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’ve been wronged has been a recurring problem.
I recently read a quote (unfortunately, I can’t remember from who) that holding onto our anger is akin to wanting to change the past. Egad, isn’t that the truth!
There’s a sheer sense of powerlessness in wishing that you could’ve handled things differently. Being angry at not having the ability to rewrite the past so that we can have a happier conclusion is an awful but human feeling.
There were multiple times last year when I felt powerless to change anything, and this came out potently in some of the dreams I had back then. It didn’t help that my last full-time job went rapidly downhill towards the end of 2021. Unraveling all of the emotional baggage from that place has been more of a struggle than I thought it could be.
Work in Progress
Even though I left my last job just a few days before Christmas 2021, I’m still unraveling all of the anger I held back while being there. Over the course of 2021, my coworkers and I dealt with sporadic, nasty incidents of belittling, micromanaging, and demeaning treatment at the hands of leaders we were supposed to trust. Instead of being treated as hard-working adults, we were instead treated as children who couldn’t be trusted to do basic duties.
One of my sorest memories from this time last year was getting yelled at, in front of the whole team, for not pricing items high enough, even when they were clearly poor quality. Some of the clothing we processed was horribly ruined, with some of the pants having holes that left them unwearable.
Something that should’ve been discussed in private was instead broadcasted to the entire backroom, with the possibly deliberate intention of shaming me into obedience.
After I threatened to quit in response to this, I was told that I had to price things higher because of inflation. At the time, I was under the impression that I was the only one who’d received this unfair pricing treatment, and this explanation sounded like a poor excuse for how they’d handled the matter.
Around the time I did end up quitting, we started receiving customer complaints about how ridiculously high our prices had become. I don’t blame our customers one bit for voicing reasonable concerns about the prices. I’d had a bad feeling about how far
It wasn’t just me who dealt with this public shaming. One of our former coworkers was shamed (without naming her directly, but it was clear that she was the target) for going home sick the previous day. During a global pandemic. Evidently, she wasn’t “in it to win it” as this leader said to us that morning.
In fact, this leader also referred to our coworker as somebody who was “lingering”. That’s right! Because if you go home sick, you don’t care about your job or coworkers.
“Yesterday proved who’s in it to win it, and who’s lingering.”
It’s just now dawned on me how malicious this was. Our coworker got slandered in front of the whole team for doing the right thing.
Right after this awful “morning meeting” concluded, this leader took our coworker into the office. She came out weeping. While I don’t know what was said to her, I got the vibe that she’d been scorned for going home sick while we were short-staffed.
Out of all of the nonsense that went down at my last job, this is the event that sticks out in my memories the most. The level of sheer mercilessness and ruthlessness perpetuated against my coworker, who was just as much of a hard worker as the rest of us, will always make my heart ache.
I also have to still fight off lingering feelings of guilt from that day. I begged my coworker to go home the day before when she confided in me how ill she was. She’d been afraid of discipline for having called off sick a few times in a 30-day period, but neither of us could’ve imagined just how harshly she’d be treated for her choice.
All in the Family
Even when we heard them say, “We’re a family!”, they shamed us for wanting to take care of ourselves. Whether it was trying to use PTO for a couple of mental health days or going home while genuinely sick, our team risked scorn for being mere humans.
After being out of that place for a while now, I’ve learned that the phrase “we’re a family!” in a job is a huge red flag. While some people or employers might mean well when they say this, others seem to only say it to get employees to be loyal. After all, we all want to feel like we belong, and unfortunately, there are some who willfully exploit that wish.
This discussion about it on Reddit is painful to read, especially because people commenting on the thread shared work stories that match ours. Employers use this “family” mentality as an excuse to keep their workers overworked and underpaid. Why would you question whether or not your “family” has your best interest at heart, no matter what happens?
I genuinely wasn’t aware of how abnormal and wrong this behavior was until I started mentioning it to my
actual family, who were stunned and appropriately grossed out. Turns out, most jobs don’t stoop this low. What a relief!
I recently looked up the long-term effects of narcissistic abuse and almost started crying when I recognized some of the listed symptoms. While on the job and for months after leaving it behind, I’ve had to stop myself from being overly people-pleasing and apologetic.
Emotional and verbal abuse, especially in the form of belittling or shaming language, is a key component of narcissistic abuse. That, and gaslighting. In our store, we were taught to never question how things were handled, even when our gut feeling told us that something was wrong.
For willfully exploiting our team’s trust, the company paid the price of destroying our overall morale. Many of us used to love our job, but that love gradually turned into resentment and cynicism. Unfortunately for the company, the loss of our morale made it all too easy for many of us to quit.
Anger is Like Hot Coals
My unhealthy wish, especially in the last few weeks, has been wanting to go back in time and let myself snap back in those moments when we faced emotional abuse. This wish has, as one might imagine, been backfiring spectacularly for my well-being.
What’s the quote?
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
I have to let myself remember that if I had actually snapped back, I would’ve faced disciplinary action, and nothing good would’ve come from it.
That being said, after feeling much calmer now that writing this has helped me process everything, I really do wish that I’d told them, privately, that they had betrayed my trust with how they handled everything.
Going forward, I want myself to remember that there’s a stark difference between aggressiveness and assertiveness. They showed me what it means to handle things in an aggressive, unprofessional manner, and I’ll make sure that I don’t repeat those errors.
Even if my old job refuses to own up to how they treated us (and possibly still do), they’ve continued to pay the price. My ex-coworkers have been steadily quitting since January of this year, each of them fed up with being belittled for so little pay. All of us realized that we didn’t have to tolerate that environment any longer than we had.
There is so much freedom and vindicating power in walking away, setting up the ultimate boundary, and refusing to deal with any more emotional abuse. If my ex-coworkers and I wanted revenge at any point in time, we achieved it in the most civil fashion. By saying goodbye, we proved to ourselves and to each other that we deserved better.
I’m concerned that my struggle with forgetting the ugly memories from my last job has been impeding me from enjoying the peace and stability that my current two part-time jobs have given me. I’ve faced zero micromanaging in either job and nobody there has ever spoken down to me like they think I’m incapable otherwise.
My fear of dealing with those toxic behaviors from last year is going to end up making me paranoid if I don’t nip this in the bud. I have to remember that, as awful as all of that was, my last job was ultimately an outlier. Nothing our team experienced qualifies as part of a “normal/healthy” job environment.
Something I’ve noticed about my two new jobs is that we’re allowed to honestly express exhaustion or polite discontentment in the presence of our managers. Nobody feels pressured to keep up a pretty facade of always being enthused on rough days.
Especially as somebody who struggles with depression, it’s such a relief not to be in an environment where I feel like I have to lie about how I’m actually doing. We’re encouraged to be genuine with ourselves and our leaders, and that’s so, so refreshing.
I dreaded waking up for my last job up until the day I turned in my resignation notice. But with my new jobs, even when the work can get overwhelming on rare occasions, I love being with my coworkers and knowing that we can approach it all with a stable, pressureless pace.
My biggest goal as 2022 wraps up is to let myself remember that I won’t have to deal with that belittling management style ever again. I got out of that place, and I have no regrets. If I had made myself stay there any longer than I already had, my depression would’ve become crippling.
Leaving that place behind was a stressful ordeal, but the only other option was languishing in a workspace where our team was repeatedly devalued and disrespected.
Now, I’m in two different but uplifting jobs where the goal is doing enough to keep things running without grinding the team to dust. We have our tough days, but how we handle them compared to my last job is beyond apples and oranges.
Nobody who treated me poorly at my last job is undeserving of forgiveness. They’re human too, but oh, do I wish that they had chosen better. There was so much pain that could’ve been avoided had they simply chosen a different way of communicating their expectations.
But that’s, quite literally, last year. And I deserve better than to constantly burden myself with anger when it’s not my job to rewrite the past, no matter how helpless I felt.
As Pat Benatar once sang, I need to teach myself “The Art of Letting Go”!
Featured Image by Connor Brennan
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