Coming back

Lyla hasn’t been around much lately. I think that she needed to take a break from introspection and work on creating the external life that she wanted…But maybe that doesn’t really account for everything.

I took a new job in November of 2016. It paid almost double my old salary and although it was still in the not-for-profit sector, it was my first job that was not for a charity.  The company had money to buy new computers, corporate phones and fancy things. Maybe I was a little intimidated by all that. I decided that, unlike with my other jobs, I was going to try hard not to get fired from this job (spoiler alert: I succeeded!).

Here was my strategy: Don’t try to be a superstar. Don’t talk unless spoken to. Don’t try to solve other people’s problems. Just get the work done well and go home at 5pm. Don’t be overly friendly. Don’t divulge personal matters. Don’t give anyone reason to question your competence. Don’t stir the pot.

As I write this it seems a bit silly. Like maybe I was trying not to be human at work. It technically worked: I didn’t get fired. But… none of the people I have spent every workday with over the past two years know my kids’ first names. So, not sure if it’s really a win.

The toxic work environment (the company has 35% annual staff turnover rate in a 300 person company) didn’t help. I suppose I shouldn’t have put up with it for as long as I did but I just felt like the benefits (salary, flexibility to work from home when needed, stability) outweighed the cost of shutting myself off emotionally from the work.

But an implication of keeping your head down in a toxic corporate culture is that you (I) become complicit in the stupid, blame focused, watch your back, ‘let’s give lip service to asking for everyone’s opinion and never make a decision’ culture.

As I reflect on it, it is probably not an entirely healthy way to spend my days. I should quit. In fact, I think I’ll quit on Monday.

Actually, I got a new job offer last week. It checks the boxes (salary, flexibility to work from home and stability) … and I’m hoping that the corporate culture will be more kind and smart.

I need to think about the type of employee that I want to be at this new job. Which version of me do I want to bring to the office each morning? How do I want to dress, how friendly should I be, how chatty…can I change my mind after the first day or must I be a consistent caricature of the first impression I give?

As I contemplate which iteration of myself to bring to my first day of work, I think I need to take notice of the relief and freedom that I felt when I got this job offer and realized that I could quit within the month. I felt an urge to revisit my blog space, to reach out to friends, and to check in with Lyla (and with myself) emotionally.

For a long time Lyla was defined by her illness and struggles. But she is more than that. She is creative and thoughtful and smart and compassionate. And she deserves to let that show and to be seen for all those things.

She is changing and growing in many ways. And just like I want to bring a different version of myself to my new work,  I want to give her an opportunity to bring a different version of herself to this space.

I’m going to (try to) let Lyla back in. Back to her writing. Back to her friends. Back to holding this space for herself.

Maybe in writing her words, she will read them and see herself in a new light.

Peter Schacht Art
Artwork by Peter Schacht