Oops, I did it again.
A couple of years ago, I was caught up in a contracting assignment that turned into the job from hell. When it ended, I decided to write my first novel. That was a good result of a bad situation.
Fast forward three years later and I have four novels published. So yes, you could say I was inspired to finally stop procrastinating and get moving. But unfortunately, I didn’t learn the lesson.
After spending most of my adult life as an employee, I can honestly say it’s not easy to get out of the employee mindset.
Not to mention that getting regular checks – as one does when they’re on a W2 – works very well. The light and gas company doesn’t want to hear that your check will be late because it’s been three months and you weren’t paid for your freelance work yet. Or that a client stiffed you, or a project fell through. It seems easy to just go back into the workplace and get a few dollars.
Which brings me to my most recent fun and games. After seeing an ad for a short-term writing project requiring a combination of technical skills and marketing, I sent in my resume. I got an interview and was offered the assignment. Things seemed great for a time.
My own office, a supportive manager, nice people on the team. What was there to hate? Interesting work, and the potential for an extended assignment. Minutes from home and work hours I was able to choose.
Then, everything changed. In true Game of Thrones fashion, the department head did not live to see another day. Or rather he lived, but his position didn’t. One day I went home and all was well, the next I heard he was not coming back. The end. With that, the entire department was axed and the team was left to figure out what had just happened.
“It’s never the changes we want that change everything.” -Junot Diaz
Of course there was no plan – like what should everyone do next? No announcement – lets just hope no one notices that we’ve vaporized the entire department. And a whole lot of industrial strength shade being thrown my way as the leader of the new regime assumed her throne.
Meanwhile, I was a contractor with no power at all. And as with any takeover, the people tied to the old regime become marked for destruction themselves.
It’s always lovely when people smile at you, but you can see in their eyes they wish Star Trek phasers were a real thing – and they could set theirs to disintegrate before pointing it in your direction.
Though I was kept for a while longer, and paychecks are never a bad thing, the frustration of not having meaningful work got to be a bit much. And let’s face, it, formatting word documents and putting commas into articles (or taking them out) is about as interesting as watching paint dry.
I was there to do something I do quite well: write. But when you work in a company that doesn’t value what you do, it’s best to move on.
“Always be smarter than the people who hire you.” – Lena Horne
So what have I finally learned from my side trip through corporate hell redux?
For one thing, though it can be hard to run a business and keep the cash flowing in a positive direction, there are times when the alternative is more toxic. I’m past the point of having to prove that, in spite of my work history, experience and writing samples, that I actually have the skills to do the job (especially when some people are determined not to accept that fact).
Is that too much to ask? Evidently yes for some people. But I thank them for the experience of finding out once and for all that I have to stay away from corporate. There’s nothing wrong with getting paid so you can carry on with what you have to do, but if it messes with your sanity and frustrates the hell out of you (which also messes with your work) find another way.
“Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning.” – Malcolm Gladwell
Don’t keep drinking the poison then wondering why it makes you sick. Just accept that it’s sickening and be done with it. Move on. Find other alternatives. Make it work in a way that won’t drag you down into a hot mess quagmire.
I’ve let corporate be the fall back because its familiar. Unfortunately, it also sucks. Which is why I left in the first place. So why keep repeating the same experience and expecting a different result? That’s the definition of insanity, if I remember correctly.
“Every job from the heart is, ultimately, of equal value. The nurse injects the syringe; the writer slides the pen; the farmer plows the dirt; the comedian draws the laughter. Monetary income is the perfect deceiver of a man’s true worth.” – Criss Jami
But it’s over now and the blessing is I’ve finally learned that you can’t keep repeating what doesn’t work and hope that one day it will. Accept that it won’t and move on.
It may be more challenging for me to press on without my familiar fall back, but that’s how I’ll grow. In fact, I’ve already grown because I don’t fit into that world anymore. It’s taken me a while to finally accept it, but I do now – and that is the real blessing.
Copyright © Deborah A. Bailey