I have chronicled a few of my inauspicious—that’s how they felt at the time, at least—setbacks: the tedious and banal morning commutes to an intellectually dissatisfying job; the agonizing slip on ice which crumpled my knee and, at least temporarily, my health goals; my unhealthy self-loathing attitude that motivated me to hit the gym at 2 a.m.; and awareness of self-sabotaging streams of consciousness and the demolition of those impediments to self-betterment.
The most recent setback I encountered was my employment. It should come as no mystery to my friends and loved ones that I held great contempt and scorn for a variety of aspects of my job. ‘Contempt’ and ‘scorn’ are the kindest descriptors of my truest feelings without plunging into the realm of the scatological, a realm whose depths would seem to go on forever.
Or perhaps exploration would do us well…
I had always wanted to work in a laboratory and was eager to complete my training as soon as humanly possible. The initial delight and excitement which typically adorns new professional relationships had been gradually transmuted into bitterness and indignation by the egregious actions of my superiors. Intimations of this could be gleaned from flurries of correspondences placing a disproportionate emphasis on perceived poor performance and mistakes. Punitive actions were swiftly carried out while forgoing rewards for good behavior, exceptional performance, or shouldering more work during employee shortages. Those punitive measures were often delivered without regard to the context of the error and were frequently punctuated with harsh, condescending, and belittling tones. (I found this to be particularly atrocious. Is a little recognition and dignity too much to ask for?) Not to mention that standard operating procedures were amended, whimsically, on a near-daily basis. It became clear that my employers eschewed civility, propriety, and sound judgment in favor of hubris, discourtesy, and caprice.
Over time, my company was subsumed by a larger corporation and some of the aforesaid problems were ameliorated. What followed was a period of professional stagnation; one eventually learns all the necessary skills of one’s occupation, after which one strives to refine and perfect those skills. And here is where boredom can creep in. Born with an insatiable appetite to learn, I bivouacked upon a comfortable summit (not quite at ultimate perfection or refinement) and did a reconnaissance of the professional landscape. I yearned for new skills, new responsibilities, new opportunities. I found none. Cross-training had been forbidden thereby expunging all hopes of growth of any kind. If one aspires to be insulated from professional devastation, let alone intellectual decrepitude, seek out a company that offers myriad opportunities to learn and implement new skills.
In short, I had to leave.
My alma mater gave me career resources and networking opportunities. Yet, with my freshly minted master’s degree, I was unable to find work in my field, public health, and had to stay with a job where I was underpaid, unchallenged, and unmoving. In other words, my degree opened no doors—a truth I learned too late and to my sorrow. I belong to a generation whose employment opportunities and career options don’t match their skillsets or college degrees. Imagine that, in a flourishing economy no less.
So I applied for employment at a different corporation at the behest of a friend. And then, to my dread, I waited.
I had all but forgotten that I submitted an application when I received a followup email. This corporation wanted to know more about me, interview me, and give me a tour of their facility. To make a long story short, I was offered a new opportunity with a company whose emoluments are more consonant with my aspirations for personal independence as well as professional growth and flourishing. It was the opportunity I was longing for.
I accepted and promptly sent out my resignation to my old job. In accepting this offer, I agreed to move from my native New York to Massachusetts.
[cue somber music by Hans Zimmer]
I seldom greet successes in my life with an abundance of effusion or emotive movements, although there may be great swells of joy and pride in my bosom. In this most recent case, I felt nothing. I found that my friends and loved ones were far more excited and enthusiastic. Everyone I encountered congratulated me, wished me well, and—much to my discomfiture—asked not whether I was indeed excited but how excited I was.
Slowly, that nothingness became a blanket of anxiety. Trepidation. Restlessness. O, how I look forward to my independence, to drink deep of its refreshing brew. Yet, even as I write I wonder how I’ll move all my possessions out. How many boxes will I need? Frantically searching the Internet, I found many websites (Amazon) that offered moving boxes of all shapes and sizes. My mind raced to food. Cooking. Cooking supplies. Video games; I need safe accommodations for my Xbox, laptop, and desktop. Bedding. Books. Shelving for books. Bookmarks. Libraries. Bookstores. (I’m a nerd if it wasn’t apparent.)
Just exactly how will I survive on my own?
And then it hit me. I’ve been surviving all along.