I recently got out of a bad relationship. Not with a person, but with a job. A part-time job. For almost a year I was aware that I was not being valued for my contributions, yet I soldiered on. During this time, I suffered from mounting stress and experienced severe depression, which made it difficult to enjoy my days away from the unpleasant atmosphere of the job. I found myself snapping at my cat, and I didn’t feel like writing or painting, which are my main sources of income. In short, I didn’t feel like doing anything at all. I was not living but merely surviving, from one dismal shift to the next.
I’d taken the job to ease the burden of rising heating oil costs last winter, but the stress from it so crippled my will to seek new writing and art assignments that I wound up broke. By August, I was still paying off the winter oil bill, and feeling more trapped and frustrated than ever.
It wasn’t until I had a conversation with one of the developmentally disabled adults I’d been hired to assist that I finally saw the light. The young man had been asked to return to his place of work to fill someone’s shift that evening, but because he’d already made plans, he declined his boss’s repeated requests.
"Good for you," I told him, congratulating him on his courage and steadfastness in the face of the boss’s manipulative, pressure tactics. "Don’t let them take you for granted."
As I spoke, I knew I had just learned a valuable lesson. Here was a mentally challenged, vulnerable individual who had stood his ground against someone trying to take advantage of him; they had failed, because he knew what his time was worth. He knew enough not to allow himself to be used. So why didn’t i? I had taken on difficult jobs and clients before, and I knew that my time and talents could only be unwisely used if I allowed them to be. why was i allowing it?
I had been reacting to the job as if it were a difficult client that I had to please. While a writing or art gig ends when the project is completed, unfortunately, my part-time job had become an ongoing bad affair that I should have ended months before. I was never going to impress my supervisor with my earnestness or my commitment; my eagerness to be used was only getting me used more. I had to decide not to give away another day of my life.
I told my supervisor I was leaving because my time was not valued. Indignant at my going, she angrily refused to acknowledge my contributions to her team. As I’d suspected all along, my flawless attendance and willingness to work others’ shifts, had not been appreciated. Just the same, I was smiling broadly as I got in my car and drove away. I felt an incredible lightness of being, as though 10 pounds of heartache were gone. Instead of dreading the next day, and the next week, I immediately began planning for a bright New Year.
The very next day, I called a local librarian and made arrangements to do the poetry reading at the library that I’d been putting off for months. Next, I contacted a curator to discuss a new art exhibit that I suddenly felt excited about pitching. I then made plans to give poetry workshops again at the state prison. All of these projects are slated to begin in January 2007.
I won’t have time to worry about where the money will come from for the heating bills. I will be too busy taking back my life, and doing the work I love. I have renewed my commitment to valuing my own time and talents, and to following my heart. I intend to put myself first in the New Year, and by doing so, be a better and more active participant within the community at large. This New Year, I will consider it a blessing to honor my resolutions.
Believe me, I’m feeling warmer already.