Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When it is all too much

What do you do when it all feels too much?  Yes I take advantage of the medical resources available to me to assist with my mental health and well being.  Yes I try like crazy to take care of myself.  But lately?  I am not doing a good enough job.  I am failing. 

Right now my apartment feels like a complete and utter disaster zone, and I can't find the necessary things to get ready in the morning.  Aside from trying to find my shoes, or my work ID badge or anything like that...I only have maybe 2 preferred pairs of work pants right now.  It's shameful for me to admit that I feel like I may have gained 20 or 30 pounds in the span of 2 or 3 weeks and I am ashamed and embarrassed that none of my clothes feel like they fit me.  While it has been nice to go to weddings recently in the bottom of my soul I wished like hell that I didn't have to go.  Really and truly, hoped that something would take place that would prevent me from going.  Because there is nothing in my closet that feels like it fits.  Nothing that doesn't make me feel embarrassed to be seen in public.  Nothing that doesn't make me want to just cry. 

Everything feels like it is all too heavy and just too MUCH right now.  I know we all lament that there is never enough time but when I just look at the list of things  -- no fresh vegetables or groceries in the fridge, laundry piled up, doctor's appointments I keep putting off.  To be honest, with how bad things are at work these days, I feel like I have been run over by a truck by the time I get home each night.  It isn't just the sheer exhaustion of running around all day...it's the emotional anguish.  The sucking it up and dealing with people talking to you like you are crap.  Or the pain and toll taken by constantly having to crawl out under the bus that you keep being thrown under.  Now, it is also finding out the ugly and unflattering things being said about you...by your boss.  After the psychological and emotional olympics I feel like I go through every day, all I want is to go home and be alone.  To try and convince myself that hopefully this feeling of worthlessness isn't forever.  That maybe it all won't continue to feel so much worse before it starts to feel better. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Please stop the ride, I want to get off.

I feel like I have been through too many (brief) highs and then (very long, very painful) lows lately.  All I want is to get off this roller coaster ride and enjoy some nice, stable ground.  Boring, middle of the road, status quo sounds heavenly right now.

I feel like I am failing at life right now.  At my job (although, through no fault of mine), in my volunteer endeavors, in my personal relationships....just failing at everything.

Work finds new ways to get worse every single week.  To be fair, YES I know it is not a job I can stay in long term, and YES I have been looking.  But anyone who has been in a similar situation can probably agree with me that it does not happen overnight.  And there are sometimes where it makes everything feel that much more stressful.  I'm actually writing this post to just try and cope/feel better about recent news from work.  News that my boss is likely badmouthing my whole group to anyone who feels like listening.  While we are all (or at least most of us) busting serious ass every day.  I got word of that and ...well it was the last little straw.  I just broke down sobbing.  To be fair, I have felt like I needed a good cry for a few weeks now....that was just the thing that pushed me to it.  I just don't even know what I am going to do anymore.  I am supposed to be out all of next week for vacation.  A much-needed vacation, just MVP and me.  And right now, a big part of me feels like I need to cancel it because I will be putting myself in serious professional jeopardy to be out of the office for that amount of time.  I feel so conflicted.  I honestly don't effing know what to do.

Friday, April 19, 2013

TGIF -- random thoughts

It's been hard to concentrate on much this week.  Since Monday afternoon I feel like I have been glued to the news...Boston...then TX...then Boston again.  It's very real and very scary and very hard to process it all.

While I have a ton of mixed feelings about the item itself, yesterday presented a much needed distraction.  It came in the form of a profanity laden email from one of the chapters at U of Maryland.  I breathed a sigh of relief that it was not my chapter (cause lord knows they already provide me with enough to deal with as an alumna advisor) but then I watched as that email went viral.  People started emailing and texting me to see if I had read it.  Lots of posts and comments on Facebook -- not surprising since many of my FB friends are also Maryland grads.  It even got a mention on last night's Daily Show. 

It's an odd thing, because I really did laugh about it.  Some of my friends made comments to the same effect of "it's not so far off from things we said/did" and that's true.  No, I don't think we used the same derogatory remarks that this young woman did, but I am sure we were on par with what was behind it.  Funny thing about getting older and watching younger kids do (pretty much) the same dumb stuff me and my friends did at that age....we now have a little thing called perspective.  Well, actually there is that and there is the other issue of not having readily available wifi, instagram, Facebook and Twitter documenting our every move and word. 

I know at the time when I was in school, there were things that were so nonsensical or insignificant -- things like Greek Week, for example -- that totally consumed the day-to-day.  I mean the "asking period" for Homecoming and Greek Week at UMD felt like it rivaled a major political campaign.  We would be out at a bar or a party polling friends in other chapter's to see who was going to ask who.  When I try to explain this to anyone that was not in a fraternity or sorority (hell even people who were but didn't go to MD) they look at me like I am nuts.  And at the time, yes.  We were nuts to expend so much energy and time on something so trivial.  So there is a small part of me that identifies with that email author just a bit;  I remember what it was like to get so worked up about something totally stupid.  We just didn't send mass emails out about it back in my day.  To be fair....I think that was more because we didn't really have the capability, not that we wouldn't have actually done it. 

But after laughing about it, I did feel a bit sad because it is another piece of bad PR for sororities.  Well-deserved, as this young woman was stupid enough to put it in writing and hit send, but bad for all of us nonetheless. It stung. 

I had just spent last weekend in NJ to attend the wedding of a dear friend, who is also one of my sisters.  While all weddings are usually fun and a great celebration, the thing I enjoyed the most was spending time with my sisters.  Some I get to see often, some live far away and don't get to see nearly enough.  But being with them all together in one place....well, it really did me a world of good.

Thinking on it last night, I jotted down a quick note to two of them.  We had gone to Starbucks early on Saturday morning and got to just chat, enjoy our coffee and each other's company.  Something so simple but something that meant a lot to me. 

As dramatic and far reaching as it may sound, our Saturday morning at Starbucks, right before we saw our friend get married, well it meant the world to me.  In a nutshell, it's one of the reasons why my dopey ass goes back to volunteer at UMD.  I know what being a part of something like that can mean.  I know what it means to me.  I know the impact your friendship has had on my life. And I hope others can experience the same thing.

The sight of either of you doesn't ever urge me to break out into some spontaneous chant or song.  And I would never try and get you to do the "secret grip"...because I don't know that I remember it myself.  I don't look at you and see greek letters, or a logo or a symbol. When I I see you and get to spend time with you like we did on Saturday morning, it reminds me how much you both feel like home.  That it doesn't matter how old we are, or where we are in our lives, or where life has taken us since graduation. We will always be friends.  And it means so much more to me than I could put into words.  I don't care what it was that brought is all together, but I treasure what has come of it.  

So while I know I will still get comments and teased for my sorority membership (especially the fact that I still volunteer with them as an alum), I am still proud of my letters, and hope that lots of other young women can have the same meaningful experience I did. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Lean In? Or Bow Out?

By now, many of you may have heard of, watched and interview with the author, or even started reading the book Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg.  For those that aren’t familiar, Sandberg is COO of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in addition to being one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.   Lean In focuses on women in the workplace, the lack of females in leadership positions, and the idea that women need to be more assertive in their professional ambitions.  Oprah Winfrey has even heralded the book as “The new manifesto for women in the workplace.”

I bought the book when it first came out.  I thought it would be an interesting read and may be something my friends and peers would be reading as well. 
It’s been sitting on my dining room table just staring at me for a few weeks now and I’d like to tell you why.

I’ve always been a hard worker.  Diligent.  Ambitious.  Insightful. Consistent. Go-getter. Team player.  When presented with a challenge, I figure out a way to overcome it.  When socked with a setback, I pick myself up and keep trudging on.  When things are humming along at the status-quo, I figure out ways to do it better/faster/bigger.  I stay late.  I work weekends.  For the past 4+ weeks I've rarely eaten lunch.  No, not eaten at my desk while working....just looked up after running around all day to see it was 5:30 and no longer lunchtime.  Basically, I do good work and do what I have to do to make sure it all gets done.  

About a month after my boss was let go, it was time for annual reviews.  I knew it was coming…it was just a matter of when.  I stopped into my “new” boss’s office to tell him how well a training session had gone earlier that day, trying to get in some face time and make sure he heard first-hand what I was working on. He asked if I had a few moments to do my review, as if there was the option to say no. I shut the door behind me and took a seat.  
The good news was that my actual review had been written up by my original boss before he left, so at least there was SOME reference to the work I had done over the course of the year and the progress that had been made.  The bad news was there wasn’t really much substantive feedback.  Nothing constructive for me to walk away with, think about and then formulate and action plan for professional improvement.  

And then…..well, then I realized there was even worse news.

When “new boss” gave me his own review/critique/feedback….well, it was pretty interesting. 

“Try not to be too aggressive in meetings.”

“Smile more.”

 “You are wearing pink today; it makes you look more cheerful.” 

I wish I was joking.  You guys you have NO IDEA how much I wish this was an April Fool’s joke.
And what did I do as he said this?  I nodded, smiled and took it all.  What other choice did I have?

I walked back to my office in a daze, feeling like I had fell through a wormhole and at any minute Don Draper was going to ask me to hold his calls and get him some more ice.  

Because I’m a woman, my questioning of colleagues in meetings --  “I gave you edits back three weeks ago, where is the final draft?” or “I notice a project left off this list but I don’t know the current status, can I have an update?”  -- is considered too AGGRESSIVE.  While I can’t say with complete certainty, I think if I were a man, I may have been praised for being ASSERTIVE and keeping my colleagues to task so that projects stayed on their respective timelines. 

And I think it goes without saying that I am really f*cking certain that none of my male colleagues would EVER be advised on what color work clothes suited them better.  

I’m 35 years old.  I’ve been in the “working world” for the past 10+ years since finishing my Master’s degree.  And I can say that in that time, I have never felt totally and 100% discriminated against and treated differently for being a woman.  That all changed a few weeks ago when the only takeaway I got was to wear more pink.  

And it gets worse….I’ve heard similar stories from other female colleagues.  There was an instance of a direct report (a male) refusing to continue reporting to his boss (a female) because she was “irrational” (which was a load of crap.)  Instead of the direct report being questioned about the working relationship and what made thing seem so difficult, he was simply assigned to report to someone else (another man.) Another female colleague confirmed for me our mutual (male) colleague’s penchant for talking to both of us as if we were middle-schoolers.  On the one hand it was gratifying to know it wasn’t just me being overly sensitive.  On the other hand it was demoralizing to know he was talking to others that way and that it was considered acceptable.  

I've also come to learn that my male colleagues had been invited to attend game watches at new boss’s home during football season.  I’m a sports fan.  Eagles/ Phillies/Terps paraphernalia decorating my office should confirm that.  Yet never received an invite.  Wonder why….

Lately, I’ve felt sick to my stomach at work.  I tense up in the mornings as I drive to the building.  I lie awake at night worried about the next day.  I am seething on the inside but walk around with a dumb smile on my face.  

I feel angry.  I feel anxious.   
But worse?  I feel hopeless.

So I don’t know what good reading Lean In will do me right now.  I’m scared that my current workplace doesn’t see me as equal to my male colleagues.  (To be fair, it may just be my smaller group within the company, but still.) I never dreamed things like this still existed in the workplace.  I’m sorry to tell you all that they still do.  

So what can I do, Ms. Sandberg??  I’ve advocated on my behalf.  I’ve worked hard.  I’ve often been put in positions where I had no support/instruction/direction/guidance and still managed to get the job done.  

But none of that matters….because I haven’t smiled enough or worn enough cheerful colors.