I write when I am compelled to do so – and I guess today, I am. Because something rather special happened.
For the first time in three years, I sat in a meeting, for work, and I was not afraid.
I have had a terrible three years of working with some very toxic people – and as I have pulled myself out of the wreckage and away from the drama, I have struggled to not let those experiences define me. But when you have become accustomed to working in situations that are just not okay, and where you can’t really trust anyone, you adapt. Unfortunately, those adaptations, for me, included becoming a bit quiet, a bit angry, very defensive, and unwilling and unable to speak with any confidence.
It has absolutely nothing to do with ADHD. Although my quest for a “workplace” that honors my workplace needs was very near the heart of every decision that I made. Sometimes you make what should, theoretically, be the perfect decision, and it turns out to be the worst thing ever. Sometimes you make a sound decision and things just don’t work out. Sometimes “friends” are actually crazy, toxic people when they aren’t confident in themselves, and when they feel threatened by your ability. Sometimes you have ADHD and it doesn’t actually matter. It’s just a part of who you are, just like all of the other parts.
The part of me that came out damaged the most, was my confidence. When you turn down one street and someone hits you in the face with a baseball bat, then you stagger to the next one because you see light peeking around the corner, and thwap, another baseball bat to the other side of your face…and then you maybe decide that streets weren’t such a great idea and maybe you’ll take a sidewalk, and travel on foot instead and BAM a piano falls on your head – you start to doubt your ability to make decisions, even though there’s no way you could have foreseen the misfortune. I have made decisions before that I’ve regretted, or where I maybe should have seen that the outcome wouldn’t have been perfect. These weren’t them. I made decisions and things just didn’t work out.
After that, I was afraid to move forward in ways that involved working with or for other people. But I am still developing two small businesses, and I need income while I’m still working on developing those plans (which do bring in money, but are not yet supporting my family in the style that we require).
So what did I do? Something completely counterintuitive, at least, for me it was: I called my old boss. The one I worked for before all of this shit went down. The one that I still remember as “the best boss ever”. The one that appreciated me. The one that encouraged me to develop my skills, and also appreciated how my skills were beneficial to him. The one that never a weird ego clash with me because of his own insecurities. The one that hired me to do a job and then appreciated me when I did it (instead of hiring me to do a job and then threatening to eat me whole, when I tried to do it).
The timing was right and I’ve come back to the office. In a flexible, reasonable way that works with my need to continue working on my own business plans. The only reason it’s counterintuitive is that the work of the office is not in the field in which my other work lies.
I was completely disoriented by the appreciation, upon my return. I’d forgotten that coming to work could feel good. That it didn’t have to involve weird interpersonal issues. And I was told that not only did my voice matter, but it was necessary and wanted. That I was good at my job and that I was doing a good job.
I’d also applied to a temp agency while I was waiting to hear back from “the Boss” – and ended up doing a temp gig for an office that was allegedly notorious for being hard to place temps in…and that went REALLY well too. In fact, they asked me back – and lamented that they did not have a permanent position for me. I’ve committed to “the Boss” now anyway though…but it felt good to be appreciated.
What kind of weird synchronicity warp did I step into? It’s almost like I got a chance to hit the reset button and start over – and when does that ever actually happen in real life, in a way that’s actually positive? Maybe this is what life does when you actually finally take a fucking hint and get off of a path that just isn’t working, lol? It may also be worth noting…that these horrendous experiences all occurred at non-profits…maybe I’m just a for-profit business kind of girl.
And now…this meeting? It wasn’t even at the office. It was at a new client’s office that I just signed on with last week (under the umbrella of one of my own businesses).
I arrived, and sat down at the meeting, and the employees filed in, and they sat down…and for the first time in three years, I didn’t feel fear, roiling in the pit of my stomach. I felt solid, sitting there in my chair, not uncomfortably transparent. I was not afraid to speak. My voice did not shake.
Was it something I did? Was it because I did a necessary 180 to recalibrate my path and now I’m on the right track? Was it something I had no control over anyway, and now I’m just in the right place at the right time? Is it all luck? Who the fuck knows. All I know for sure is that I did not need to be afraid of anyone in the room, I did not have to anticipate some kind of weird attack of character assassination. I was there to do a job. They were happy to have me there to do that job. My knowledge and skills were valued. And I had a rightful place at that table.
It’s easy for people to say “oh you just shouldn’t take assholes seriously” but when you’ve been through some truly toxic work environments, it can really take a toll. This is the first time in three years that I have felt safe, working with and for other people.
It’s almost too much to describe this in words. That general feeling of unease and fear was awful to carry with me. I only felt safe from it at my house, for three years. And this wasn’t me having social anxiety…it was shell shock, that I was logically experiencing, as the result of some terrible experiences.
I am here, and it is now. And…for whatever reason, everything is ok, and everything will be alright, and I am grateful. I almost can’t even describe the feeling in words. There must be a language, somewhere in the world, that has a word for this: The warm and lovely absence of fear.