Friday, June 15, 2018

When Stagnancy Looks Like Hard Work

Three months. It’s been three months since I last updated my comic. How did that happen? I’d been going good for about a year now, and then, all of the sudden, I just forgot about it. Like honest to God spaced it. The fuck.

It started on a good note. I think. Once my two-weeks around America took place, I allowed myself to forget, for the first time, any obligations. Since then, it didn’t occur to me until May that there was something I was supposed to be doing. I allowed myself to relax, have fun, and that was obviously necessary.

But I thought it would jump start me again. I feel like the last few years of my life have been—while informative—not progressive. I’ve been stagnant, hitting a simultaneous wall of unproductivity and the expected glass ceiling of career growth. Not that I’m being kept down for any particular reason, but that the avenues I have been taking aren’t necessarily the right ones. Or possibly I’ve been approaching them wrong. Or possibly I just didn’t hit it hard enough to crack it. Who the hell knows.

But the real area of concern is how I didn’t realize the time passing me by. It wasn’t due to fun—certainly not. In fact, I’d say what snapped me back into reality was being released from (what was supposed to be temporary) a high stressed position with, what I consider, a raging dipshit for an immoral teammate. And I don’t say that lightly. The second my hours became routine, the responsibilities much less, and the expectations lower, I could bring my focus back to what matters and get something done this week. Focus has been the issue for a long time now, a weakness I’d never felt in the years before my stress levels went through the roof.

A part of this was how important reputation became to me. I knew, in college, that first impressions were everything. A professor literally said to me at one point that in all his years of teaching, only one student left the university with the ability to direct: the kid who came in talented. It says a lot about credibility. I learned there that the only thing needed to destroy a god was to make him bleed and seeing you at your least successful can warp people’s views of you. Or vice-versa.

Which brings me to my current fixation.

My lovely coworker, who better hope never runs into me in a dark alley, screwed me over on several occasions, and despite getting paid more to be the “manager” would often try to slip his duties onto others. After a series of hell days in which his lack of foresight and inability to react to the situation left me drowning in responsibilities, I quit the place. The upper management to ask me to stay for his days off until they hired another assistant, and then I’d be moved to a less demanding situation (and giving me time to create and, of course, actually sleep.) During his days off, he left stations a mess and tried to delegate tasks to me that he could have easily done himself. I did what needed to be done, what should be done, and told him off via text, to which he never responded, but shaped up for the next couple of weeks. (To then, of course, start slipping.)

Well, about two weeks ago, he left such a catastrophe for me, planning nothing for the ridiculous day ahead and refusing to warn me about how he didn’t meet with the requirements. Kanye West had his album launch in my hometown and I found myself with an order for 100 people without having any of the resources to do it. Luckily, he never actually confirmed with her as he was supposed to, and the order was canceled for lack of contact on our end, unbeknownst to me until a fourth of the way through it.

I was humiliated. Yelled at by numerous clients at three in the morning when I could do nothing to compensate for the five a.m. order (originally requested 11 o’clock the night before and inexplicably confirmed by my coworker for five). Struggling with how to phrase, “I’m pretty sure my coworker was blitzed out of his mind when he got the order and blew it off,” to the answer, “WHAT HAPPENED?!” I don’t like making mistakes. I don’t like being yelled at. And I don’t like being taken off guard by problems that could have been solved, even if he had communicated with me that he had no intention on doing his job.

I struggled to come back, talking to my family, friends, coworkers, and even counselors about how upset I was. All of them responded the same way: “What would happen if you didn’t do his job for him?”

What would happen? The job wouldn’t get done. “But that’s because you do it for him!” No. It’s because he doesn’t mind sending out the orders wrong, it’s because he could procrastinate, make mistakes, and ruin his reputation without a care in the world. It’s not as though he would start doing all the things I do to make sure I do it correctly. It would just be we’d both be doing lousy jobs. And if, God forbid, the man who had demonstrated a tendency of dishonesty before, decided to push the blame on me, saying, “Well, I was just doing the amount of work he was!” wouldn’t be an acceptable answer.

And he did start telling people I was the one getting the orders wrong. Which, let’s be fair, I’m not immune to mistakes. But in his childlike way, when I began to voice my complaints on his accuracy in his orders, he tried to pass the buck to me, just like I was afraid of. It was obvious.

My saving grace? Reputation.

Because I hold myself to my own standards, not the standards of those around me, I am considered reliable, hardworking, and honest in a company with less than invested employees. My boss knows that I plan ahead. Because my dear, sweet coworker and I work together more than anyone else, I doubt if others see the same frequency of his lies, but upper management has caught him in it at least once or twice. And, despite my boss’s discreteness, I’ve gotten the sense that she too was getting worried about him. My complaints weren’t helping. Maybe his damaged me; some people seem too eager to believe anything they’re told, but what else to do about it except for keep strong?

Yet, the word of wisdom criticized me. Everyone I talked to told me the same thing, “Stop doing his job for him.” It was thick with implication. The trouble is, you’re not standing up for yourself. You’re not handling this correctly. You have no spine. Most importantly, you’re investing too much. Stoop to their level and they’ll rise to yours.


Throughout my relationships, the story has been the same. The level of default compassion and respect I believe the average person deserves, the amount of work you should put into any project, are higher than men I’ve dated. They believed, I’ve realized in retrospect, that support and kindness was something you showed to your superiors, a weak plea for approval. “Love me!” you’re saying as you expose your soft stomach. They would then think they had leverage and start making one-sided demands for how the “relationship” would be. (Basically, exactly the same with no expectations of loyalty, support, or accessibility on them.) When I took the threat seriously and walked with relative ease, they were unreasonably shocked that I didn’t want to negotiate the terms. In a weird way, I don’t believe that they truly wanted a ‘not-relationship,’ but rather thought they could get me to beg them for it. Or maybe they thought they could sleep around without guilt for a while, which is a gross misinterpretation on their part. But I’ve never been in a relationship in which they used me for sex; always, always used me as their emotional pack-mule. So what would a casual relationship with me get them?

They were left confused and hurt, I was left insulted and humiliated.

Again, people believed that I was putting too much work into the wrong places. I can’t say I disagree. But suggestions like, “Why don’t you try casually dating?” or “Sit back and wait for them do to the work,” missed the point.

Casual dating is the worst of both worlds. You’re still obligated to a bit of small talk and making yourself go out when you don’t want to, being sort of responsible for the emotions of the person you’re with, but you don’t get the reward of developing closeness, understanding each other, and having physical intimacy mean something. Dating someone who you like is awesome. Dating someone who you don’t know—and don’t want to get to know—is boring as hell.

For that matter, half-assing things, even if not stressful, is incredibly tedious. Stooping to the low standards of everyone around you is part of the reason my generation is so frustrated. Having meaningless small talk and meaningless sex in your undecorated, temporary apartment with a mattress and a pile of dirty dishes as you wait to go to your unstimulating job is obviously going to cause emotional dissatisfaction. Sometimes, your life is what you make it, and investing into relationships, making your personal space personal, cooking, cleaning, and putting effort into doing your job well can make the daily aspects of life more interesting, not to mention more rewarding. Caring about something, taking pride in something, and working hard against the risks and being victorious in ways you didn’t think you could, are what get you peaks in life.

It’s clear the real issue is that there was a pattern in my relationships, a pattern that I was creating. My decision to be accessible, supportive, and giving early on was not the issue. The issue was who I was surrounding myself with.

I also believe in making the world a better place. You do that through communication, honesty, and, yes, setting boundaries, but you wouldn’t know that through the sneers of 20 somethings annoyed because you aren’t prioritizing the bare minimum like they are, or the way that people act like you’re “trying too hard” due to insecurity.

I won’t deny that putting in 100% makes me feel safer. I hate guilt and embarrassment, and I decided to do the best I can after having my senior thesis go south because I couldn’t call my professor out on his shortcomings without addressing mine. But I work hard because it is mentally stimulating, because you are your reputation, and because everyone’s life is better when you actually try. I care about people, the project, and myself. That’s why I try.

The good news is, I learned a lesson in all of this. As everyone I knew second guessed me in my decision to do the job the best I could, regardless of what my coworker was putting in, I saved myself in the game of “He said, she said.” I am reminded of all the times people say, “Invest less. Put in less,” and I look at their lives, their own satisfaction, and remember that we all have different beliefs, sense of right and wrong, and priorities and each have their own pros and cons. I don’t believe in doing worse because someone else is putting in less, and there’s a reason for that. I need to trust my instincts.

I was recently told that my writing was “trying too hard.” So often, people complain that the words I use (what I perceive as very common) are pretentious, inaccessible to girls my age. In my view, I am speaking openly. In that play, for the first time, I directly painted the impact of depression and pushing yourself too hard in a humorous, bittersweet way. In light of these last few weeks, there’s something funny in that.

I agree that chronic stress does not belong in someone’s life, and that you should surround yourself to people who want to match your efforts. But don’t ever let anyone tell you that your passion, your goals, or your work ethic is “too much.” Don’t feel like kindness, even if it was met with disdain, unappreciation, or rejection, is a weakness. It is hard to be a good person, but it’s not wrong just because it didn’t work out, or because someone took advantage. Be who you want to be and don’t let someone talk you out of your beliefs.

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