Walking It Off

For those of you who don’t read my private blog (which is most of you, because it’s, well, private) I’m going to catch you up on recent events quickly, while sharing some more photos I’ve worked on in recent weeks.

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I may have mentioned this in a recent wig video post, but two significant things happened this month that I am still processing, to use that term in the non-photography sense. My grandmother’s funeral was May 17th, and that same day I quit my job.

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My grandmother was 93 years old, and until the past few months she’d still been able to function on her own. She was just getting to the point that my father had to visit her every day and check in with her when, on May 10th, she had a massive stroke and heart attack that left her bedridden, paralyzed on one side, and non-communicative. She could still open her eyes, and wave goodbye, and squeeze your hand if you asked her to, but for the most part her life was over in that moment. She hung on for five days, and died that Saturday. In the grand scheme of things, she was never reliant on anyone else and did not suffer long in the hospital, but still. When a loved one dies, it’s never easy.

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There was a lot of chaos and drama at work as usual going on at the same time, and the long and short of it was that I’d been made promises about my job that ultimately were broken. And I found out about those broken promises the day of my grandmother’s funeral. So after the services, my husband and I drove up to the school, packed up my things, and I walked out.

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I’ve been struggling with all these things ever since. It wasn’t just that I didn’t get a promotion I’d been promised, it was that in the weeks leading up to the non-promotion, I started acting like I had the job already, and making a lot of decisions and writing up a lot of documents about how I wanted my department to run. To do all that work, and then not get the credit or any  benefit from it, was devestating. And insulting. And even though there was only a week left in the school year at that point, and I knew that walking away was a dicey decision, I did it because the only thing left for me to do at that point if I’d stayed was hand over the rest of my knowledge and information to the people in charge who’d already screwed me over, then slink away at the end of the school year to never return. At least this way, i got to take my hard work and knowledge with me, and I didn’t let them steal any more from me than they already had.

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I’ve been so baffled over how this happened, and how it is that I could work so hard somewhere for four years and never get any acknowledgement or reward for it. Selfish thoughts, I know, but they were my thoughts  all the same. In the past year, I felt I’d really been pretty vocal about my ideas – and they were damn good ones – and all the ways I knew the school could be so much better, and I kept waiting to be rewarded for that. But then today I stumbled across this post in an advice column that helped me to understand where I went wrong. The entire response is excellent and well worth a read, but it was these two paragraphs in particular hit the nail on the head for  me (salty language warning for the faint of heart):

You had a lot of ideas how the company might do things better. You were passionate about those ideas. You took the inefficiencies and inconsistencies around you personally. And while it’s easy to believe that these things make you an ideal candidate for a management role, you’re wrong. In fact, in 9 out of 10 workplaces, these things make you the least likely person to be promoted.

Generally speaking, managers are not people who fixate on how the company might do things better. Managers simply run things. They perpetuate the status quo, and they are hired to do just that. Sure, there might be a superstar CEO or business owner who rains down hellfire and damnation (or muffin baskets, or bonuses), and then all the managers inform the plebes of the new policies and initiatives that are going to streamline everything, usually in asinine, out-of-touch ways that fuck everything else. But managers are not the source of these initiatives. The manager’s real talent lies in his/her ability to pass along bullshit initiatives WITHOUT letting on — in longwinded emails and longwinded meetings — that those initiatives are fucking bullshit. The budding manager is promoted not based on long hours, vision, and passion, but on an ability to encounter hilariously ill-considered directives with a quiet shrug of resignation.

Now I know there’s a lot of patting myself on the back in those two paragaphs, which I don’t mean to do so obnoxiously; but it does explain how I could have spent all year pushing hard for change and shoving my bright ideas down everyone else’s throats and not ending up at the end of the year with a gold star. In fact, I got thrown under the bus instead! But while I think I did have a pretty clear read of what was wrong with that place,. what I did a piss-poor job at was reading the room. I simply never understood that all my fussing and shouting for change wasn’t getting me any closer to being a leader there; it was just pushing me closer to the door. And in the end, I had to just walk through the exit and call it a day.

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It’s not that I shouldn’t have had the ideas I had, or even try to convince others that they were good ones; I just should have understood better how that role fits into a culture like that one and not expected to be rewarded for it. Either way, I think at the end of the year I would have been saying adios to the whole environment, because it was clear that status quo was still the order of the day around there and always would be; but I wouldn’t have been so shocked at the outcome and my expectations for how I would be treated as a result of all my planning and pushing would have been far lower. In the end, it was the right thing to do, and I don’t regret it, and I’ve decided to strike out on my own and work as an academic coach and tutor so some of those big ideas I had about how best to help kids I can do in  the manner I think is best, without having to play to the middle and hide my damn light under a bushel to get away with it and all that.

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It’s still been a hard lesson to accept, and venturing out on my own without a steady paycheck is daunting to say the least, but my husband is fully on my side and has in fact been telling me to walk away from that crazy damn place for years, so I know it will be OK. But emotionally I’ve been through a lot, and I still have moments where I break down and ugly cry over it all – the loss of the job and the disappointment of their  broken promises, yes, but also the loss over my grandmother, which I scarcely got a breath to process before everything hit the fan at work.

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I’m already being contacted by the parents of students at the school who’ve heard about my departure, asking me to coach and tutor their kids, so that’s nice. Here’s hoping things can all work out in the end; time only spins forward after all. But first, a few weeks at least to catch my breath, since summer is here.

30 thoughts on “Walking It Off

  1. I’m so sorry about the loss of your grandmother. I pray that happy memories provide comfort in the days ahead.

    As far as your job… That just stinks! Your post really has helped me, however. I went through something very similar a year ago. Oh how I wish I could have walked out and never returned! Sadly, my life’s circumstances did not allow that option. Proudly look in the mirror and recognize that there was no real growth opportunity there. Cry and then wipe away the tears and go for it! This is your opportunity! Go for it!

    • Be sure to check out that post I linked to – the whole thing is really worth a read if you’ve ever felt similar about a job situation. I got a lot out of it!

  2. Cynthia, your blog was sad and yet I saw a glimpse of empowerment. Only 3 weeks I read this article about Grieving over the loss of a loved one and I’ve never read anything so good so comforting, if you’d like to read it I found the link to it. (each page is short but pithy, there’s about 5 pages)
    https://www.jw.org/finder?docid=2016084&wtlocale=E&srcid=share
    As regards your Job,venturing on your own can see you discover things about yourself and your abilities like never before. I hope it all goes well for you. 🙂

  3. So sorry for the loss of your grandmother ❤ My husband’s step mom who was very dear to us all passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on may 17 @ the age of 56 and only a week after her father’s funeral. Losing a loved one is so hard no matter how it happens. I hope you have had a chance to grieve and can find some peace. Sounds like she was a remarkable woman.

    I’m also sorry to hear about youwoman…. or more details about the situation, that is. I know what it feels like to work hard and try your best only to be ignored or in my case firedyourself (long story) after giving so much of yourself. I hope your talents and ambitious plans can come to fruition now that you’ve broken away from such a draining environment. Change is always difficult at first, but I’d be willing to bet this will be a very rewarding decision after you get past the initial hump so to speak 🙂

    Take care! xo Rachel

  4. sorry about the typos… my stupid keyboard apple will sometimes add words in where I don’t want them like…. “I’m also sorry to hear about youwoman” should say “your job”& ….. “or in my case firedyourself ” should just say “fired”

    Anyway, just wanted to correct that since it makes no sense with the added words. Hope you have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

    • No worries; I know how autocorrect can be! And thanks for your comments. I’m convinced if I hadn’t left when I did, firing was just around the corner. I’d reached a point where I just couldn’t keep my frustration to myself, so something was bound to happen. And in the end I was ‘terminated,’ just came after I walked off.

  5. Ditto to comments above – you held your integrity. Often it takes a traumatic loss to create positive change. My heart goes out to you over the loss of your grandma and my thoughts are with you. Please keep posting what’s happening and how you are. You are much loved and appreciated.

  6. Hi Cynthia. My sympathies to you and your family. Loss is always difficult. But that job loss. Oh girlfriend, do NOT get me started on that shit. When the last company I worked for was in the state of demise, another “sub” company was in the fetal stages. I was “promised” a position. One that I never received. I know why. I was too knowledgeable. Someone else who was a complete uneducated and clueless corporate village idiot got the promotion. Ignorant people are dangerous. And it is frustrating to know that it isn’t the ones with the excellent skills nor is it the candidate with the passionate, animated and vibrant personality who gets the job.

    It is the bland. The robotic. The numb. The ones who blend who become hired. I’m convinced.

    Chin up. Looks like you could have a lucrative career as a tutor! BTW, I LOVE the top pic of you. OMG. It’s gorgeous!!!!!

  7. First and foremost, I want to express my condolences to you for the loss of your precious, beloved grandmother. It’s always very hard to have to let go, even when we’ve already accepted the inevitability. Make sure you give yourself some proper grieving time.

    A workplace environment where politics rules and change, common sense, good judgment, hard work and initiative be damned, is so hard for a person that possesses those qualities to function in. A lot of people have come to accept their jobs as a 9 – 5, go in and do only what’s expected of them, give nothing more of themselves, leave it when they walk out the door at the end of the day and get their paycheck on payday. Then there are people like you. The ones that want to “upset the apple cart”, the one’s that are looked upon as a threat to and by management. It’s going to be much better for you in a position of being able to lead, to set your own rules and to not have to worry about whose toes you’re stepping on. I feel sorry for them, they are the sell-outs. You now have an opportunity that you never had in your old position. Every time one door closes, another opens. Take time off and enjoy the down time then start to lay your plans for your next venture. It looks as though you will have some wonderful opportunities to run your own show. The very best of luck to you.

  8. Ouch !! My condolences on your loss. Working a life time in the garment / fashion mfg. bus.,
    one was always rewarded for individual creativity and innovation. I’ve remarked before, you would have been a “star”in the fashion biz. Regardless, you’re still “star” quality and on your way to some more new and rewarding accomplishments. Please take us along for the journey.

  9. Wow, did you post come at a perfect time for me!!! I am sitting on the fence right now at my own job where I’ve put 9 years of effort and hope into in much the same situation, it sounds like!!
    Double coincidence since this is my first blog post to receive in my inbox from your blog. 🙂
    I’m very sorry for your loss.
    Thank you for sharing all of this, it actually does help others in more ways than you know.

    • Oh no! Really?! It is so awful to go through. I am really feeling it this week. One day I know I did the right thing, and then the next day I am in TEARS. I did find a good article online last night about the ways in which workplaces have become the new religion, or family, due to breakdowns in those traditional structures (maybe I should say ‘changes,’ I don’t much like the terms ‘breakdown’) and how it’s a quite recent phenomenon for people to take work upsets so personally they become seriously depressed, resentful, angry, and even suicidal. It was a bit of a hard read because I saw so much of myself in it, but it was helpful all the same. Here it is:

      http://www.fastcompany.com/38617/betrayed-work

  10. We talk so I dot have to say much, sorry again for your grandmothers passing. Enjoyed the photos but that last one, you totally don’t look like your self at all which I’m guessing is what you were going for. Good job 😉

  11. I’m sorry for the loss of your grandmother. It’s so hard to lose someone close. Have lost both my parents in the last few years and it’s a very lonely feeling. I miss them so so much every day. So life goes…As far as your quitting your job…good for you! A new path to travel down and more doors will open. As always your photos are beautiful.

  12. Sorry for your loss Cynthia. I’m glad you had so many years to share with her though. As far as your job…i say good for you! I too had something similar happen 4 yrs ago. Worked my ass off to get promoted went through the interviews and then it was boom. Beloved cat had to be put down. Boom. No promotion. In a week i had a new job and hit them with my resignation. I wish you good luck with the next job Meanwhile art is so therapeutic

    • Thank you for the kind words. Sorry to hear you had a similar work situation. But there is always something better on the horizon – glad you found yours!

  13. I felt so many emotions reading this post. You have the courage to go and do what you believe in, not everyone has that ability. You already are, and will continue to be, someone who truly makes a difference to those around them. Thank you for letting us all become part of that.

    Condolences on the loss of your Grandmother, be kind to yourself in this sad time.

  14. A sad few weeks for you, my sympathy over your Grandma when you lose close family it sort of reminds you that life is too short to spend doing things or being around people that make you unhappy. Then you feel bad for letting those things go, what if you miss it, what if… You’re starting a new chapter and you’ll do great 🍀💕

  15. Well said! I’m sorry you had to go through all that with your job and to grieve at the same time. I experienced something similar a few years back and I’ve never regretted saying “no more.” At first I felt guilty, ashamed and anxious for walking out..but I’m a better person now than the people pleaser that I was. The person I worked for had forgotten how to do her job and was fired shortly after. Actually, several people were fired. Best wishes and prayers for you!

    • Thanks for this! I have spoken to some former co-workers this week and hearing other’s perspectives on the whole mess (both from co-workers and just people online) has really helped me start to move past it. This week has definitely been an improvement for me emotionally over the last. Glad to know things worked out for you as well. 🙂

  16. Very sorry for the loss of your beloved grandmother, Cynthia 😦 Also sorry to hear things didn’t work out at your job, though I think you did the best you could under the circumstances. I think you did the right thing!

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