I’m late often. I’m habitually late. I’m increasingly late with increasing frequency.
My actual personality is quite meek, I avoid almost everything. Uncomfortable, difficult, unafffirming things get replaced by drinking, hanging out, blogging.
So when I see myself being later and later more and more often at the gateway – which I’d still surely insist is the most I’ve ever loved a job – it’s a dreadful sign.
And that word dread means a lot to me. I’ve always used it as a barometer of when to quit things. When I see myself wanting to avoid or minimize my involvement with something, start cherishing my time anywhere else. Start counting down to time away. If I dread Monday morning on Sunday night then I know I need to make a change.
Which I’m not yet. I’m not dreading work yet.
I didn’t used to have to give myself pep talks though, I didn’t used to blame myself for not having the ethic to do what needs to be done with joy or at least humility. I used to come to work early, talk openly and easily, take on responsibilities, suggest things, solve problems, I’d feel creative and vital and I didn’t think about the world outside or my futurelessness.
And I didn’t see creeping passive aggressiveness.
What I consider the core of my job, the single thing that makes all other aspects fall into place, is making other people feel like they are flourishing. When people, especially the particularly moody type of people who tend to work in kitchens, feel like they are flourishing they don’t need tons of lists and supervision, they communicate effortlessly and unconsciously, and rather than the dreaded passive aggressive silence you’ll see people scanning for ways to help one another.
And it’s actually exhausting. I have to try to care, to not fall into the passive aggressive silence, to not fall into thinking so far ahead that all feels meaningless. My tendency to give up, to avoid, to think I’m not good enough to really help anyone or anything, is always floating around wanting attention.
Keeping other people positive when I almost never naturally feel positive at work anymore is my full time concern. Keeping the team strong is the cornerstone of any decent thing worth doing.
Trying to be humble and trying to make everything about others is often thankless. Like being a parent who so nurtures their child that the child doesn’t see them at all, simply thinking the safety they enjoy is the state of the universe.
And like any parent I can feel accomplished when unnoticed and I can fucking lose it when I feel like I’m spinning everyone else’s plates and all I’m getting is repeated tedious new plates to spin.
The problem with dealing with a lot emotional situations is giving someone solutions to one melt down often means giving them the same solution to the next meltdown and struggling to word it differently.
And sometimes I could really use a meltdown but there’s no one trying to nurture me, no one to care-take the caretaker. It’s not ignorance per se, it’s that I’m notoriously moody so everyone shrugs me off without gauging if I do honestly need space or if I could really use some empathy.
Meanwhile work has become so dehumanizing and meaningless. It’s harder and harder for me not to put my head down and just wait for the day to be over, wait to be swept aside slowly and at best become an object of nostalgia. To be used up and spit out for the sake of a good staff discount.
I used to have things outside of work that acted as a lifeline when work itself wasn’t satisfying, even the months of girl trouble felt important. When I have nothing and I’m just standing at work absorbing the futility of everything I do and I have nothing else to think happily about I start spiraling. And if I get social and chatty I can get myself through the day, maybe even save my mood but if there’s problems floating around the kitchen or the staff room I can’t. Not when I can’t convince myself I’m just wearing depression goggles.
I feel like everyone thinks I never care but it’s more factual to say I’m burned out from over caring early in the day. From obsessing and worrying about microcosms.
A boss said something a while ago that stuck with me because I imagine it’s a genuine insight into how she thinks. She was thanking me for covering for someone on short notice and at the end she switched from her normal basic phony tone to something that seemed unguarded and said “Well, we are paying you so I don’t have to be that grateful.”
And that’s the thing I find disgusting and dehumanizing about modern meaningless wage labour. The idea that because you are being paid feelings don’t matter.
We have almost no turn over at the Gate. Other places I’ve worked it’s always been a matter of one good person leaving and being replaced that causes everyone to file out. I believe in teams, and I believe in nurturing talent, I believe when you’re on a team part it is helping each other grow as people not just as employees. Not as merely workers.
I sat down with that same boss lately and asked if she’d take two people who have a problem with each other into the office and mediate a conversation so they could unpack all the passive (and now non-passive) aggressiveness between them, for the benefit of everyone. And her solution – the idea she thought was better – was to trick people into being better workers. She literally used the work trick.
I spent my while life leading up to fronting my own band and by the time I got there I was so focused on my goals that I didn’t nurture my teammates. All I could see was how they were letting me down, I didn’t see their effort, their strengths, and I didn’t think about what they needed or what they wanted, I just thought it was all in or all out. So when I didn’t feel they were all in I went all out.
It’s a mistake I don’t want to make again. So I’m aiming to nurture this team, to nurture anyone close to me, anyone I can when I have the strength, and to not think catastrophically. Let bad days just be bad days and not a sure sign of a bad life.
However my fear of the sin of persistence and futile spirals is still omnipresent. It’s not a balance either. I don’t have moments of hope that make the hopelessness worth it or take away the sting. I just have to keep doing hopefully things no matter how hopeless I feel, the scales are already fully tipped.