I can tell myself that I’m okay confidently now, but it used to be a complete lie. December 2012 to April 19, 2013 was a dark and horrible period for me. Even in all my memories of those times, I just think of darkness, dark eyes, and dark skies. That’s not even the content of what made it such a dark time. It’s some serious darkness. I tried to be happy and positive, but it wasn’t working the way it normally did. Everyone gets in a funk… I seemed to be drowning in a cesspool of worthlessness and hatred. I mean for starters, I started actively using my Twitter and joined Spotify–an act which in itself is not bad, but when you decide to make all your listening public… it’s darkness. For entrees, it was also winter, which seemed to highlight the misery of everything I felt. For dessert, I hated my life, my job, my classes, myself, my car, my phone (a hatred which continues to today) and anything and everything I did, thought, and touched.
When I first graduated from college, I was “that bitch” that everyone hated. I applied to a few jobs and then stopped. I had my summer job still and I was going to worry about the future in the future (not recommended). However, on August 3 when my job ended, I already had a job lined up. Maybe it was a church job for two hours a week, but it was income that could at least pay for gas. It was way more than what some of my friends got. By August 15, I was hired at a law office, which was my goal. I started working part-time on August 20, 2012 at a criminal and family law office based in the suburbs of Chicago. The plan was to get experience and outstanding recommendation letters from the people who worked with me.
By October, it was pretty clear that I was not getting experience and I was definitely not getting an outstanding recommendation… or any. Experience requires someone to actually do work. Most of what I did at the law office involved watching Netflix and listening to music. Whenever there was work, I certainly did that, but there was hardly any work! I translated for a few Spanish-speaking clients, answered a telephone call or two, and maybe sent some mail. At first, I had no qualms with that. A chance to catch up on my shows? Yes please! A chance to listen to new music? Good for the whole family! However, I was gaining no new skills and I was almost certain I was digressing in the few social graces I had. The longer I worked there, the more useless I felt and the longer those five hours seemed. The busiest I ever was in that office was on trash day. I can’t emphasize enough how little I did at my job.
Now, one cannot write a recommendation letter without knowing a). who the person is and b). if they can actually do their job. That being said, my contact with humans was minimal, including the humans that worked in the law office. The lawyer that I worked directly under was on a different floor. I would arrive at noon and maybe run into him when I walked in. Otherwise, and assuming he was there, I saw him at 2:30pm and 4:45pm and the rare times I would go upstairs to use the bathroom. That would be my human interaction in that office. It shouldn’t be surprising then that my boss didn’t know my name for a few months after I started there and didn’t spell it right for an even longer time after that. It’s almost a feat to do that, by the way. My work email is my name, spelled correctly, at the company name dot com.
I actually really liked my boss. Maybe he didn’t know my name and maybe he was super conservative and maybe he was a little gruff, but he was still pretty awesome. He was very understanding when I first started and always made sure to be out the door before 5pm, which meant that I could be out the door at 5pm. He disliked colorful paperclips and only liked the silver jumbo sized ones. He always spoke to me when he walked in the room and he really liked golf and trains. He seemed to be just as confused as I was when it came down to office affairs and he ate the cashews that I would discard from my party mix peanuts. He also shared the same hatred I did for those horrible birds or squirrels that would drop [albeit colorful] excrements on any car parked under the trees. I never had to question my standing with him or what he wanted. He told me exactly when I was messing up and what he wanted. I truly appreciated that.
Moving on to doing my job, I couldn’t. I could do the work in my office, which was answering phones and making copies, but my position actually consisted of more responsibility. I was supposed to be able to draft pleadings and correspondence and file things… haha. It should come as no surprise that when I covered someone else in another, busier, law office I crashed and burned. I answered phones and made copies. I didn’t take payments or even know what a Motion for Discovery was. I didn’t know how to bill clients or function as a useful employee. My two and a half days of training hadn’t prepared me to run an office alone with real clients and angry callers. Thankfully that was just one day and I promptly returned to my normal office.
That was the status quo for a few months. Once a month I would work in the busier office and then go back to my office. In November, that changed and it changed for the not-so-good. Not many offices do this and it is an extremely toxic work environment—it made my dark period so much darker. It made it so dark that I couldn’t remember what it was like to not be completely and utterly miserable at my job. I couldn’t remember the first month, the feeling of hearing that “You’re hired and you’ll start on Monday.” All I could feel and remember was the crushing pressure of “You made this mistake and if you keep doing it we’ll both get fired.”
In November, my bosses decided to add a little flavor to the work day. By flavor, I really mean hardships and stress. I was to work in the busier office during my regular hours and the woman that normally worked there would move to my old office in the afternoon. They expected her to do still do the same work in the other office as in her normal office. I have no idea what they expected me to do except speak Spanish to people. We both struggled with the job and sharing a desk (which is so, so unbelievably hard—I wouldn’t mention one little thing I did and the whole next morning would be completely messed up. No joke).
It didn’t help that the woman wanted me to basically do nothing except answer phones and make copies—even though the attorney out of the office was telling me to try to do more work. She would delete the work I did and do it over. I understood because she was afraid of getting fired and wanted to make sure that the work was done correctly. That job required us to act like we were about to get fired every single day. Every action we took had to be careful and exactly what the attorney wanted. It was extremely stressful.
It lasted for a month. Ended suddenly.
I walked into the office as my coworker was getting ready to leave and she asked me if I had seen my email. Nope, I hadn’t. I hadn’t seen my email since the day we switched offices because I didn’t have the fancy iPhone app that let them check their work email. She printed it out for me and the email said that, effective immediately (although not too immediately because I was in the office and hadn’t received the email), everyone was to return to their original office. I was sad because the busier office was closer to home and I had more interaction with humankind… and I did more. But at the same time, I missed my office. I missed being able to watch Netflix a little and I missed my usual attorney who couldn’t remember/spell my name.
It was way more complicated than that progression… Until March 2013, I was fully convinced that the coworker that I played musical offices with hated my guts forever—so, of course, when the offices were switched back, I had the strong suspicion of that decision being all her doing. I’ve grown past that.
Regardless, neither of us gained anything out of it except hair loss. I can’t take away any knowledge from working there except knowing where things in that office were located.
So, yes, I went back to my office with some work. I was to be in charge of billing and client correspondence. I was awesome at both, or so I thought. By February those privileges were taken away. I will take responsibility for that. I made some billing errors (for example, I would leave the date blank when I would send it to the main branch to look over and add it in at the very end when I knew the date it would be sent—it sometimes took them days to respond!). There were some typos as well. I got it, truly, especially when they took it away.
So I was in my office. Doing nothing.
And so the misery escalates.
It’s one thing to go from one do-nothing job to another do-nothing job. It’s completely different to go from a do-nothing job and then suddenly do ALL the things in the job and then do nothing again. It’s just so upsetting. Me, I don’t even like doing things, but it was just painful to sit there. Alone. Doing nothing.
I felt so useless. And I was internalizing my uselessness.
And my friends were all getting raises.
And I was getting letters from my boss saying I needed to shape up or get out.
And my other friend got into law school.
And I was thinking I needed to reconsider my life and prospects, because clearly I couldn’t even do nothing correctly (got my written disciplinary letter when all my responsibilities were taken away).
And my friends were happy.
And I went to bed and cried when I woke up in the morning.
And my friends were super bummed to be around me.
And I was trying so hard to be happy but I couldn’t do it.
And my friends were making something of themselves as people.
And I was disappointing my mother.
And I’m pretty sure I was also disappointing my dogs.
My friends were working out and being healthy.
I was fat and lazy and eating. All the time.
As I said, I hated myself, my life, my dreams, my hopes, my aspirations, and anything I said, did, touched, etc. I hated it all.
It affected my schoolwork (because I was the sick fuck that finally freed herself from school and dove right back in. Like an idiot. Not even good school. Community college).
Once things start affecting my schoolwork, it’s pretty bad. Even when I didn’t study or spent way more time drinking than being in the classroom, my schoolwork remained unaffected. No joke. But this—this wallowing despair ridden succubus of death, darkness, and self-loathing… that affected my schoolwork.
It lasted for a long time. I would visit my friends and I would feel horrible after seeing them because their lives always appeared to be so much better and more put together than mine. I remember driving home from visiting someone that I hadn’t seen in a long time (also known as “that that bitch that stole my dream”—a name which originated from this time period, but is still so appropriate… minus the bitch part…. now) and bursting into tears. I couldn’t even put into words what was wrong. All I could say was that everything was wrong.
It continued that was for a long time. Too long. Even now when I’m okay with how things are going, I can still fall right back into how I felt. I needed help and I either wasn’t open to it or I wasn’t getting the right kind of help. I couldn’t pull myself out of it.
Then April 19th happened. It was a normal miserable day. I woke up later than planned, let the dogs out, made my coffee, fed the dogs, fed my face, drank my coffee and watched some Mad Men or How I Met Your Mother, changed, pet my dogs, left, went to work, “worked”, and headed home. I was on Randall Road, in between South Elgin and St. Charles… Daft Punk came on, specifically, “Get Lucky”. And I just felt a lift of my shoulders and I finally felt like I was in the real world and breathing. I felt human again. I’m pretty sure I smiled all by myself. I don’t know what could have made that happen—whether it was the impending trip to Champaign, the impending tattoo, the prospect of being in the last place where things made sense to me or if I just finally realized that my… anything didn’t depend on my job or what my friends were doing. I was okay. I was shaken and stirred, but okay.
It’s September 2 now at 11:11pm (make a wish!) and I’m still okay. I’m not happy—I still work at my job, I’m still so stressed out that my body can’t function properly, I’m still taking classes at the community college, that bitch still stole my dream, my friends still have way better jobs than me (some), I’m still struggling with my own mediocracy, and I’m still incapable of going to bed before midnight, but, again, I’m okay. I can wake up in the morning and deal with the crappy day that was handed to me and hearing “You don’t speak Spanish very well, do you?” doesn’t make me cry anymore. I’m okay.
It’s oddly comforting to know that when that happens again, I’ll be fine at the end.