Humiliations Galore!

Despite the fact that they were spoken by Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride under entirely different circumstances, those two words sum up my career journey this year. Between no call backs for interviews and starting three new (part-time) jobs this year, I’m now a full-fledged newbie (an oxymoron, I believe) at the age of 36, and I have never felt dumber. I recently began working two short shifts at an apparently hotly contested campus where I am housed in the corner of a computer lab that, according to some higher up, cannot be referred to as a library. Therefore, everyone who comes in believes that I am an IT person which I am most definitely not…especially according to my name tag that clearly reads “Library.” Nonetheless, I have schooled dozens of students in the art of logging in and locating printers on the network.

Just two weeks into the semester, I not only nearly lost my marbles, but I almost pulled them out and threw them at someone…specifically a professor. The situation was a printing problem, and I applied my limited repertoire of skills unsuccessfully to the issue. I then proceeded to inform the professor that this was an IT question instead of a library question so it was outside my skill set. He proceeded to tell his entire class…that had followed him into the library to stand around and wait…that he had asked the expert, but he still couldn’t print. I was slightly taken aback by this pronouncement so much so that I retreated to my desk and failed to call the IT person for help. First of all, the name tag clearly states “Library” NOT “IT/Technology.” Second this was only the second time in my life that a professor had been condescending toward me. I was a teenager the first time and somewhat incapable of defending myself. This time felt like a slap, and I had to rope in the righteous anger.

So instead of saying, “I’m sorry that with your graduate degree you don’t know how to print or treat someone else like a human being,” I just decided to return to my corner where I promptly hated everyone for the next two hours. Then I fled. I will say that it’s a sad state when I’m more excited about going to the doctor than going to work.

At my two other new jobs, the humiliation largely comes from not knowing all the skills just yet, but everyone is kind enough to help when I have questions. Why does there always have to be one person who has to humiliate someone else to make himself feel better? I understand enough about human nature, and I’ve observed enough human character to know this happens. However, it makes the figurative slap no less painful and sharp.

I openly acknowledge that I find the verse Matthew 5:39 difficult to uphold. I tend to be more of an Agent J in Men in Black kind of person, “Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing.” I don’t like to start a fight, but it is very tempting to finish it even though I’m not supposed to finish that kind of fight. I had no control over the fact that this professor waited until after class to print something while bringing his entire class in tow. I am NOT an IT person responsible for fixing computer issues. I also cannot control how another person behaves. What I CAN control is how I react to a situation.

That day I was insecure because of how I was treated. The next day I was angry. A few days after that I finally let it go because I began to see an advantage to humility/humbleness. Humility just lets that stuff go, but I’m finding that I currently have to work through the stages to get to humility. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach the level of going straight to humility, but I’m working on it.

“If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.” ~Mother Teresa

How Do I Unplug These Things?

“…I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you — especially when you are near to me, as now: it is as if I had string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land, came broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you — you’d forget me.” [Mr. Rochester]

“That I never should, sir…” [Jane Eyre]

~Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

I have loved this scene since the moment I first read it because I find something universal in the imagery. I don’t think that a string between hearts or souls is restricted to romantic relationships. Rather I think our lives consist of a whole set of strings. There is one for each person with whom(?) we have ever interacted. Some of these strings are thick and strong as steel, and others are as weak as cheaply made thread. Some are firmly attached to other people, and others have been severed completely. The strength and durability of the invisible string is dictated by the condition of the relationship.

Those dearest to us are connected to us by powerful yet flexible cords. Those of passing acquaintance are connected to us by slight and filmy threads, and there are innumerable people connected by strands somewhere between strong and weak. Worst of all are the unattached pieces. Those strings don’t belong to loved ones who have died because we are all still strongly attached to those who have gone before us. No, the free floaters belong to those who have hurt us the most — or who we have hurt the most. Free floaters are the unforgivens. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t forgive, but I am saying that we often file hurts away as lessons learned so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. Likewise free floaters consist of our own unforgivens in which we have harmed someone else who can’t forget. These severed pieces float and tangle among our other heart strings as reminders.

Mostly today I am thinking of strong and everlasting connections. My career transition has pulled me out of one group of friends and into another where I have begun forming new strings. I don’t want to lose my connections with my old friends, but those relationships are being modified by time, distance, and changing roles. I have never played a string instrument, but I imagine tuning one to be something of an art form. The strings must be tightened or loosened to just the right degree for the perfect sound to be produced. I believe heart strings to be much the same. They must be finely tuned as well. Sometimes they need to be tightened for support, and sometimes they need to be loosened for exploration. Only by keeping an eye on the condition of each can the correct notes be played.

I find myself in a situation with my heart strings. There are people with whom(?) I have always been tightly bound to since they entered my life. Now I am discovering that life is asking me to loosen the strings a bit because we need to move a little distance apart. The strings are still strong and durable, but the sounds needs to change with flexibility. Right now I’m loosening the strings where I know it is necessary, and like Mr. Rochester, I’m concerned that I’m “inwardly bleeding.” However I’m not going to bleed out entirely, and like Jane Eyre, “I never should” forget those recipients and caretakers of my heart strings. We just need a little freedom of movement to improve the sound.

Gettin’ Ready to Leave This World

When I decided to leave my job, I did NOT take the decision lightly. I took a lot of time to think and pray about the whole process, and I geared myself up by consulting books that spoke to me on a personal level. After all, no two people can make this kind of decision the same way. I can only tell you what worked for me.

For years, I have enjoyed reading books on why other people make monumental decisions — career and otherwise. I have no idea why this matters to me except that I suppose I like to understand what makes other people tick. In light of that, the following list is compiled from books that encouraged me over the years to self-examine.

Setting the Stage Reading List

  • Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood
  • Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow
  • What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson
  • Jesus Did It Anyway by Kent M. Keith
  • All That Is Bitter and Sweet by Ashley Judd
  • Praying for Strangers by River Jordan
  • Smile at Strangers by Susan Schorn
  • When God Winks at You by SQuire Rushnell (not a mispelling, by the way)
  • Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge
  • Quiet by Susan Cain

All of those books in one way or another helped me understand more about myself, and I found great inspiration in reading about other people doing the same thing. If I had never bothered to read those books, I don’t know that I would have had the courage and wisdom to make the decision to walk away from a job where I really no longer belonged.

When I finally made the decision and informed my boss, I felt two things: total relief and sheer panic! (It was the oxymoron of emotions!) It wasn’t the simple thing of placing an order at a restaurant and then instantly realizing that you don’t want what you’ve just told the server. Nope! Once you tell your boss that you’re leaving, you can’t really take that back and still look professional…especially once they’ve hired your replacement! There were a couple of times where I almost went back and said, “I was just kidding…really…I’m staying…because I fear change.” Yep! I almost went there, but instead, I reinforced my decision on a steady diet of prayer and reading.


Prepping for Departure Reading List

  • What Color Is Your Parachute? 2016 by Richard Nelson Bolles
  • God Is Always Hiring by Regina Brett
  • Let Hope In by Pete Wilson
  • All the Places to Go, How Will You Know? by John Ortberg
  • In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson
  • What Keeps You Up at Night by Pete Wilson

These books helped me overcome the fear about my decision by reminding me that all change involves risk, and failure isn’t always a bad thing. Where do we learn best but in the arena of failure?

I still need reminding frequently that I made the right decision so I often find myself diving into other books for perspective. The great thing about perspective is that it changes every day with our growing experience and knowledge. Strangely enough, I found two articles after I left that reinforced my decision for multiple reasons, and they also made me think more about why other people leave a seemingly “good” job. If you’re interested in the same sort of thing, check out these two resources:

“Top 6 Reasons People Quit” by Ed Rappuhn (The Tennessean)

“9 Things That Make Good Employees Quit” by Dr. Travis Bradberry (TalentSmart)

So I might still be trying to figure out exactly which direction that I’m heading, but at least I know that I took the right exit at the right time. Everything after that is just part of the adventure.

Listing Myself…in More Ways Than One

Just a handful of days from my quit day, I had an epiphany about why people don’t change from one job to another. I had been running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to complete the various tasks required to leave one job for another. My realization was this: people don’t quit jobs because the paperwork and running hither and yon to start a new job are a special form of torture.

There is no “Changing Jobs 101” class in which I could enroll. I had never seen a book called “Ten Things You Should Do When You Change Jobs”, and I’m a librarian (with a lowercase L – but that’s a different blog altogether). I sat around for a month or two after announcing that I was quitting without really grasping what that meant.

I can tell you right now in one word: paperwork!

The amount of red tape involved in quitting one job and starting another was astonishing. I guess eight years in one job was long enough to make me forget that part. The entire process could make the IRS proud…especially if it could all have been done electronically. Alas, it could not so I began making lists: a list of things to do before I quit, a list of jobs to apply for, a list of my current finances, a list of bills I would still have to pay, a list of references, a list of people to say goodbye to, a list of skills I possessed, a list of skills to learn, and so on and so on. I had lists coming out of my ears! At the least, they were overflowing my desk and notepads.

Everything about it seemed so surreal at that point. I kept writing out the lists and marking the days off the calendar without comprehending that I was actually leaving the job…and not coming back. I just floated through on autopilot putting in applications and resumes for jobs, figuring out when my health insurance would run out, and keeping a hawk eye on my bank account to be certain I could make it for a few months without work if necessary.

I met the Health Insurance Marketplace which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but my checking account wasn’t thrilled to be introduced to it. I started learning more about my life and cancer insurance policies. Frankly insurance is like learning a foreign language that I still have as of yet to master, but I managed to get all my basic ducks in a row. I’ve learned to live on less, and it hasn’t killed me yet.

One of my resumes paid off with a part-time job offer to begin right after I left my full-time position. I find that I keep learning the definition of providential. The past six months have been a massive – but interesting – learning curve. Changing jobs has not been a terrible experience, but I have had to learn new financial self-control. I have cultivated new interests and re-cultivated dormant hobbies. Perhaps more importantly, I have had time for some serious self-reflection. All in all, I have been able to stay on an even keel by accepting that my change in circumstances is still better than the stress I endured with my old job. Those closest to me have acknowledged the positive difference in my personality with the reduction of stress and strain in my life.

So to alter a Douglas Adams quote just a little: “I may not have [gotten] where I intended to be [yet], but I think I have ended up where I needed to be [for now].”

Librarian Did What?!

Well to sum that answer up in two words, I quit!

Truth be told, I believe that a lot of my friends and family thought I had lost my mind. They were just too kind to say so to my face. My parents and closest friends, on the other hand, understood completely. I wouldn’t blame people for thinking I had cracked because I walked away from a full-time job with good benefits and a senior role on staff.

So what caused me to take leave of my senses? To sum that question up as simply as the first, it was time.

How did I know that it was time? The quick answer is that the job no longer satisfied my career passion so it was time to go. I had prayed about my decision to stay or go for almost two years, and six months before I gave my notice, I knew it was time to leave. However, I spent those six months convincing myself of the fact…until I was completely, absolutely, beyond the shadow of a doubt miserable.

Let me explain a few things:

  1. I had/have wonderful friends there. (They were the hardest thing to leave.)
  2. It was a full-time job with EXCELLENT benefits.
  3. I had been there several years and was a senior member of the staff.
  4. I dreaded the idea of having to begin all over again at a new job with new skills.

All of these are reasons why so many people seemed to ask, WHAT IN THE WORLD WERE YOU THINKING?

I can answer that! I left because of:

  1. People – If you have ever had a job working with the general public, then no further explanation is needed. If you are one of those people who has only ever been an active participating member of the general public, please allow me to educate you. We public servants, government and otherwise, don’t always look forward to dealing with people. Why? You ask. Well, in your mind, you’re always right, and we’re always wrong. You always want what you want five minutes ago when the best we can do is right now. My favorite is that any problem or mistake is clearly NOT you’re fault. Therefore we are responsible, and you are not. Well, honey, we public servants must be the most responsible people in the world because we are ALWAYS taking responsibility for someone else. (Allow me to amend that this does not apply to every patron — in the library world — or customer. Unfortunately, we remember the bad eggs as much or more than the good eggs so thank God for the good ones!)
  2. Position – I had a good job, but I couldn’t progress anywhere else from that situation unless I wanted to become management. I have traveled the management road, and it doesn’t seem to fit my personality at this point in my life. I felt as if there were no further opportunities to grow in the job in the direction that I wanted to go.
  3. Place – Did I mention the daily commute before? No? Well it was two hours round trip, and I had been driving it for over ten years. Commuting was cheaper than rent. As a definite introvert, I love alone time in the car, but I don’t always love other drivers. For that matter, who loves driving in unpredictable weather for a decade?

So there I was knowing it was time to leave, and I discovered that I felt great relief over the decision. That relief let me know that I made the right decision. My biggest regret was being separated from my friends so we have made sincere efforts to stay in contact. The truth was that it was past time to leave, and I know that I made the right choice. I just wish there had been a better manual when I set out on this journey.

Wisdom: “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” ~Ronald E. Osborn