Thursday, March 29, 2007

Who am I, and why am I here?

And how did I get here, anyway? I'm having a fairly awful day - not necessarily anything specific, just one of those overwhelming days where I can't ever seem to get my feet under me and get into a groove. I'm floundering and flailing about, and I don't know how to stop it. Days like this make me ponder the path my life has taken (those of you who didn't think Geminis could ponder, you'd be surprised! LOL).

I was the smart child. Never the pretty one, always the smart one. I had a little musical talent, too, but I was smart and I knew it. I was reminded of it every time I turned around. Tested as gifted and talented when I was 5 or 6 - I forget what my IQ tested at, but it was up there. I was reading the encyclopedia when my classmates were working on "Dick and Jane". My parents emphasized grades above all, and it was always understood that I'd go to college and "make something of myself". I was told constantly that I could be whatever I wanted - my parents never said, "you're a girl, you can't do that". So I grew up with this expectation that I'd make a difference, that I'd "be someone".

I did great all the way through high school, and did decently in college (although if I had it to do over again, I'd have applied myself more and really given some serious thought as to what I wanted to do with my life, as opposed to doing whatever seemed like the best idea at the time). In law school, I wasn't the smartest by any means (or at least didn't test the best according to what law school professors were looking for! LOL), but I graduated and passed two bar exams, so, not too shabby.

And now, 14 years and five jobs later, I find myself here. Some jobs I've lost because the positions were done away with, some jobs I've left because I just got tired of them, and I've tried to make the best decision I could with regard to new jobs. I was the main breadwinner, so the best decision usually hinged on what paid the best and/or offered the best benefits rather than what really sounded interesting to me. This job sounded like a good idea at the time - the recruiter talked me into taking a small pay cut to come here, luring me with promises of making it up in raises and bonuses, saying you could get as much as a 25% bonus each year. Well, I should have known it was too good to be true. I've been here nearly three years now, and I've never gotten any bonus, and I doubt anyone gets a 25% bonus (maybe the big, big, big bosses do, but none of my peers get anything like that). I've never gotten a raise. The company doesn't do cost of living raises. And I suck so much at this job, it will be a cold day in hell in this job role before I get a raise. And I make a difference to no one. The times when I might actually be able to do something to really help someone, they don't bother to say thank you. They only call when they've got something to complain about.

That makes me sad. The job isn't mentally challenging, as such. It's not like I'm not smart enough to understand what needs to be done. The challenge is, there's too much work. I don't know how anyone does it. Our regular workload is enough to choke a horse. Throw on all these special projects we're asked to complete, some of which could very easily be knocked out quickly by temporary help, and it's just impossible. I don't know how anyone stays caught up. Yesterday morning I had what would be considered a good morning by any other standard - I got a lot of things accomplished that needed to be done. But when lunchtime rolled around, I couldn't look at my desk and think, "Hey, it's been a good morning, look at what all I got done!" All I could do was think, "Oh, shit, look at how many things got left undone while I was working on that other stuff this morning." I've never worked someplace where people hated taking time off for fear of how much work would accumulate in their absence. I've never worked someplace where the higher-ups try to find reasons not to give raises and bonuses (not just me). I've never worked someplace where so many people would walk out given the right opportunity.

And I've never had a job that I sucked at. I'm not used to not doing well at things. I'm the smart kid. I'm used to being able to handle whatever is thrown at me. And in this job, I can't. I don't know how to do any better. I don't know how to keep up with the barrage of things that are supposed to get done. I don't know how to keep every.single.thing from slipping through the cracks so that I don't miss anything. I've tried every time management technique I can think of, and I get so overwhelmed that I don't take time to update my calendar or set an Outlook reminder or make a note on my whiteboard or whatever I'm trying to do at the time to remind me of things, and I still lose track. It's killing me. This job makes me feel incompetent and stupid on an hourly basis, like I'm worth nothing to the company and entirely replaceable at any given moment, and I'm dragged down by it. My work stress bleeds over into my home life - I'm short with J in the mornings because I'm so worried about how being late, even by a few minutes, might affect me. And then I feel guilty over that.

It floors me that openings in my particular position still advertise for degreed and/or certified professionals. I have and have had co-workers here who are attorneys, CPAs, who have securities licenses or various financial certifications, who have credentials they've worked hard for. We come here, and we're reduced to answering phones and doing data entry, in addition to trying to be what we're supposed to be (but can't really do right because of the volume of work) and trying to make clients happy, some of whom just can't be made happy no matter what. And they wonder why turnover is high.

So, the obvious solution is to find something else to do. And I've looked. And looked. Inside my current company and out. I've sent resumes, I've made phone calls, I've gone on interviews. Nothing works out. Why? Have my career choices doomed me to this for the rest of my life? Is this all there is for me? Has my non-traditional career path come back to bite me in the butt? Should I have sucked up and gone with a firm right out of school, working 18-hour days six days a week? I know I'd have chosen differently earlier in life if I were the person I am now, but I wasn't - I was shy and reserved, and darned near scared of my shadow some days.

Alternatives. More education. Work at home. What do to? How to pay for school? What can I do that will earn me what I need to make? When to study? How can I do that and work, too? Work at home - can I make enough to support me? What else could I do besides transcription? Go with what I already do (Pampered Chef, candles, etc)? Learn something new (piano tuning, which I think would be quite cool). I have all sorts of ideas, but no solid direction that I think I should go.

I read my devotional a few days ago - I don't remember exactly what it said, but the gist was this: When you've asked God for something, don't just sit there with your thumb up your nose. Keep on living your life and doing what you need to do, and in His time, God will intervene. And if there's something you feel like God is telling you to do, do it.

That's all fine and good, but how do I put it into practice? I pray and I read and I think. I feel like working from home would be a good option for a variety of reasons: I'm better suited to just working by myself and being left the hell alone except for the occasional check-in with my employers, I'd be there when J left for school and when he got home, I'd save on gas, I'd have more flexibility for family things, I'd be a lot less stressed, I'm not using my law degree anyway so why not do something I could at least halfway enjoy and benefit from. There are some cons, too - having to pay for my own insurance, no other benefits, and yeah, I might miss the contact with co-workers (although I have other outlets for seeing people and making friends and what have you). But I can see the positives and I can see myself being very happy doing that, even if I'm doing several different things to bring in enough money.

So. At what point does it stop becoming a mental exercise and become time for me to "just do it"? How much confidence do I need to have in my ability to succeed? Or is that why it's called a leap of faith? How do you know you're doing the right thing? I feel like I've already made choices that were what God wanted for me, only to have them bite me in the butt. I've prayed that if certain things aren't meant to be for me, then things would go a certain way (for instance, I'd prayed about one position, asking God that I not even get an interview if the job wasn't meant to be mine, that I didn't want to get my hopes up just to have them dashed again - what happened? I got the interview but no job offer - just what I *hadn't* wanted). How do I know or feel any kind of confidence that I'd be doing the right thing, when I've felt that way in the past only to have things turn out not like I'd expected?

I'm trying to think positively, and some days it works. Some hours it works. Some it doesn't (and being at this job makes it very hard to maintain that positive attitude). I keep telling myself, the JOB sucks, it's not ME that sucks. I am not a fundamentally flawed person because I can't do well at this job. The fact that I'm not good at THIS job doesn't mean I can't be great at a lot of other things. Every once in a while, I actually believe it and I feel a little better.

Gah. I feel like I'm chasing my tail. I have to work. I hope I can hang on here long enough to get to that new and (hopefully ) improved position - days like this, I have my doubts.


Liza's Eyeview said...

I wish I have some words of wisdom..but as of now I have none....

I hope you get a "Good Friday off". My hubby is off but I am working...


Chris Wasielewski said...

Eeek Lisa. I totally understand the confused and stuck game in the job arena. I'm so sorry. I hope you'll be able to figure out a direction that you can be excited about soon.