About a year ago, I had a major AHA moment and realized that I played a big part in all the things that made me unhappy. Being the victim and blaming others for my situation was so much easier than holding myself accountable and doing something about it. Fear of the unknown held me back. I believed that staying with what was familiar was safer than taking a chance at possibly changing things only to fail and fall flat on my face.
The biggest source of unhappiness in my life was my job. It was safe, I was paid well, and I had great benefits. While those were practical reasons for staying, the truth was:
1) I no longer found my job interesting. While I would report to work and do my best at fulfilling my functions, I was no longer engaged in what I did. I was mentally "checked out."
2) I was being mistreated at work and allowed this mistreatment to go on for years because I didn't want to cause any trouble. Furthermore, my other colleagues were being mistreated too and tolerating it, so who did I think I was to bring up unacceptable treatment to management?
3) I was a closet-introvert struggling in an open-space work environment where the extrovert-ideal was part of the work culture. Because I wanted to be accepted by the "fun" and well-liked people at work, I engaged in all the things that as an introvert, I secretly loathed -- petty gossip, complaining, negativity, and conversation revolving around banalities of the day. As a result, I was physically and mentally exhausted.
Then one morning, as I sat in my car mentally preparing myself for another workday, I had my AHA moment. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and my situation, and do something about it. I made a promise to myself. If every fiber of my being was saying, "My time here is done. It's time to move on to something different!" then I had to do something about it rather than commiserate about how miserable I was. If I was being mistreated, I had to stop being a pushover and ask for help. Finally, I had to embrace my introverted nature and learn how to deal with the open-space environment so that I could get my work done in peace.
That was over a year ago. What has happened since I made that promise to myself?
1. While I am still at the same job, I have also gone back to school part-time to get a degree in a different area that I at least find interesting. I also went out of my comfort zone, made myself vulnerable, and reached out to strangers in a different part of the organization to see if there might be an opportunity to shadow someone there. "Shadowing" is basically learning about a different job role by following or shadowing that person while they work. After a year of inquiries and many dead-ends, I was frustrated and ready to give up, but the thought of being in my current job for another few years was just the impetus I needed to keep trying. With polite persistence, I reached out to more strangers about shadowing opportunities. Well, here I am a year later, and I'm happy to say that something has finally opened up so that I will have the opportunity to shadow someone in the new year! I will finally be learning something new, different, and of interest TO ME. Now if I had stayed in my comfort zone, if I had given up when people said they couldn't help me at the time, I wouldn't be where I am today.
2. I decided to stop being a pushover and spoke to my supervisor about mistreatment by a colleague. As uncomfortable as this made both me and my supervisor, it had to be done and quite frankly, this difficult conversation was long overdue. As a result, my colleague and I are no longer working together while she receives coaching on her interpersonal and leadership skills. As much as this was a relief for me, this was an opportunity for my colleague to get the mentoring she desperately needed in order to lead a team. I have found that so often, people are thrust into leadership roles yet lack the necessary soft skills and emotional intelligence to take on such responsibility.
3. Being an introvert in an open-space cubicle environment is challenging. My answer to the cacophony from the mindless chatter around me? Headphones. Headphones are my best friend. I initially used headphones to block out gossip, negativity, and complaining. Then I put them to even better use by listening to positive, inspiring podcasts and TED talks by people such as Arianna Huffington, Liz Gilbert, James Altucher, Susan Cain, and Brene Brown, just to name a few. I also started taking "mindful" walks where I take short breaks and practice mindfulness while walking through the building. It is such a great way to relieve stress, get away from the noise, and find peace and quiet.
As difficult as it was to make these changes and stick by them, within just one week, I noticed a huge difference in how I felt at the end of the day. I was less stressed and definitely less exhausted. After a few weeks, colleagues "got the picture" that I didn't want to be part of mindless conversations, respected my space, and left me alone to do my work in peace and quiet, which is all I ever wanted in the first place. So one year later, I'm making the best out of my situation while also being proactive about the "next step." I take responsibility for my situation, and if I'm not happy about something, rather than play the blame game, I now try to see what I can do to improve things. This has had a positive impact not just at work, but in life overall.