The Place

One year ago today, I submitted my resignation letter. It was not an easy decision, rather one I lost much sleep and spilt many tears over. I was leaving a place that had become my home, the people inside my family. My children had grown up playing in the halls. We went there when I wasn’t working just to be with our friends. I loved it there.

But I had to leave.

I found the place in 2008, when I applied for a student internship with another organisation housed in the same building. I started as a student, became an intern, and then moved into contract work before securing my dream of official on-the-books full time employment. I was ridiculously happy there, until I wasn’t.

The place trained me in documentary arts, offered me opportunities I never would have otherwise had, and introduced me to many people who have become lifelong friends. My exposure to the various means and methods of true-storytelling is one I am deeply grateful for. The men and women I met, that I cried both happy and sad tears with, admired from afar and then got breathtakingly close with, whose babies I held, and who helped raise my own children, will always be with me. I thought for a long time that I would be there forever. I imagined myself retiring from there some day in the far distant future.

But I quit because I could no longer sit in my car in the mornings, dry heaving and dreading the day- wondering when the relationship with my job had turned toxic.

  • Maybe it was when I found out that I made a dollar less an hour than the guy I had replaced. The guy who was prone to disappearing without notice. The guy who did it so frequently that I was initially called in to contract work because no one ever knew if/when he would show up to work.
  • Maybe it was when I realised that my suggestions for improvement were being ignored, but when things went wrong I was the one left cleaning up the messes.
  • Maybe it was sitting in a meeting, listening to one of the faculty go on and on about doing a documentary project with the Fight for Fifteen group. He was lamenting that some people don’t even make $15 an hour, and actually said “I don’t even know how they live on so little!” The director was looking right at him, with me next to him- nodding in agreement. But she knew full well that I didn’t make that much. So- were they saying they couldn’t imagine how I lived?
  • Maybe it was when my beloved supervisor left and I did both his job and my own for over six months while they searched for a replacement for him. Or maybe it was when I applied for his job, but wan’t qualified for it. Or maybe it was when they hired a replacement for him that I had to train to do the job I wasn’t qualified for. Or maybe it was when she actually said that she didn’t know why my job even existed because she didn’t really need “an assistant.”

Ultimately, it was all of these, plus a million other slights, that lead to me leaving. As much as I adored the place and my coworkers, my job sucked and I wasn’t valued by my supervisors.

It felt like divorce.
No. It felt worse. My divorce was actually a relief.
Leaving that place was cutting myself off from something I still had (and have) a deep-down love for. It still hurts me to think about it, though I know it was for the best.

A week after I turned in my notice, I received a call from one of my former superiors. He said that the director had seen a post I had put on my private Facebook page (she had never accepted my friend request). It was a benign post about leaving the place. In the comments thread, a friend and I bantered about some of the things that once made me cry, but were kind of funny now that I was gone (no room here for the desk-saga now). I did also say the place was “kind of a mess right now.” He said the director was furious with me, then made some veiled threats that essentially amounted to recant or we’ll make life very difficult for you. I was coming back to assist with one of the Summer institutes, and was told that I would make sure everyone knew how happy I had been, and that I had better not say anything crossways. And I did. And it was true, mostly.

I never did delete the post. I stand by what I say- online or off.

One year ago today, I left a place that inspired and tormented me. Brian left his job within the same week. We celebrated and freaked out for a few days before going on to other jobs that we both loved and found rewarding- working with people who genuinely appreciated our efforts, and where the pay was vastly greater.
What I got from the next job was LOVE (and pastries!). I began to rebuild my self-worth and remember that it isn’t okay to cry before, or at, or after, work every. single. day. I met new amazing people and had time to enjoy them. They were happy for, and kind to me. We ate pizza together on my last shift there before coming to Australia. It was the only time I cried over that job- because I had to leave.

We Peace Fellows are often asked what we will do after our tenure here. If most of us were honest, we would just shrug and say “no clue.” But we don’t (usually). I have a stock vague answer I give when asked. We talk about amongst ourselves often.
Recently, another fellow asked if I would ever go back to work at the place. I would like to say “no way!,” but that would be a lie. If they asked me, I would consider it. But I don’t think they would. I gave her a vague non-answer.

One year ago today, I left a job that I loved and hated.
Today I am just about as far away from that place- both physically and emotionally- as I could possibly be.
And I’m not sure how I feel about that.


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