There’s a commercial that came out recently that spoke to me in its set up. It’s a Chik-Fil-A commercial (bear with me) and it opens with a dude in an office kitchen, standing in a deep trench. As people brew coffee and walk by him with their food and paperwork, a coworker stops by. She says, “You’re really stuck in that rut.” The dude says, “Rut? I thought it was a groove.”
This was a distinction I didn’t think about before, and I decided to dig into it a bit. I found this blog entry by Rick Whitter, the whole thing is worth a read, but this point gave me pause:
“The biggest difference between a rut and a groove is that a groove takes us someplace – we get stuck in a rut. Grooves are when things are working. Life is happening. Stuff gets accomplished. Ruts are different. The harder you work, the deeper you dig. If you are in the same place now that you were a year ago, classic rut!”
So this is the moment to reveal that I, ladies and gents, have been in a rut for the past year or so.
After I graduated, I threw myself fully into my new job. It was okay, but about a month or two in it I realized that I was in the wrong place. It was due to a variety of factors, but most of it just comes down to who I am as a person. Personality-wise, I didn’t mesh well, priority-wise, I didn’t fit in. Couple that with my long and expensive commute, and you’ve got an unmotivated and unhappy Tina.
I know it sounds like Millennial bullshit.
But my feelings are valid. As are yours.
But here’s the thing about feelings: you gotta listen to them. If it doesn’t fit, you might as well just quit.
I decided to listen to other people. While a pretty good strategy in general, listening to people in their entirety keeps you from living your own life. It was suggested by many people whom I love and adore to give it my all, stay in for at least a year, use it as an opportunity to learn as much as I could, tolerate as long as I could because, after all, everybody tolerates their jobs and there’s no such thing as the perfect job.
I tried to swallow all of these lil’ advice pills. But they didn’t help when I was having a particularly shitty day at work. “Tolerate as much as you can because everyone tolerates and hates their jobs,” doesn’t get you out of bed in the morning at 4:30am.
“Stay for a year,” wasn’t the message I needed when I knew I was in the wrong place, and as the months went on, all while looking for new jobs mind you, I became frustrated at everything and everyone, especially myself. Why was I there? What was keeping me there? What am I going to do if I can’t find another job?
And what about this, “no perfect job,” thing? There are things that I enjoy that people get paid to do, that I myself, have been paid to do before. And there’s no such thing as a perfect anything, this is true, but there are stressors that we can enjoy. Stressors that motivate us, stressors that excite and terrify us and yet we do the work anyway.
Eventually, “tolerate” your job became all I could do, and then one day, it was something I literally couldn’t do. I was at work and broke out in tears as an opportunity I really wanted faded away with a single email. I felt stuck in that rut, trapped. The next day, when approaching the building I broke out in tears again and couldn’t keep myself together. I went home early and attempted to figure out what was bothering me so bad that I couldn’t cope. I have these moments every now and then, something eats at me for a year or two, and then I can’t hide it anymore until I take the proper steps to fix it.
In this case, there was a lot brewing inside me. For one, I didn’t like this new life, and I didn’t see it getting better without some sort of intervention. My work required so much of my time, just getting to and fro was four hours, plus the work day.
Day in. And Day Out. Don’t get me started on how well the MARC and WMATA work together, which is not at all.
But on top of that, my job was demanding more of my time, and I was being pressured to stay longer more frequently. I knew I couldn’t be the worker they wanted or needed, nor was I giving them my best work because I was not myself. But that wasn’t it. I was in the wrong place, I wasn’t meant to be there. I was trying to force a square peg in a round hole and what was most confusing was that I didn’t even have to.
I could just… not be there anymore. But what would I do?
I mulled over my options, and every now and then someone would suggest I go abroad. I laughed it off, “Don’t tempt me!” I’d say. As much as I loved the concept, I had given up on it before. I had two opportunities to go abroad three years before and had turned them down to go back to school and go to work. I ended up with the perfect job for my major, everyone was proud of me, so on and so forth. But I wasn’t happy.
But I was happy not too long ago… doing research abroad in France. That was a good time. And then in Brazil, that trip gave me research concepts for years. Shucks, that inspired my master’s research paper… not to mention how this all started in Japan…. maybe I’ll try.
So I sent out an application to teach abroad and it was accepted the very next day.
So what now?
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Please stay tuned for Part Two, coming out July 24, 2017.