Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shattered Utility

I winced when it hit the ground – the hard thud of contact and subsequent shattering of plastic casing and metal pieces. I realized with no small amount of dismay that I was searching for places to hide the evidence – wondering if the accident could be traced, estimating the cost of the object I’d accidentally broken – while I hurriedly bent to pick up the pieces.

No, I told myself, searching for some remnant of sanity. Someone will eventually need this and it should be replaced before that happens. You’ll let the appropriate people know, apologize and all will be well. With one final look around for a suitable hiding spot, I took a breath, sent a sad look toward jagged pieces that had been useful before I ruined them and went back toward my desk.

“I need a DVD, please,” I stated after greeting one of the friendlier women at work. Without waiting for a response, I opened the drawer where they were kept and frowned when I didn’t see any.

“I have more,” she assured me, glancing back at my bleak expression, and after patting me on the arm led me back to a room we use for storage and private conversations. “How are you?” she said, looking a bit too concerned as we walked down hallways and through doors. I shook my head in mute response and she frowned more severely.

“Can you leave?” she asked the room’s only occupant when we arrived and I immediately protested. “It’s important,” my companion insisted and the man waved off my protests before saying he could come back later. “Talk,” she then ordered me and I disobeyed by beginning to cry.

“I just…” I attempted, wiping at tears and swallowing against sobs. I huffed out an impatient sigh before trying again. “I’m not…” I shook my head when I couldn’t continue and she rubbed my knee firmly, leaving her hand and letting me cover it with mine. After swiping at tears with the sides of my fingers, I kept my eyes on the table and tried to explain.

I like analogies, I told myself, but this one doesn’t work. You are not a shattered resource, broken beyond repair, with no solution but replacement. People – important people – think you’re doing very well and appreciate your enthusiasm and talent. You can fix this. “Adam and I argued again – we try to talk but I’m always so frustrated with him – and he me – that I walk away from those conversations so demoralized that I don’t know what I’m doing here. And I broke a thing and I was harsh with someone when she didn’t do what she said she was going to do. I feel all this responsibility and know I can’t do everything. But when I feel like I can’t do anything, I start to wonder if this job – this career that I worked for and planned for and wanted – is completely wrong.”

After several hugs and reassurances, she left me with firm advice. I followed it and think the meetings that will follow should help. I emailed one of the managers and told him where to find the broken equipment and apologized. I took a couple more meetings with Adam, a few with the team and headed home before 5PM but after I’d planned. My parents looked worried when I explained that I was struggling, but brought me to the airport before returning to my house to stay with Chienne.

Several hours and two flights later, I sat on the edge of a planter at a charming airport near the coast of a southern state. I called Friend again to see if she was close and expressed my utter displeasure when told she was not. I watched as the bustle of cars and people and luggage dissipated - hugs given, bags loaded and cars driven away. About 40 minutes later, there were two of us left in the area. I continued to sit, glancing between the pages of my book and the entrance where I hoped Friend's car would appear and smiling wanly at the man who had opened his case and began to play his trumpet very softly.

I grinned as I shook my head, feeling ever so melodramatic and despondent and appreciating the humor even as I ached. I’m not important enough to people, I thought as he played notes, each soft sound transitioning smoothly into the next. There’s something wrong that makes me easy to ignore or forget. That lets people move on from me when they’d stay with someone else.

I’m unhappy, I acknowledged – hurt and angry and filled with this negative energy that keeps escaping in wild burst and seething hisses – and I feel trapped inside it. There were no more flights back home – I could only wait and hope Friend eventually came for me. It’s not like the job market would be friendly toward a venture of ‘I think I screwed up. Can I try again?’ And, honestly, I do love so many pieces of my work. I admire my colleagues; I think we do incredibly significant work; I crave power like you wouldn’t believe. But something has to give and my previous plans - work harder, focus more, prioritize better, ignore outside hobbies and interests - have failed in spectacular fashion. And I felt completely alone and unloved as I sat there, waiting, powerless to be of any use to anyone. Thinking sadly of the three large pieces of plastic and splinters framing them on the ground.

Friend did arrive. We’re now at the beach. I had time to work and sleep and walk by the water and think. We’ve talked and while I still feel bad, there’s a tiny glimmer of hope as well. But that’s the topic for the next blog post.

3 comments:

Psych Post Doc said...

I saw the pictures that Friend posted and I'm pretty sure where you are will lift the clouds for you. :)

Have fun and relax a little.

Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

I'm glad that you're starting to feel some hope. That's always good. I hope that your location helps rejuvenate you (at least I hope that it starts a little bit).

DocElectron said...

I've been here too before, and it's a sucky place to be - but I'm glad that it seems like maybe some things are looking a bit up or at least a bit brighter for you.

Relax and let yourself just rejuvenate.

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