"Say again," PrettyHair ordered, squinting at me with great focus. I obediently repeated the words I wanted her to say while we presented, listened while she practiced and smiled while approving changes she suggested.
"You'll be great," I promised her. "Don't get nervous - we're totally going to win."
And so we did - she, Sibling and I putting in a fabulous performance that demonstrated our ability to incorporate our manipulation lessons. PrettyHair opened with smooth confidence, her deliberate manner playing out beautifully as she outlined our goals. I took the middle, easily playing to my strength and telling an emotional story as I moved about the room. Pleased that everyone appeared both engaged and sympathetic, I nodded at Sibling that I was finished and she wrapped things up with her typical technical brilliance and straightforward style.
"I'm proud as a peacock!" our instructor cried when the class finished applauding. "You gals were just so good!" So we beamed at her and our peers, accepting their glowing feedback gracefully.
"I feel sicker," I whined as we celebrated our success with dinner several hours later. I'd dashed off to the doctor before joining them at a nearby restaurant and sipping tea while I glanced through the menu. "I mean, I felt bad before, right? I'm stuffy. My head is all full of snotty pressure. It sucks. But after she looked up my nose and told me I had a bad infection? It just validated that I'm ill and I should feel bad and it's like I gave into it."
I blinked when I realized how difficult our working environment is getting. Once we were off campus and at our class, we were praised and encouraged. We worked harder, thought more creatively and came up with something that gave us - silly as it sounds - no small amount of pride and happiness.
At the office recently, I perceive the feedback as being consistently negative. Any praise is weak and fleeting - soon buried under reprimands and criticism and questions over why this wasn't done better/sooner/cheaper. And that feeling of failure - despite desperate efforts otherwise - feels like my head. I get exhausted and woozy. There's a constant feeling of pressure from every direction. I grow discouraged - want nothing more than to escape into a book or nap.
"We need to encourage each other more," I decided after I'd settled my cup in its saucer. "Try to remind each other that we're doing well and to elevate the overall mood."
"We were good today," PrettyHair noted.
"We're always good," Sibling teased and I nodded resolutely. Tomorrow, I shall fetch my antibiotics. The professional illness, however, remains - for today - without a firm curative plan.