"I had so much fun!" I claimed happily, savoring the post-presentation high. It was exciting to argue and answer questions, to speak and demand attention. I'd done beautifully - the week of late nights and early mornings seeming worthwhile after my 90 minute presentation. I felt lucky to do what I do. And ready to put in a weekend of work trying to stay reasonably caught up.
"We get the bonuses on Monday," Sibling offered with a grin while we sat at a small booth for dinner many hours later. Cocking my head at her over our basket of bread, I tore of an end, dipped it in oil and paused before eating it.
"What bonuses?" I asked, curiously then took a bite.
"The bonuses," she repeated fondly. "You really need to start reading rather than skimming your email."
"I don't think I got one," I defended myself and watched her frown in disbelief before she shrugged and explained that all polar bears would be sharing in the profits from last year's excellent performance.
"Oh," I said, feeling suddenly miserable and blinking back tears in a gross overreaction. "I'm a polar cub, officially. So I don't get one."
"You're not a cub," she said, looking concerned and gentle at seeing my reaction. "You're a bear. Like us."
"No," I said, sucked into my self-pitying and pathetic state. "I was hired as a cub and haven't been promoted. Even though everyone else on the team is a bear. And I'm a fully functioning member of the team."
"You're the best of the team," she claimed loyally and while I agreed a little bit, I still shook my head.
"We're all good. But I'm definitely not so much worse that I need to be a lower paid, lower class member." I forced myself to eat and laugh and talk after I changed the subject, burying my miserably hurt feelings, and chided myself for being surprised. I work for Industry. We exist to make money. If we can accomplish some altruistic goal or make an employee happy, that's lovely. But it's hardly our purpose and certainly won't be prioritized over profit.
Older and wiser people (I'd say "friends" but these people no longer speak to me - see second adjective at the beginning of this sentence) have advised that I was a part of the corporate machine because they saw value in me. That there was potential for me to play some part of the plan - work harder for less money, convince customers to buy product, motivate others to allocate additional effort - and that selfish motive was the only real one that existed for paying me to be part of their team.
I knew this - I still know it - but in some oddly detached sense. I want to believe they care about me, at least a little bit - and so I do believe that. (This delusional capability has long been problematic - I should probably stop.) But when faced with the fact that I'd been denied something so petty - it's about $5K so a pittance to them but a rather nice bonus for me - I was quite upset.
"I'm not worried," I sneered when Adam took my call as I drove home. "I can't believe you think I'd be worried about my performance review! What I am," I paused to breathe through the sudden rage, "is angry. That I'm underpaid. Undervalued. And that you've done nothing to fix it!"
"I won't discuss this on the phone. We will have a conversation - soon - in a more formal setting."
"Fine." I paused and he paused with me. "I needed you to know," I told him. "That I'm hurt and angry and upset. Because it's going to consume my weekend that otherwise would have went to work. And I'll see you in Hell before I open my laptop before Monday morning."
"Fair enough," he replied and I hung up without another word.
"It is not fair," I murmured, swiping at the tears that had fallen. I don't want to yell at my boss after sitting shoulder to shoulder all day and whispering comments and amusing insults throughout the day of meetings. We had drinks together exactly a week before I'd called to complain bitterly this evening. I don't want to feel jealous of Sibling and PrettyHair and Best. They're talented and very deserving of the additional compensation. God knows I must get annoying with my awards and recognition and over-achiever little heart and power-hungry soul, but I don't begrudge them a single penny.
So I came home and read two books curled on my couch downstairs. I talked to my parents. When I told Dad I was angry, he asked if I was sure I was part of his family. I giggled, realizing that at least one of us is wounded or enraged or deeply offended about something or other at any given time. It is likely that draw toward passionate discussions and all-or-nothing work ethic that keeps me in Industry.
And I'm staying, even if they refuse to pay me more and continue to call me a cub as my percentage of gray hair slowly inches upward. For as I looked through job postings, visions of walking in with another offer and telling them how much they'd miss me when I was gone!, there is nothing that appeals. This is what I do. It's becoming who I am. And, on evenings like tonight, I find that more terrifying than comforting.