reflections on a wilting bouquet

This bunch of anthuriums is unexpectedly poignant.

photo (5)

Coming to Honolulu, I took a different tact with my job search. Usually after a move I get a retail job while I search for something more meaningful, since getting a good job can take months and in the meantime I don’t like a lack of structure in my life. But after doing that in California I was burnt out with retail. Temping was suggested to me at one interview I had early on, as many nonprofits are looking for people with island work experience, not just relevant work experience on the mainland. So I signed up with a temp agency and got assigned to the HR department Salvation Army regional headquarters as an assistant for three months. This seemed like a good opportunity to expand my experience and work for a great organization.

Well, I am not naturally skilled administratively, far from it. While I was thankful that the temp agency for taking into account my desire to work for a nonprofit, this long term type of assignment highlighted a lot of my insecurities. For the first time in my life, all of the aspects of other jobs that I found challenging and frustrating were combined into one job. Forty hours a week of doing only those tasks which are most difficult for me. I thought that working for a nonprofit I respect would help me feel satisfied that I was still, at the very least, making a positive contribution to the world. The opposite happened. I felt increasingly insecure about the learning curve for learning about HR stuff, never having held a purely administrative position before, as well as feeling that I am not as fast or efficient as someone else, someone more skilled or predisposed might be. What has always been a professional insecurity of mine did not pan out into the learning experience I had hoped for. I was not motivated by the mission of the organization I was working for, but instead struggling daily with the feeling that I was holding it back.

I did, however, meet some wonderful warm and kind people. The office ‘Auntie’ who wanted to make sure I tried all of the things she loved about the island, so would bring in foods like lychees, mountain apples, her homemade pickled mango, and those deep fried bits of heaven, malasadas, as well as flowers from her garden, orchids, gardenias, hibiscus, desert rose, ti, and some others that smelled amazing but I forget the name of. One of the groundskeepers would wax nostalgic about growing up on the north shore, and blend Hawaiian history with his own stories delightfully. There were others, who I didn’t get to know as well, but were so kind. Despite my insecurities, it was a lovely introduction to Hawaii for me.

By the time my supervisor told me they hired someone to fill the position permanently, I was relieved. And by my last day, I was excited. I had had what I thought was a good interview for a job that would highlight my strengths, (no response, sadly) and was ready to just be free of the job I was doing.

What I wasn’t expecting was the response I got. I had been at this position for three months, as a temp, and not a fantastic one. But I was greeted with a handmade lei from one of the receptionists. My supervisor and coworker arraigned for a group to chip in for an extremely tasty lunch. Auntie gave me hugs and kisses, a notebook set, and a bouquet of anthuriums and ti leaves (the hawaiian good luck plant) from her garden.

What was up with that?

In my insecurity about my performance, it didn’t occur to me that I had made a positive impact on anyone. You’d think I wouldn’t be surprised. When I worked for Catholic Charities in Ca, I got a similar send off, with hugs and gifts and even a poem; despite having worked there only two months before I had to put in my notice and come here. I was touched but floored when a the daughter of a client who had severe Alzheimers told me that her mom talked about me at home, when it was very very rare for her to remember what she did or who she saw from one minute to the next. I made an impact, but didn’t realize it. I received gifts and cards and well wishes from my coworkers at my retail job as well. Blown away.

I feel very exposed putting my insecurities out there on the internet, but one of the reasons I started this was to gain confidence and hopefully grow out of the fear of others scrutiny. Even at this point in the post I am afraid that I will come across as both arrogant and whiny. Which is why it is so important that I do put it all out there. If I hadn’t let my lack of confidence take over how I felt about this job, what might have been different? I don’t want to wonder anymore.

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