When the Dream Dies

I came to a realization recently, and another chunk of the naivete I have so carefully nurtured in myself has crumbled of and fallen into the ocean.

I should probably explain.

I have had a lot of jobs over the years, doing a lot of different things. I have served hamburgers, sold furniture, made sandwiches. I have chased rambunctious kids and led seniors in chair-obics. And I have always come back to homeless services. That’s what I am doing now. I manage a transitional housing program for working homeless women.

This area of work has always been a special interest of mine. I have always hoped that pure passion and enthusiasm will make up for all that I lack. And I lack something pretty big…. like the ability to maintain organization. I might start off well, but as details and tasks pile up I can’t keep up. Eventually I have to stop everything and re-organize, but at any given day I have a great number of papers and scribbled notes in loosely sorted piles. I have always been like this, and my brain pretty much works like that too.

So to bring that current, I am working in a job where I have a lot of independence and a lot to manage, compared to what I have done before. I had hoped beyond hope that enthusiasm and creativity would carry me over….. well it hasn’t. I have been struggling with certain parts of the job, and my coworker who manages the other parts of the facility has been… not happy. I have been beating myself up trying to figure out how to live up to the expectations, and never seem to. It has been really challenging and I have been, frankly, unhappy, it is hard to be confident when you are treated like your constantly not doing your job well.

Until I found out that its not all my fault. I recently failed spectacularly at a report I was supposed to complete…. except I didn’t find out until after the failure that it was, in fact, a report. I had been asked questions, which I answered to the best of my abilities, and never received feedback. Until it was critically overdue. Then I find out all these details and what the report was for…. So I do my best with it. Still not right… Then I find out that there is a huge amount of data that has never been shared with me, data that was supposed to feed the report. No wonder I failed, right?

I have been panicking about the opinion of my boss, and my confidence in my ability to do my job was really low there for awhile. Then I find out about that data. I realize there is only so much I can do, even the most organized person would have failed. Beating myself up is pointless. After I got over the anger at the situation, I felt very liberated.

Then I began mourning. I have searched all my adult life for something to devote myself to, some cause or project. I thought if I could just find that one situation where my passion outweighed my faults then I would be satisfied. My nomadic life has allowed me to try many different jobs on for size, and none fit. When I took this job I thought I would fit, I could finally be satisfied. This job would make me happy. Then the challenges, large and small, much like this most recent report fiasco, started piling up. I assumed that I was the problem, I wasn’t good enough. But gradually I have come closer to this cathartic realization. But the deep sadness comes from realizing that, because its not me, I won’t be able to fix it. The satisfaction I was hoping for and stressing for was hinged all along on dynamics that I could not control.

In essence, the satisfaction I have always dreamed of, as I have always defined it, being at a job I feel confident and appreciated at, that I can do with ease, that makes the world better, is impossible. By that definition, satisfaction was never something I could accomplish by my own efforts.

So I mourn, for that dream that will never come true. As someone with learning disabilities, who has struggled to feel adequate for my whole life, this is a hard dream to let go of. I am going to have to redefine satisfaction, a daunting task. I am going to have to accept that I will have to work closely with and support coworkers who I cannot trust to do the same for me. The idyllic workplace where we all work in harmony for the betterment of the world might never exist for me, and I can’t hinge any further happiness on finding it.

Soon I will work on reinventing my expectations and dreams and satisfaction, but first I think I need some time.

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2 Responses to When the Dream Dies

  1. Janice says:

    I think that in your quest to have a perfect job you forget that you and your coworkers are human. Therefore it will never truly be perfect. Also, in your search to find a cause to devote yourself to – maybe you should stop looking so hard and let it find you. Sometimes when we put so much effort into finding something we overlook what is right in front of us. You have a gift with writing/words. I read a lot of blogs and yours is one of the best when it comes to the written word. Let your passion and your gifts find and direct you – even if its in a direction that you would normally dismiss.

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