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.