Lately, I’ve been feeling maxed out at work. Everyone is antsy since the weather turned, and no-one particularly feels like getting much done. That goes for teachers as well as students, but it’s our job to motivate the troops, which becomes harder and harder. In addition to these regular challenges, I’ve been feeling frustrated by some other issues, and my strategy for the last few months has been to keep my head down and pick my battles; in other words, I’m just trying to suck it up and get through this rough patch.
At a certain point, however, in trying to suck it up, there is usually a tipping point where it is no longer healthy or a good strategy to keep your head down. Today, I reached such a tipping point. Something seemingly minor happened at work that made me feel really upset, and while I literally couldn’t tell if I was overreacting or not, I simply had to do something about it. In a nutshell, I was accepted into a workshop for the summer (work days that are a nice benefit of my job where teachers can choose topics that interest them, spend the day learning about or working on it, and get paid well in the process) and then, when one teacher who was also accepted requested that the whole team re-consider the posted date because she had travel plans, I was told I would be taken out of the workshop because I was the only one who could not make the new date. Now, I am a serious planner, as Kristen can attest to, and I only signed up for workshops that I knew I could attend, so it bothered me that the other person signed on and then tried to negotiate the date, but I figured it was a matter of professional courtesy for the team to see if we could make it work. It bothered me more that the leader changed the date, however, to benefit her and leave me in the dust.
In addition to being a planner, I am someone who is highly invested in issues of equity and fairness, and I become deeply irritated when I feel like someone is taking advantage of a system or even unintentionally benefits without seeking redress once they’ve been made aware of the lack of balance. I’ve had a few incidents recently that have awoken this sense of injustice in me at work, and I’ve tried to pick my battles by “letting them go” (something I really still don’t know how to do). Those incidents loom in the background of this one, making it seem like the biggest of gauntlets.
I fired off an email to one of the workshop leaders (who is a new teacher this year and really didn’t do this intentionally), trying my best to advocate for myself in a clear, direct manner without too much emotion. I got a nice but off-putting response that basically said “I know this is so annoying, but it happens.” I fired off another response that basically said: “it shouldn’t happen, and you’re in charge, so change it.” I got another response: “so sorry, but it’s not going to change.” At this point, I was pretty damn livid. I called my friend (who ironically benefited from the mess by being my replacement in the workshop) and asked her if I was being crazy. Was my anger justified or was my judgment being clouded by other incidents? (Checking myself this way with trusted sources has been really helpful for me in sorting through these situations. Even when I’m pissed off, I can usually calm down and see my own mistakes if someone I respect calls me on them.) She told me I was justified in my feelings, especially since this incident involved pay being taken away from me. I had a right to say something and stick up for myself.
I felt better. I thought through the next best step while I drove Free to gymnastics. Once there, I opened my laptop and sent two more emails: one to the teacher who had requested the dates be changed (letting her know I was upset and was going to ask that the date be changed back), and one to the two workshop leaders laying out my reasoning and requesting that they go back to the original date. Then I called Newman and told him about it, crying because I still felt so upset that a) I was still upset and could not seem to let this go and b) whenever I try to stand up for myself because I don’t want to go around feeling resentful, I end up feeling like a bitch because I inevitably piss somebody else off.
Just for good measure, since I was in the mode, I let loose and bitched about how Free keeps complaining about gymnastics every single time I take her to class (but then loves it when she’s there). Newman was great. He listened, told me I had handled the work thing perfectly, and then did a whiny impression of his daughters complaining about all their activities when they were little. He followed this by mimicking his response that they should “shut the fuck up and quit already if that’s what they really wanted to do” as he wasn’t that thrilled to be paying for these activities just to listen to their shit all the time.
In other words, he let me vent and then made me laugh. Between him and my friend, I felt a little less crazy and a little less worried about the outcome of my emails. There may be “consequences” yet hanging in the stars, as Romeo might say, but I’m ok for now. I need to make my peace with that sometimes if it means not feeling like I’m letting others take advantage of me.
It all might be overblown in the grand scheme of things, but to me, this is a small but meaningful victory. I can’t tell you how often I go around feeling like the world is off balance and I can’t do anything about it. I would like to get to the place where I can calmly and cleanly assert myself when needed and not need to check that response with others before I know I can trust it. I would like to not let these things suck all my energy out of my day like a vacuum.
I have better things to do, frankly.
Like watch my little girl master her back handspring and then peek over her shoulder to check and see if her mama is watching.