It’s been a week to try women’s souls…nothing cataclysmic, thank the gods, but a preponderance of disturbances and upsets that seemed quite determined to eradicate all those fine feelings of comfort and joy I was boasting about so happily a while back.
Too much work, for a start, at a time when I really wasn’t all that much of a mind to work at all. And changes at work, to boot – changes that I don’t really cotton to all that well. People are asking me to work in ways contradictory to my personality. I feel like I know myself pretty well after almost 54 years of rather intensive study. I know how I work best, understand what it is I need to make my work life productive and satisfying. I think I’ve always known it, actually, going way back to the time when I dropped my plans to be a teacher, and my father asked me what I thought I’d like to do instead.
“I’m not really sure,” I admitted. “But I think I’d like to have my own little office where I work around nice people, but be able to do my own work all by myself,” I replied, inwardly shuddering at the memory of my practice teaching where I’d been surrounded by clamor and confusion and the demands of two dozen six year olds.
I’ve also learned that I don’t like being the main attraction, don’t enjoy being “in charge” of anyone other than myself. That’s why I love being an accompanist so much – I’m just slightly in the background- necessary and valuable, but not the star of the show, collaboratively following someone else’s direction.
No one in my life has ever tried to change me, and for that I’m grateful. My parents always accepted my personality, and my husband has continued to honor all the traits which have become very deeply engrained in my half century on earth. My truest friends loved me the way I am otherwise we don’t stay friends for long. You see, I’m pretty easy to get along with unless you try to make me into something I’m not. And then, as my mother says, I get my Irish up.
Last week, that’s exactly what my boss did. You see, she wants to change my job so that it becomes purely administrative. She wants to hire other people to do the work I’m currently doing, and have me be the “gatekeeper,” corralling all their work, editing it, organizing it, and distributing it. She wants to put me in charge, have me be the manager, pull me out of my nice little corner cubicle and put me at the center of an array of workers all funneling their work to me. Just like all those little six years olds back in my practice teaching days, vying for my attention.
“But you know I don’t work well that way,” I protested. “I really prefer working independently, I’m much more productive that way, and a lot less stressed.”
“You need to get over that,” she says, in the way she has of thinking she knows what’s best for everyone.
Now, when people tell me I “need” to do something, I start to feel a distinct prickle at the back of my neck. The hackles start to rise and I go into defensive mode. Although I like to be a follower in my professional life, I’m extremely independent when it comes to matters of my personality and behavior. Nobody tells me what I “need” to do or be.
“You certainly have a perfect right to decide how you want to run your business and this department,” I told her, crossing my arms over my chest in classic closed mind posture. “But I have the right to decide how I want to work and I don’t want to work that way.”
She was actually speechless for about three seconds (a miracle really).
“Do you mean you’d leave?”
“I might,” I answered. “I’ve been through a lot this past year, and I know that life is too short to be in a situation where I’m constantly unhappy. I don’t have to do that, and I won’t.”
I don’t know whether I’ll have to make that decision or not, whether she’ll come up with an alternative plan we both can life with. I’ve wondered lately whether I might have reached my shelf life with this particular job, whether it’s time to move on to something else. There had been niggling thoughts about this in the back of mind last spring, before all the calamities of the summer hit.
But change is hard for me – that’s another personality trait of mine with which I’m very familiar. I’ll put up with a lot before I willingly make drastic life changes.
I guess I’ll try to be patient a while longer and see.
How about you? Do you feel you know yourself pretty well? Are you satisfied with your personality? Is your current lifestyle and work in harmony with your personality? How do you handle it when people try to change you, or put you in a position where you know you’ll be uncomfortable/unhappy?