The paper was riddled with red marks, comments on the side (some intelligible) and plenty of arrows and strikethroughs. Her underling, who was about two levels above me in rank, scurried toward me, waving, with the draft in her hand.
“It’s great!” she exclaimed. “If it had been really bad, she would have thrown it in your face.”
She meant that literally. Big Boss would have thrown my first assignment at me. A whole grown person — and her subordinate and my supervisor — all thought this was OK behavior.
Spoiler: That is not OK.
It was a red flag placed into a field that would be colored by so much red that it would battle the colors of the sunsets I would watch as I drank night after night in my backyard.
Thoughts rumbled with whys, with what was the point. My family watched me decay from the window in the kitchen over roughly a year.
Watching the Great Resignation has been strange because I relate to the stories I read. I went through my moment breaking away from an 8-to-5 in 2017. I had the same experience then; some jobs are not worth the money or your mental health.
The backstory: I had slowly jumped around the company in roles, at one point being hired for a communications position that made me feel like, finally, after about a decade, I was able to get a job in a field that I had trained for in college.
When I shifted up a rung to have an even more dedicated communications role, I thought it would be an opportunity for learning much more.
I moved from one cubicle farm to another. My immediate supervisor left me to set up the computer and maybe look at some binders of roughly relevant work being done in the industry. They didn’t have assignments for me yet, but she’d look into finding me some.
This is when being proactive would apply, but bootstrapping yourself into doing something, when there aren’t any stipulations of what needs doing, is hard. So, I decided to set up meetings in different departments and check out books on the specific type of writing I’d be doing.
Then I spent hours with a colleague who had just lined up their resignation. The meetings with the person who was heading out were filled with theory and bitterness, and really, that’s where I learned quite a bit, on various levels. They unpacked their bookshelf and inadvertently handed me more flags.
Another colleague would take walks and get coffee with me, saving my sanity as we discussed edits handed down. She’d reinforce that we weren’t crazy; it was the environment that was crazy. It kept me going but wasn’t enough.
I could sit without assignments at work while my side hustles’ demands grew. It made no sense. The final flag placed in my hand is one I still feel.
In my evaluation, they mentioned how well I wrote outside work and wondered why I couldn’t do that for them. I read that line over and over, amused and dismayed. I had tried; they never trusted my judgment and always changed what I wrote. Could we just change how the paragraphs were organized? Could we just change the emotion-laden quote?
Check your ethics at the door. But that was not how I was trained, and it was not who I was at the edge of the red field. My village has different ethics.
My husband joined me in the twilight with the beers. That it wasn’t worth it was the mantra he breathed into my toxic mental stew. He was right, and without him, I wouldn’t have been able to jump from security into the future. I had nothing lined up but hoped to adjunct teach, which I love, and grow my business.
The morning I had the resignation letter in my purse was the first time I had a meeting with the very top brass. It was a daze. Finally, here, and yet, in my head, miles away, years away, motivations away.
Twenty minutes after the letter was on a desk, an email asked if I could take on teaching a class. A few days later, someone else called to see if I could write for her.
I had quit the marked path and stumbled into the brush. The Universe came to hand me a machete and asked, “What exactly would you like to see?”
— Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She is also executive director of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter: @TheCMcClure. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.