Thursday, March 26, 2009

hanging by a thread

Subtitled: Confessions of a Burnout

I arrived at work today in an unironed shirt and unkempt hair (or as unkempt as possible with really short hair). This morning, I woke up to find a mountain standing between my bedroom and the bathroom. I had to climb up and rappel down just to get to work on time.

In between scrubbing and dreaming, I wondered when I started becoming just like everyone else. When did I go from loving my job and my life and everything in it* to equating my nine-hour shift to a slow and painful death. Surely, there must have been a time when I enjoyed going to work. Sadly, those days are gone. It's like I'm alive but I'm in a coma. I barely have the strength to find socks that match. Where would I find the strength to find happiness in my job?

This past week has been really stressful. I feel like I'm seriously starting to fray at the seams. I used to be really nice and polite and stuff until I realized I wasn't anymore. I had become Hitler in class. I wasn't smiling. I was putting noisy people on the spot. I was being sarcastic. I was being un-me.

This guy in my class came up to me and told me that I was being mean. He said it was a joke but I could tell that he meant it. I wanted to tell him that I wasn't doing it on purpose. That I was just tired. That I was stressed. That I need a vacation. I just pursed my lips and managed a fake smile. I couldn't tell him what was wrong. Truth is, I just don't have the same patience and passion I once had for this job. It means less now. Technically, I'm still doing my job. The trainees are still learning. I show up on time and I give it my all (or as much as I can). There's just one thing missing. I seem to have misplaced my heart.

I was surprised to find that I had nothing to do today. After two straight days of what felt like hand-to-hand combat, I was finally free. I wasn't scheduled for any classes so I took my time getting ready. It felt good not to rush. I got coffee, checked my email and chatted a little. Normally, I would look for some random class or ask if anyone needed me but like I said, I wasn't me anymore.

I got a little hungry so I went downstairs to get a snack. In the elevator, I smelled something really familiar. I once read that the human nose can recognize up to 10,000 unique scents. I struggled to trace the origins of this particular one. What is it and why is it so familiar?, I wondered. Somewhere between the seventh and fourth floor, I realized it was Woodspice- my father's aftershave. I closed my eyes and let the thick scent fill my head.

Suddenly, I was six years old in a Garfield t-shirt and shorts. I slowly opened the door to my parents' bedroom- just a crack small enough for me to see if they were still there. I could see my mother sitting in front of her dresser putting make-up on. I could smell my father's aftershave from their walk-in closet. In a few minutes, they would be off to work and I could watch TV in their room.

It's funny how work seems like such a magical place to a child. I used to think everybody who worked carried briefcases and smelled like Woodspice. I remember I couldn't wait to grow up and start working because I, too wanted to start carrying briefcases and wearing fancy aftershave. A couple of times, I even tried on my dad's ties and pretended I was late for this fancy meeting. I would address my stuffed animals and roll out complicated policies only I understood. I miss being naive like that.

As quickly as the memory rushed into my head, it suddenly evanesced. The elevator dinged, signaling my arrival at the ground floor. I got off, straightened my shirt and tried my hardest to blend in. I was no longer in my father's closet playing dress-up. This was for real. In lieu of a briefcase, I carried distrust and grudges. Instead of smelling like aftershave, I smelled like disloyalty and thoughts of flight. This was not my childish imagination anymore. I was at work and I was in hell.

It's getting late. I really should be getting some sleep. I pray for a good night's rest and hope that tomorrow, I would find the courage to click Apply Now.