Today felt like one of those days where I should be disciplining myself to reflect upon the various unsettling occurrences around me. For today felt like one of those rare days where I was ready to throw in the towel – to give up and walk away.
I have always known that I am a complicated and conflicted person – outgoing and exuberant one moment, silent and sullen the next, often craving solitude and desirous of company at the same time. Volatility and instability are my constant companions. I often wonder, how did I manage to stay sane and alive all these years.
In 2014, with my body breaking down, I called for time-out and stepped aside from full-time work for a good 15 months, to find healing spiritually, emotionally and physically. I did not know how drained I was until after I walked away from everything. And that journey of healing, continues till this very day.
It has been coming to 3 years since I returned to full-time work on 19 Oct 2015. And just when I thought I have finally adjusted to being an adult, finally ready to grow up and be this sensible, well-adjusted, calm and collected person called ‘adult’, my frailties and inadequacies were once again brought to the fore.
You see, I have always enjoyed work and always enjoyed a good professional challenge. In some sense, I was an easy employee because I needed little persuasion to do any work, however small the task appeared to be. However, from another perspective, I was also a rather difficult employee who required continual engagement and challenges.
Over the past couple of months, I have thrown myself wholeheartedly into work I enjoyed, even as I tried to make sure I continue to make time for family and friends, for the people that I loved and cared dearly about.
And perhaps because I have given so much of myself to work, a lot of seemingly innocuous words and gestures began to feel so personal. I became vulnerable to how others thought of me; I began to care about being understood and tried even harder to be a good colleague and collaborator; I began to take offence when colleagues behaved in ways that did not fit my worldview or my expectations. It wasn’t hard to see that I became a problem unto myself.
Time and again, I was disappointed at how events unfolded, felt helpless and grieved when others’ hurt and pain became visible to me, but there was nothing I could do. Time and again, friends told me not to take things so seriously, not to carry ‘monkeys’ that were not mine to begin with, but it was perhaps just not me to see suffering and grievance and not want to do something about it.
I did wonder if I was being too self-righteous and I would concede that maybe I was. But I also knew that I wanted to do something for others because in their shoes, I would wish that someone would take up my cause, offer help and comfort when I was going through a rough patch. Surely, the desire to be a good neighbour and a good samaritan can’t be bad or wrong?
But what I did wrong perhaps, was not considering whether I had that capacity to offer help or to even enter into the fray. I forgot how easily drained I was by others’ emotions, how easily tired I could be after a mere day’s work and how multiple voices (perspectives) would torment me if I ever give slight attention to any of them. I forgot how easy it was for me to tie myself in knots that could not be untangled.
And try as I might, there was (till now) no happy ending to this very ordinary story – probably happening to many of us in many unknown workplaces. In fact, the last straw that broke the camel’s back came today, and I felt myself shattered into pieces today, leaving me to do the only thing I knew how.
I gave myself a break from adulthood, and indulged in self-pity. I confided in people I trusted and was thankful for their listening ears and understanding words. Today, I counted myself blessed for professional friendships that stood the test of time and for colleagues who became friends and spoke truth into my life.
At the end of this day, as I sat at my desk reflecting these recent events, still dealing with hurt and grief, still grappling with my part in these events, I realised I was still not ready to grow up. Not ready to give up my naive ideals, not ready to be truly altruistic and giving, not able to remain unaffected and unfazed, not able to set aside my expectations and aspirations.
And this, I think, is the reality and the messiness of human life. We will perhaps forever be adult and child, good and evil, altruistic and selfish, kind and cruel. Some days we make better choices and be our better selves, some days we made poorer choices and be our distorted selves. However, things turn out, I am thankful that there is always ‘tomorrow’ for us to choose again.
Today, I give up. Tomorrow, I try again.