You are allowed to fear the worst as long as you promise to be happy when things are actually quite alright
This Monday marks the beginning of my third week back at work. As of tonight I have already spent 11 days in my office. I feared going back. What I left was a mess and a lot of things changed while I was away and I wasn’t able to hope things would change for the better, only able to fear things would be the same or worse.
I was wrong.
It’s worth repeating and worth giving an exclamation mark:
I was wrong!
Let’s get things straight. Work is work and after 11½ months at home with my pregnant belly turned into beautiful baby boy, I am sometimes overwhelmed with sadness that from now on it’s just work and work and work. No more walking around the park drinking coffee when the weather is good, no meeting up with my mother for cakes when the sweet tooth needs feeding, no napping on the couch and watching DVDs. It’s “working 9 to 5”. But it is so much better than my worst fears.
Explaining what happened and how is too difficult. A mix of things made me lose confidence in myself and just before my maternity leave I felt reduced and looked down upon. That is already saying too much, but that’s the way it was.
Coming back was a new beginning. On my first day I immediately felt how things were different, how things had changed – and how they had changed to the better. The first week I was frantically waiting for a call, an invitation to an interview that was going to end my misery. They never called, but as it turns out neither did misery. On my second day I realised that everything felt lighter. On my third day I was praised to the sky for my involvement and feedback in a project that’s getting more attention than any other projects where I work. I came in from the street, I threw around a bit of “good old me” and I was thanked for it. I was so tired when I came home, but I felt so good going to sleep that night. On my fourth day I felt like the capacity I am, I felt like the capacity I wasn’t allowed to be and feel like before I had my boy. On my fifth day I smiled and as the day turned into night I was so tired I could have fallen asleep over dinner.
Week two was good. And now week three looks promising. I can’t believe, but I’m going to make the most of it.
I am biased, I know, not able to see straight, too involved. I know, I know, I know. BUT:
Most of the change is due to things I had nothing to do with, but I too have worked hard at changing things so I would feel better, so I will – hopefully – never lose my confidence again.
On my first day back at work I bought a Moleskine calendar. I read about this idea ages ago, but never got around to doing it, but now is different and now is the time. The idea is that every day you end by writing down what you have done. That way you can keep track of what you do. When you tell your boss you want to do more of something or less of something else you and you feel as if nothing happens, you have your calendar to back you up. And when you apply for jobs and your updating your resume and you have no clue what you have been up to, you just look through your calendar and there you have it. My plan is to hopefully do more strategic work, to show that I am capable of it (and yes, in the end to get promoted). The calendar is one way of helping me to get there, because now I can prove what I have done.
As we rang in 2013 I promised myself I would make an effort. That’s kind of big and can hold so many things, but I did have specific things in mind. I wanted to make an effort to feel good when I go to work. I wanted to walk into my office feeling as the best possible version of me – on the outside as well. My work doesn’t require me to dress a certain way. It’s easier to overdress than to underdress. But there’s no need to position myself just above the underdressed when I could and would feel so much better positioning myself just beneath the overdressed. So I am making an effort. I am trying to wear different things and not look the same all five work days of the week. I am wearing my vast collection of scarfs, and I am going to try to wear my dresses (and yes, I have already worn my jeans way too much, but the weather is too cold for riding my bike in a dress so the dresses are put on hold for now). Today I wore my poncho. A couple of colleagues looked. Maybe they thought it was cool, but good old me naturally thought they were thinking “what is she doing?”. But you know what, I don’t care. I wore my knitted poncho because a poncho like that is basically a sweater sans sleeves and I love the colours and the look of that poncho and why not wear it? Wearing it like this means I can wear it many, many more times than if I only used it as I would traditionally use it: on top of a jacket on a cool spring day. Making an effort also means I now have a pair of shoes at work. When I get to work in the morning I changed into my lovely ballet flats instead of a) wearing the heavy boots that are keeping my feet warm on my bike ride or b) freezing my toes of because I wear shoes that are not meant to keep out the cold on my way to work on the bike. Making an effort is about feeling good about myself. I want to. Because if I do so many other things will be easier.
Perhaps the most important thing is that I decided to come back and say no. NO! No way. No, no, no. It’s such a tiny word, but such an important word. Part of my misery before the boy was due to not saying no. I didn’t say no, the others did and then we all know what happens. So in the past two weeks I have said no more times than ever before (maybe not, but you know what I mean). I am more than willing to do things, do crappy things, but I am saying no and I am letting people know that. And the fun thing, at least for me, is that saying no means I have boosted the image of me as a capacity. I don’t do whatever. I do a lot, but I also say no. I am crossing my fingers and arm and legs and all things crossable that I can continue to do this because this has made such a huge difference. It is also why I am writing this down: To remind myself that I was going to continue to say no. Things might change and if they do, I need this reminder.
For the moment a lot of things are temporary at work. Things will change in the next couple of months. The plan is still to get a new job. I have promised myself that, but while I wait and search for that new job, I am going to make the most of the one I am currently holding, it would be silly not to.
Wish me luck. For the first time in years I actually feel as if the ride is fun and that I am on top of it.