The Devil You Know

I’ve actually interviewed for several jobs over the course of my 10 years of employment at the law firm. Knowing when the time is right and when you are looking at the best opportunity to switch jobs gets tougher as you get older, I find. My Mother has often cautioned me to be careful when switching jobs, as you’re just going from the Devil you know to the Devil you don’t. I know she has a point – no job is ALL good, all the time. As my Father used to like to say, that’s why they call it “work” and not “fun,” and pay you to go there.

When I was in my 20s, I changed jobs like snapping fingers. Some of this was because I would become too sick to perform the job duties adequately, other times it was because I had to have a day off for something very important, and they wouldn’t give it to me. I remember a restaurant manager telling me, “That’s why we call it ‘requesting off’ – it’s a request, it doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to get it off.” I couldn’t find anyone to switch with me and I was having a procedure done so I just quit.

I’ve held two jobs at a time for most of my adult life, sometimes three, or even four jobs if you count acting and freelance writing. I had so many W-2s my first couple of years out of college that I had to get some kind of supplemental form to account for all of them, as I recall. It’s been so long now that I can’t remember all the places I worked. I remember 13 W-2s and 1099s one year, and 11 another year as the highest numbers, but if you asked me to list those places now, I could probably only come up with a handful, like the diner I walked of mid-shift when I was being horribly mistreated by my co-workers during my training period. I didn’t know any of the procedures or where anything was kept and nobody would help me – they resented that I only worked lunch shifts and no dinners (I worked a retail job at night), and talked a lot of shit to my face and behind my back. When they started sabotaging my work and one of the kitchen guys told me who had done it, I turned and saw a group of them laughing at me and went into the boss’ office, said I wasn’t going to work with a bunch of backstabbing bitches, threw down my bank book and apron and left. There was the gig I had managing haunted houses, which was terrible pay but a lot of fun. One year I did that was so long ago that the Indians were in the playoffs, and it stretched well into the haunted house season, keeping droves of attendees away as they were all at home watching baseball. We were super bored those days. That was back when I was in fantastic physical shape, and I remember a bet as to whether or not me or a guy I worked with could do a handstand push-up against the cardboard wall on the interior of the haunted house. We both did one, but the upside-down weight broke one of my ribs, my bones weakened from years of being on Prednisone for my ulcerative coltis, which was when I found out I had osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis.

I interviewed a few years ago for what might qualify as a dream job for me in a lot of ways. The job reached out to ME after actually keeping my resume on file, having applied for a different job with this institution several months’ prior. They had filled that job, they said, but they had this OTHER job that was more senior, and was I interested? For the money they were talking about, I was actually seriously looking at a move to the East side, something I’ve never before or since considered at all. I went all through the interview process, including my potential new boss showing me the workstation where I “would be” working “if” I were hired, and introducing me to some other people on the team. I thought it was a lock and was completely checked out mentally at my job, so excited at the prospect of actually making enough money to be able to pay DOWN my debt instead of simply maintaining it where it is. Then I never heard back. After repeated follow-up, I finally got an automated notice from the company’s HR system that the position had been cancelled. No explanation, no nothing. I sent a final email to the boss-who-would-never-be-my-boss but never heard back. People are so weird. And on I marched here.

I interviewed at an accounting firm some time after that. The only way I can describe the person I was going to be working for and with was, if you’ve seen the movie Something Wild (and if you haven’t, it’s a great film, check it out), there are these scenes from the movie where the main characters go back to a 20-year high school reunion. At the reunion, there’s a really nice, sort of wimpy guy there who talks to the main characters and has this really pregnant wife who just sort of stares at everyone and talks in a monotone for the few lines she has. THAT was the woman at the accounting firm, but she wasn’t acting. There was just no way.

There were other fits and starts but nothing seemed right until this new opportunity, which I start in just a couple of weeks. It’s nerve-wracking to think about how much I know how to do where I am, and how I’ll know absolutely nothing once again at the new place. I was given a stack of like 150 letters to proof yesterday – not every word, as they all said the same thing, just to check the mail merge fields, which were names of clients, their company names and then checking the CC at the bottom to make sure the lawyer names were correct. We have almost 400 lawyers and I don’t even have to look most of them up now on our intranet to catch that “Michael J. Smith” (not a real person here) actually goes by J. Michael Smith, or that Abby Jones is supposed to be Abigal B. Jones, as listed on her bio, or that Company X now goes by The X Company. I can knock off a project like that in a half hour, whereas it would take me forever if I didn’t know this stuff already.

But for every small example like that one, there are 10 other examples of times I’ve left here in tears, or driven here in tears, or spent Sunday filled with dread at having to go back to work tomorrow. All the lunches worked through and evening plans cancelled at the last minute as I had to stay late because of someone else’s emergency. Vacation days and even surgery days I’ve had to reschedule because of work. The stress so bad I know the thoughts associated with it are unhealthy.

Goodbye to you, Devil I know. I am ready to learn again.

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