Support Systems and Behavior


I've talked about how first thing after losing my job, I arranged to be the official school courier for my girlfriend's son. That established more than a routine; whether I was aware or not, I had taken the first step in tapping my support system.

If I'd been asked what my support system looked like before I got fired, I wouldn't have known what to say. Typically, I tend to bear my problems internally, and then act out aggressively towards the people in my life--my girlfriend can tell you how successful a recipe for personal satisfaction that is.

For whatever reason, my reaction in this situation was different. Very straightforward, purely honest, reaching out to those closest to me for support. As if I was weaving a spider web, I called my girlfriend, then my two best friends, then my family, and so on. I didn't broadcast my situation, at least not at first (I didn't start blogging this until a month into it), but I made a point to reach out to the people who've consistently demonstrated their loyalty to me and dedication to our relationship. Without fail, every single person in that grouping gave me what I needed at the time: a shoulder, a voice, an ear or a laugh. The value of such quality people in my life has been immeasurable, and has contributed in no small part to my ability to stay positive and productive.

There's been so much about this experience that's been completely different than any other personal catastrophe I've endured, not least of which has been my atypical response to every moment of it. High-strung would be an accurate description throughout my life. Tightly-wound and short-fused might also apply. I implore any people close to me to go ahead and share their thoughts in the comments. This time, though, none of my responses have fallen in line with my habits of internalization, hyper-criticality, and overreaction. Something's kept me reasoned and measured. Maybe I've grown up, maybe I've learned that time and time again, the only way to make a bad situation worse is to allow immediate emotions to dictate actions. Or, for that matter, I've been reminded of the inherent good in the people I've chosen to surround myself with and that's kept me in check.

The thought did cross my mind to send elaborate floral arrangements to several of my former coworkers with some variation on the theme, "Fuck you! Sideways! With ridiculously large and pointed objects!" spelled out clearly and lit with sparklers. Fortunately, I was able to decide this was neither prudent nor wise with the help of my support network.

Seriously, though, in the past I've made some spectacularly poor decisions in the heat of reaction. For instance, there was the way I left the first ice rink I managed. After four years, the general manager had different designs on the future of the business that conflicted with my ideas, and after several months of increasing tension, I walked in, delivered a letter of resignation blasting him and his treatment of me and the other employees, his "myopic vision," and "characterless comportment," and also distributed copies to the ownership and the rest of the management staff. On the one hand, I burned every bridge I'd built there, on the other I got to walk away feeling proud of my ten dollar words with a misguided sense of vindication. It's taken me nearly eight years to figure out the folly of what I'd done. Not only did I put my livelihood in danger (luckily, I began working at a different rink immediately), I also branded myself a maniac with my only professional contacts at the time.

I carried my grudge against that manager for years, until very recently. It took a lot of soul searching to figure out that frankly, I was the douchebag in the scenario. Not because I had conflict with my manager, but because I didn't bother to address him professionally or appropriately throughout the months of conflict. The entire time, I stood fast to a position of I'm-right-you're-wrong, and dedicated myself to "winning." Eventually, it was solely my emotions doing the driving, and of course, they led me down the wrong path.

Now, I don't want this misunderstood: everyone should have principles, and they should stand by them. I was right in having my vision for the business, but I was wrong in not being open to other visions, especially considering I wasn't the only person making decisions. Furthermore, it's OK to leave a job for the equivalent of irreconcilable differences. If you can't get behind what your company is doing or how your manager chooses to operate, voice your concerns professionally and exit gracefully. But don't make a huge, noxious ass of yourself in the process. It benefits no one; not you, not your manager, not the company, and the damage lasts longer than suspected.

Righteous indignation is only one trap. Apathy is another. Quietly accepting unacceptable situations is poison. For years, I've done that, and the end result is where I'm sitting today: uncertain and unemployed. The most damage done to my mindset in the office came at the result of not being assertive enough about my career direction, and allowing the simpering condescension of coworkers to invade my mental state. It's up to me to stand up for myself, and I intend to do so more effectively from now on. Offices tend to be stocked with "type A" personalities. Something to remember: "A" is for "asshole." Anyone who proudly refers to themselves as a "type A," and insists on offering unsolicited advice and nonconstructive criticism suffers from a horrific disease that is best treated with avoidance and dismissive responses.

Why am I carrying on about my ridiculous professional failures in the past? Because the most important cog in your support system is you. Using all your experiences, mistakes, triumphs and everything in between, it's up to you to figure out appropriate responses and reactions, and the right steps to continue in a beneficial direction. A great quote to help get through those days when the office dogma is stifling and the people around you are sapping your will to go on:

“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.” — William Gibson

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