In the past few months I have journeyed to Japan and back again, had several meltdowns, quit my soul-crushing job and have decided to take a risk and move to southern California. It's pretty amazing how much your life can change in just a few short months. If you remember my last post from September you'll know that my job was causing me a lot of mental (and physical distress). At the beginning of 2016 I was feeling pretty burnt out in my position as a concierge at a high-end retirement home and was ready to look for a new job. However, being a naturally lazy person who also tends to avoid change, I wasn't looking very hard. My employer was 10 minutes away from my house, I had a relatively easy job and everyone seemed to like me. But I was bored. And people with anxiety don't do well with boredom. We will fill that time with thoughts of dread and regret. It's not pretty. However, as I was contemplating leaving my job an opening in a different department opened up. I wasn't necessarily jazzed about this new job but it would be change of pace and I might learn some new skills. If I'd only known then what a mess I was getting myself into.
On my first day in my new position I had a panic attack and knew I'd made a huge mistake. This job wasn't what I'd signed up for and I felt I'd been deceived. Over the course of a few months they completely changed my job description (to save money of course) and I was told that I could either adapt to these changes or I could leave. Around this time I had already bought my plane ticket to Japan and with my anxiety, I can only really handle one big thing at a time so I decided I would tough it out with this job and after my trip I would start looking for a new job and preferably one in California.
This might not have been the best decision because the proceeding 10 months were some of the most miserable months of my life. Everyday I'd wake up and dread the day ahead of me. Almost everyday was a bad one. And it's so emotionally exhausting having to "be on" 8 hours a day and have to pretend to be happy and cheerful when internally you're screaming. As the months went on my anxiety worsened, my stomach aches returned (which caused me to lose all the weight I was so happy to put on the year before), and my depression intensified. I hadn't been this depressed and anxious in almost 10 years. All of the progress I had made with my mental health seemed to slip right through my fingers.
This is probably where I should tell you what this job was so you can understand why it was affecting me the way it did. Originally, I signed up for a job in the activities department at the senior home I worked at. I was told that I would be planning fun events and outings for the old folks as well as some administrative work like making flyers and such. This department was also responsible for helping the seniors with technology questions but that was supposedly only a small portion of the job. I was hired for the independent living side with all of the residents that I'd known for years but after I'd already accepted the job I was told I was going to be spending some of my time at the assisted living side too. Some time turned into half of my day everyday.
I'm a very sensitive person and also a hypochondriac so this was not good news for me. The job at the assisted living side was night and day to the one at the independent side. For 4 hours a day I had to work in a hospital with sick people, many of which had very advanced dementia and it completely broke my heart. I felt like Siddhartha seeing a dying person for the first time. This was all totally new for me and hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn't just being in this kind of environment that got to me, it was the fact that I had to entertain a room full of people everyday! For several hours a day, I was the entertainment. As a person with social anxiety disorder, this was a NIGHTMARE. This was a sink or swim situation and I was drowning. I would feel sick to my stomach the moment I woke up in the morning because I knew I had to get up and teach the exercise class or the art class (I never ever wanted to be a teacher). On top of that, I became responsible for having to interview the incoming patients so I had to go into their rooms and every time I worried I was going to catch whatever illness the person had. By the time I would get back to my office at the independent side I would be so drained but I'd have notes, emails and voicemails waiting to be answered.
I told my boss I was feeling overwhelmed and unhappy in this position and he told me that if I ever needed help, to just ask for it, that we were all a team. A family. This I would soon find not to be true. About one month ago I had one of the worst panic attacks of my life and had to go home sick. It was a major wake up call that I couldn't go on like this much longer. If I continued on this path, I was going to end up in the hospital. A few days after my panic attack I was feeling extremely fragile mentally but tried to act "normal" at work. Someone was having trouble with their computer but it was a Mac and my knowledge of Macs is very limited since I've always been a PC user so I asked my boss if he could help this person. My boss decided this was too much and started spewing all of these cliche buzzwords at me telling me I needed to "step up to the plate" and stop asking for help all the time (I only ask for help when I have no other options). For 30 minutes I pretty much got told I wasn't working hard enough and that I either "step up my game" or transfer to another department.
After all the misery I'd endured for nearly a year I was being told I wasn't working hard enough! I knew this job was a horrible fit from Day 1 but I tried my best to make it work. For the millionth time I came home in tears and my dad asked me what was wrong. I told him how my boss didn't respect me and told me I needed to work harder. It was then that my dad said something I did not expect. He said, "You have to quit. Tomorrow." I was stunned to hear this coming from the man who had always drilled into me that you never leave a job without another one lined up. He said I couldn't work for this man anymore now that I knew how he really felt about me, and especially when this job A.) hardly paid anything B.) was making me ill. He said life was too short to be so miserable and this was the Universe's way of telling me it was time to leave.
The next day I plucked up my courage and handed in my resignation. And get THIS! The whole time this guy could not hide his elation! He smiled and laughed through the whole thing! It was ludicrous! I don't think I've ever had a boss react so unprofessionally to me resigning from a job.
As you an imagine, word spread like wildfire that I had quit. For the next few days the seniors stopped me and told me how much I'd meant to them and how my smile always brightened their day. A big part of me had felt like I'd wasted the past 3 1/2 years of my life at this community and that all of my efforts were in vain but the seniors changed my mind. I was important. I did matter. I had made a difference in people's lives at the end of their lives. Everyone wished me well and told me that I was going to succeed in whatever direction I chose to go in.
So now here I am, 2 weeks later. In about 2 months or so I will be packing my life up once again and moving to California. To be perfectly honest, I'm pretty terrified going out into the unknown again but for some reason this time it feels different. I feel like this time everything is going to be okay. My original plan was to find a job before moving but I've changed my mind and decided to just pack up and leave. It would be too stressful to have to drive back and forth to LA for interviews (if I even got any since most employers don't even look at your resume if they see you're out of state) and have to stay at a motel alone. And this time is different than the other times I've moved because this time I have a lot more saved up so I don't have to feel so desperate to find a job as soon as I get there. I can afford to be picky this time. And this time I'm moving somewhere that I already have friends at, friends who have told me they can't wait for me to get there.
I hope the Universe has a plan for me and that things will work out this time. I know the next few months will be hard but I'm stronger now and I know myself better than I did 4 years ago. I'm going to try to stop doubting myself so much and have more confidence in myself and my abilities.
Thank you for reading this and for believing in me. The support of my family and friends has meant so much to me during these troubled times.
In my next post, I'm going to finally write about my trip to Japan before I start to forget everything! See you next time!