This piece was originally published on Medium in May, 2020.
At the very beginning of the pandemic, I made the decision to leave my part-time job. The impetus was a specific incident, though it was not the reason. The impetus had been growing since 2017, a year into my employment, for various reasons. As much as I did love my job and felt honored to hold it, I was often uncomfortable and thought about leaving in 2017, 2018 and 2019. But I had relationships with a few of my coworkers that I valued and I did value my relationship with my boss, who was also my friend, despite these things. I was constantly weighing the good with the bad. Plus, much of the work I did was on behalf of students who I loved to welcome, watch grow and help feel comfortable in our active and vibrant community. Since early March, I have been very careful about what I say. It has been exhausting. And as a side effect of what took place when I left, I decided to dismantle my own small business. I did this because I lost my appetite for anything related to the field. In large part, due to the way I was treated when I left. And that’s what I am writing about here. Because for 2 months, I have laid awake for hours during the night. Because I have evaded answering inquiring friends to protect…who…someone who did what I’m about to describe? No, I evaded answering for this long because I know it will be jarring for many people. I know some won’t believe me. And some, probably won’t care. I evaded answering to protect myself: this shit hurts. A lot.
For 4 years I worked HARD at something I thought was important and more often than not had tremendous good outweighing the bad. And for those 4 years, and the 4 prior, I considered my boss to be my friend, as well. This was both acknowledged and tossed aside like a dirty napkin in our interactions when I attempted to give my notice.
Before I dig in, a little bit about the dismantling of my own business. This came after I left my part time job, but had been on my mind for a while, but much like a couple who decides having a baby will fix their relationship, my husband, our business partner and I thought we should expand and utilize technology more to our advantage. I started feeling more and more overwhelmed by what needed to be done (which was also expensive) and less enthused about it. Because I feel a responsibility to people who have purchased courses through us, we (my biz & the people we worked with) have found alternate ways to make the material available. Please do not ask about that here. Our plan will begin rolling out next week. Keep an eye on our social media or your inboxes if you are enrolled in a course or 2. At any rate, I did not leave my part time job to focus on it and grow it. I am, always have been and suspect will always be capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time.
I left my part time job because I had enough of the uncertainty, the feeling of walking on eggshells, the lack of clarity that allowed the Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back to happen. I did address this particular incident with my boss at the time, and as far as I know she dealt with it. After laying awake all night, I decided that I didn’t care and that I was done. I asked if we could Zoom. When I said the words, “I feel that the time has come for me to say goodbye….”, she started sobbing, saying it was all her fault, she was so sorry, she thought we were going to be old ladies together, and when I tried to reassure her that I wasn’t going anywhere in terms of the social aspect of things and how I planned on wrapping things up, she said she felt sick and hung up on me. I was obviously upset and cried quite a bit, but had more a feeling of WTF just happened? I fell asleep early and at 4am was wide awake, so I wrote an email outlining the reason that particular incident pushed me over the edge (I essentially gave myself an exit interview) and how I planned to wrap things up (I essentially gave myself an exit strategy) and finished it up by thanking her for everything she had done for me, stating I hoped we remained friends and how much I valued her.
I hit send and stupidly assumed we’d be able to work things out and move forward. It was early, around 6:30am, but I texted my friend Stacy, who I suspected would be awake. She was and so we got on the phone. We talked about this and COVID-19 quite a bit. Her partner is a doctor in NYC, and she filled me in on what was happening on both the front end and the back end there. It had the effect of making me realize that I made the right decision for myself. If what she told me was really coming, I did not want to live my life walking on eggshells, uncomfortable or unhappy. When we finished talking (a few hours later. We had a lot to talk about.), I checked my email and saw a reply from my boss. It was 2 lines: “I am too upset to deal with you right now, do what you need to.” And then, the gut punch: “Don’t ever contact me again.”
I sat with my phone in my hand and my mouth agape for more than a few minutes. Then I went to my computer and noticed that I had been removed from every group related to the organization, despite asking to stay in the primary one for students and grads (I didn’t need to be in the others, since I was no longer a staff member.), unfriended and blocked and that my husband and brother had been unfriended, too. My brother. Anyone who knows me knows why that hurt more than anything else did. Exactly what it was designed to do. Well done. Not only was I shunned, but so were the people closest to me who had never been anything other than kind.
I told a few of my coworkers, who were shocked. Sobbed all day, indulged in some old vices and brushed myself off the next day. The pandemic actually opened a door that I had been kind of peeking behind for a while. I learned that a course in an unrelated field I had been toying with taking was going to be offered online, due to lockdown all over the world, that very next day. It seemed like a sign if you believe in that stuff. Sometimes I do. Mostly when it suits me. And so I signed up for this new course in a new field and began the process of tackling how we would dismantle our current business with the least amount of disruption, because I am, like, diligent and shit. And that leads us to now. This dismantling process is painful, but my appetite for anything related to my field has been killed. In a way, I am grateful this gave me a reason to fully remove myself from the toxicity of the industry, maybe the social media around it more precisely. The blurring of personal and professional boundaries was exhausting and I see how unhealthy it was so clearly now. I am sad too, though. The shape of many of my relationships have already changed and I know this post will lead to more changes. But I had choices to make - I could continue to lie and pretend everything was fine (something I have never been good at) or I could share my truth in hopes that it help alleviate some of my pain and the confusion of others, many of whom are sort of innocent victims, because one day I was there cheering them on and the next I was gone.
To those people, know this: I have never stopped cheering for you.
As for me, I’ll be fine. I always am. But a piece of me was lost in all of this, for sure. My hope is that what replaces it is stronger and I am more able to speak up when it’s time, and not to wait until I can’t take anymore.
For now, I remain unsettled.