Pour Your Heart Out

I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

I mean, I understand that where I am in my life right now is pretty much all my own doing.

Or lack-of-doing.

Basically, I understand that this is all my fault.

I was desperate to leave my last job. Desperate. I was considering working in fast food and cleaning people’s homes just to get out of that place. Anything to escape a soul-eating boss, a paycheck that barely covered rent and bills, mind-numbing work that made me feel like I was doing absolutely nothing with my life, with my skills. I needed to get away.

And so I did.

I took the first offer that came along. Which is exactly how I got that last job.

And in the beginning, it was different.

It was a cut in pay (ouch!) but I would get all the benefits I never got at the last job. I’d have medical, dental, vision, a 401(k). The office manager was a wonderful woman who also ran a counseling center out of her office. There’s a lovely couch in her office that I would go in, sit down, and sometimes we would just talk if there was no work for me to do. Or, she’d find work for me to do. I’d type up forms for her counseling center, type up her notes for a class she was finishing up.

There was pretty much always something to do – whether it was for my “actual” job at the environmental consulting firm, or helping her out with the counseling center.

I shared my office with the training coordinator, a girl just a little older than me who had just had a baby. We got along well.

I didn’t think I’d stay with the company as a career, but it would do. I worked my tail off, knowing that the office manager was continually impressed with everything I was doing, knowing that the first year would fly by and I would eventually prove to them how I deserved a raise. All I needed was to make a little bit more money, and everything would be fine. I’d be able to pay the rent, pay my bills, and maybe have a little left over to save.

Then, the stroke.

My office manager had a stroke in the later part of last year.

I can’t imagine what it’s like for her, her husband (my boss, owner of the company), her family, her life. Her entire life, her entire self, changed in that instant. When my boss called to tell me what had happened, why nobody else was in the office that morning, I hung up the phone and cried. I’d only known her a few months, but we had developed a wonderful friendship. I loved the afternoons we would sit in her office and talk. She’d tell me stories about her life, and I would discuss what was happening in mine (this was around the time I had divorced J). She’s a wonderful, caring person.

The first time I saw her after her stroke, the reality of my own situation slapped me across the face.

This was not something that would take a few months of healing.

She would not be coming back to work. Not any time soon.

So I took charge at the office.

Nobody else was going to do it.

I taught myself QuickBooks in only a few days. I got our bills paid up to date and figured out the schedule she’d set for herself to make sure everything was paid on time. I figured out how to create invoices, discussed it with the boss, and I took over. I became the office manager. I took charge of the office so the boss could help his wife, so he could join her at all of her appointments.

And then, I guess I got selfish.

Because I’d done something not a lot of people would have done.

I made it possible for him to take some time where he didn’t have to worry about his business. He could take care of his wife. He could join her at all of the physical therapy, he could deal with their insurance company, he could deal with the paperwork to get her transferred from the hospital to a care facility and then finally to home.

In the meantime, his business would not fail.

It could not fail. I would not let it. I did what I could.

But there was a lot I could not do.

I don’t know the first thing about running a business. When the bills started rolling in for license renewals, I had to consult with the boss on every single one. Is this something we want to renew? You need to take a class to renew this certification. I need you to sign this. Checks always had to be signed by him. He brought in someone else to run payroll.

Because the smart business decision is to bring in somebody from the outside and pay them, rather than have somebody you are already paying learn how to do it.

But whatever.

Although, it’s not “whatever.”

It’s been just about a year since her stroke. She has improved a lot. She’s not close to being ready to return to work, but her life is returning closer and closer to something resembling normalcy. She walks with only a slight limp. She speaks, a little bit, but not often because I believe she’s a little bit embarrassed.

Things for the boss have calmed down too. He hired somebody to stay with her during the day, to take her to appointments, so that he can get back to work.

Except.

Work is a disaster. He let too many things fall by the wayside. Things there were no way I could have known about.

Because I’ve never run a business.

Every day I fear the place is going to go out of business, and I will be out of a job.

And this is the fear I had at my last job. Always worried whether I’d have a job each month. Each week. Each day. Never knowing if the proverbial shoe was going to drop. Never knowing if I was even using the right metaphor. Or whatever.

And now, I hate my job.

But I also hate myself.

Because, what comes to my mind too often, is what has not happened since her stroke.

I’m warning you, this is where I get really selfish.

I’ve been here over a year. My year was in May. It’s almost August. In May, I sent the boss an email explaining that I really thought I would benefit from a performance review. Sure, I was hoping it would include a raise, and possibly I would start making commission on training classes.

Did I mention our training coordinator had quit, so I was doing her job as well?

That’s right. By the time I was with the company for a year, I had three job titles. I was still the administrative assistant on paper. That was how the boss referred to me. Always. But I was also doing all of the office management (a/r, a/p, etc) and then I was coordinating all of the training classes. The training coordinator made commission off the classes she sold, so I was hoping to get the same. Only seemed fair.

But really, all I wanted was a raise. I wanted some kind of recognition for all of the work I’d done, without being asked. For all of the responsibility I’d taken on, without so much as a “thanks for doing that, Rox.”

He agreed to the performance review, and in his email he stated that any raises, bonuses or commission would be retroactive to my hire date.

Awesome.

Except.

It’s almost August.

I sent him my self-performance review and job description that he requested.

He still hasn’t reviewed it. He hasn’t scheduled a formal review. He hasn’t done anything. Except promise that we’ll “do it soon.”

So now I’m just frustrated.

Everything that needs to be done, gets done. I work my tail off for this man, and I am getting no recognition.

Is that selfish? Or am I only demanding what I should already be entitled to?

I’m not going to go into details about my paycheck, but it is honestly not a decent wage. People who work in fast food make more than me. I make enough to be on welfare, although I am not on welfare currently. I make enough to be considered below the poverty line. I have medical, dental, vision and a 401(k), but there is a little bit of money taken out of my paycheck to cover those. Plus, my co-pays are too high for me to fully take advantage of it.

Sigh.

I’m pouring my heart out, but all I feel is selfish.

Why should it be considered selfish to want what I deserve?

To demand that he show his appreciation for my hard work through monetary means? Does he even realize that what he pays me is ridiculous?

And then there’s the fact that it’s a salary. So, more often recently, if there comes a day when I don’t have to pick up T from school, the boss will ask me to work late.

And I do. I complain about it on Twitter, but I am very professional to him. I’ll stay for 20 minutes, 40 minutes, up to an hour, to make sure the work is done. I won’t even mention the fact to him that the work we are staying late to get done should have been done weeks ago but he has procrastinated until the last minute.

And I get no overtime.

I don’t get to come in later the next morning to make up for it.

I’m getting sick of being treated this way. How do they expect me to consider making a career out of this job? I am not. I thought my escape would be law school next year, but I’m starting to think I’ll need to find an escape sooner than that.

But then I fear, what if I end up in another miserable job? I went back to work after being a stay-at-home mom in 2008. I’ve worked in two miserable and soul-sucking jobs since then.

Makes me wish I was still married so I could have the option of going back to being a stay-at-home mom.

What?

He’s going to preschool now. I’m sure it’s a lot different being a stay-at-home mom when they can go to school.

Doesn’t matter.

I’m not married.

I have to work.

And now I have to deal with my fear of ending up in another dead-end job.

Or stay here.

Until law school.

Autumn. 2012.

It’s a long ways away.

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