I Don't Know What To Do

          My world has been turned upside down and all over the place the last few years. I’ve completely lost all sense of who I am. Honestly I lost all of that before my whole world was shattered.
        Back in late 2012 I lost my home. Despite trying to do everything in my power for months beforehand to not leave my new home, Chicago, nothing worked. I had to pack my bags or what was left of my belongings and make my way back to the hell I call Ohio. I sunk low. I sunk so low that even now I cannot see any light or a hope. I put on my mask and would tell myself that there’s a reason for everything. I still somewhat believe that to be true. There’s been instances where I’ve gotten a job just in the nick of time, or had just received health insurance (after not having any for years) month before fracturing my foot. With this major setback my aunt was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer only 3 months after I moved back. I set in my mind that even though I didn’t want to be in Ohio I’m here at a time when my family needs me.
        Still I’m at a low with myself and not sure how to stand on my own two feet anymore. I’ve given up. I have completely given up. The worst part is the never ending cycle. I have now been unemployed for a little over two years. Since I moved back even looking at or thinking about an application gives me a legit anxiety attack. It goes back to my previous jobs, especially my last one.
          With my first two jobs there was the typical bullshit you have to deal with at a job. It was at a library. Everything started out okay. I felt like my boss was kind of anal about certain things, but I didn’t realize he was a saint compared to the woman that replaced him when he left. The woman that took over was a tyrant with a smile plastered on her face. I am a hard worker and I have zero tolerance for bullshit. Most of the work done in our department was done by me while the other kids, with the same job title as I, did minimal work. One incident that made my blood boil is there was a man that worked in our department, who repaired audio/ visual materials, that would spend most of his time looking at porn on the workroom computer and having phone sex with women who worked elsewhere in the library. I was disgusted and weirded out by it, but the first time I put my foot down was when the computer got a virus and all of the aides got blamed and we were told that we couldn’t use the computer. I informed my boss what really was happening. She did nothing. The last straw with this particular employee was seeing a photo of myself taken from my MySpace sent to him in an email he left open on the computer. I reported him to my boss and the library director. Nothing. A guy I became close with actually quit on the spot one day because of nothing being done about this guy’s actions. I became fed up and asked a manager in another department if I could grab hours there. This librarian always saw how hard I worked and would continuously compliment me whenever she visited our department. She said she’d have to look at her hours. A few days later she walks up to me, as she often would, and said “I’m not sure if anything is going on with you and Paula (my boss), but I don’t think it’d be a good idea for you to come to our department.” I was so confused. She saw everyday how hard I worked. All of the librarians in the whole building knew how hard I worked, actually. If people needed help in other areas I was the one they came too. That’s how well known I was for my work ethic. I asked her what she meant. She only said, “You’ll have to talk to Paula.” I saw red. I could only assume that my boss told this woman false things about me to paint me as a shitty employee. I knew that she probably did this because I was the aide that mostly got things done and if I was gone then nothing would get done also I’m pretty sure she was sexist. She never gave the men shit, but constantly made rude snotty remarks to the women. I knew I had to do anything to get the hell out of there, which was a bummer. Everyone else in that department with the exception of my boss and perv-boy I cared about and with me working in the audio/visual department there was nothing I knew more about than music and movies. I was everyone’s movie/music guide when they couldn’t find a particular item for a patron. Shortly after this I saw a posting in the newsletter about a higher position in our checkout department. I applied and honestly figured I was a shoe-in because this is a department I would help out often without them asking. In the meantime I still didn’t feel right. I had been there almost 8 years and hadn’t progressed and it was probably due to my boss holding me back. At the same time that I had applied to this job I was also applying to colleges around the country since the community college I attended didn’t have journalism at the time. One of my communications professors talked up Columbia College Chicago. I took a chance and got accepted. I withdrew my application for the other position and packed my bags for Chicago. Since my boss blocked me from getting into another department it was nice to be able to one up her and just leave the state.
          Moving to Chicago was another one of those things happening in the nick of time. I got the green light for my student loans, quit my job, and got an apartment all in about 10 days before school started. It took almost nine months to find a job. Again, this was in the nick of time. I was on my last few hundred bucks of my student loans, by that time. Between school, rent, and bills I was running out of cash fast.  Although I was able to finally let out a sigh of relief by landing this job at Borders (I’ll say the name since these bookstores no longer exist) it wasn’t a big sigh. I was told from the start that the location was closing in about eight months. Borders started as a breath of fresh air. I’m glad it was my first job in the city because I met some really cool people there. It was a nice first impression of the city. I’ll admit I was a little intimidated because all of these people had worked together for a while and they were a strong family unit. After a few months we got the news that the store would be open at least another year and I was able to let out the rest of that sigh of relief. To this day I will say that Borders was the best job I ever had. Unless I open my own business or find a job that allows me to be creative, it will continue to be my best job experience. As much as I love the people I worked with I always felt out of place. I tried my best to fit in but was constantly stressed because I was barely making ends meet, had to go days without eating to save money, drop out of school because I just couldn’t afford it and to make matters worse is my hours were constantly being cut. I stuck it out because at least I was at a place where I worked with people I mostly liked and no one else seemed to be hiring. As time went on it became like any other job. The folks who barely did anything got the most hours while people like me were barely clearing 25 hours a week. Of course I bitched about it, considering what I was going through, and because I wanted things to be equal. I got labeled an asshole. Few people cared about what I was going through, luckily, for me, one of those people who did was the general manager. If anyone would call in or if he had extra hours he’d call me. I was so anxious for hours I spent most of my off days in the area just in case I was needed. I was thankful for him. Still I was upset that the manager who made the schedule would cut my hours and give most hours to the chicks he flirted with. I’ll never forget that one of my new friends there referred to me as Malcolm X once. He was being funny, but I took it as a compliment. Yes, I was angry that lazy people were rewarded and no I won’t shut up about it. He told me I had to “play the game”. I’m sorry, but my bills, putting food in my stomach, and keeping a roof over my head was not a game. I came to work, not kiss ass. I had applied to different jobs while I worked there and after 13 months I was able to land a better paying job. I didn’t know that this new job would fuck up my entire existence.
         This last job threw me into a downward spiral really quick. It was at a call center for a well known cable company. If you live in Chicago you probably know the one I’m talking about and if possible you probably hate them more than I do. I pretty much had problems with this place from the start. They rushed new hires through the training process and most of what they taught made no sense and when we would ask about certain things you’d get answers that were pulled out of asses and no answer from different people were ever the same. I tried to be a sport about it since it did pay more than Borders and was something to fall back on since Borders was definitely closing by the time I got this new job. I’ll fast forward to the bits that explain where my anxiety and depression worsened. This call center was in the suburbs which meant I had to take a bus and a train to and from work. I’d have to catch a bus by 7:30 am to catch a train that left close to 8:30 to be at my 11am shift. My shift would end at 8pm, but the train wouldn’t arrive til 9pm and I wouldn’t get home until around midnight. Repeat. That really really wore on me. I pleaded with supervisors to change my shift just an hour so I could work from 10-7 so I could catch the 7:30 train. I really didn’t see what the harm in it was. That way they could have an employee who was well rested because I could get home by 9 instead of having someone running on just a few hours of sleep. They wouldn’t hear any of it. Also just because I made more here than Border made no difference since I added the expense of public transport which was almost $300 a month. I was always reprimanded because I acted in favor of the customer instead of the company. Meaning I wouldn’t try to push and force people to upgrade a cable package if they could barely afford to pay for what they already had. I worked with customers and really listened to what they were saying. My view was to try and keep a customer so the company would still make money versus pushing them into a package that would be more expensive and risk losing them completely because they may want to go with another company that was cheaper. For the most part I was so well with customers that I had a few regulars who would refuse to speak to anyone but me. The first real incident I had there was after working there seven months my father, back in Ohio, had a stroke. This happened on a night before my days off so after work I took a Greyhound home to be with my family. Even though that next day was my day off I called my supervisor and let her know my situation and what I should do. I was just told to worry about my family and to keep her updated. I kept in contact as much as possible, but it seemed as though my supervisor nor manager really had any clear idea on how to handle something like that. No one said how many days I was allowed to be away or the consequences. The day before I was going to go back I received a rude voice mail from my manager saying “SO HOW LONG IS THIS GOING TO TAKE?!” How long is it going to take the only father I have to recover from a stroke? Are you kidding me? I was the one calling everyday to see HOW LONG I could take off and never got a concrete answer. When I did come back and handed over all doctor notes and proof of where I’d been my supervisor had the nerve to ask me “Why didn’t you come back after your dad was out of the dark area?” What she was referring to was my father was in the hospital for about a week before going to a rehab facility for physical and speech therapy. I’m sorry, but I saw that all as a dark area seeing as my father still couldn’t speak by the time I left (and to be honest still has problems with speech four years later) and again I constantly asked how I should’ve handled that when I was away. The only good news from that is the manager that left me the rude voice mail was fired a week later. Still don’t know what for, but I saw it as karma. At this company you were assigned to a supervisor for on a certain amount of months, I think it was 6 or so, and early on I was so done with my first supervisor. I won’t go into all the shady things she did, but two times she really rubbed me the wrong way was saying I didn’t know what I was doing extremely loud while I was on the phone with a customer. This customer was adamant about leaving our company because we couldn’t give her a discount even though she had several in a row. I was boiling that she said something like that to an employee loud enough that the customer possibly heard. Another time was when I was dealing with a customer who was highly upset because a technician screwed up and went to the wrong house TWICE and wanted someone to come out immediately. My hands were tied and my supervisor did nothing to help her even though it was our fault. She refused to talk to the woman even though she asked for a supervisor. The customer kept saying she wanted to cancel and I got so fed up that I was truthful to the woman that my boss refused to help and that if it was up to me this situation would be much different. The customer recognized that my hands were tied and said that she wasn’t mad at me, but at management. I apologized on behalf of that shitty company and sent her to cancellation. The second huge incident with this place was since I had to walk from the train everyday and through every type of weather I developed a stress fracture in my left foot. I walked on it for about a week before getting it checked. The doctor found nothing. I walked on it for about two more weeks until I couldn’t take the pain anymore and went to a different doctor. He slapped a boot on it and signed the papers for a medical leave. While off my pay was fucked up for most of it and dealing with the insurance company and my job was a pain in the ass. I don’t remember how long I was off, but I do know that I was sent threatening letters that my job would be terminated if I didn’t return. I wasn’t fully healed and had to walk back and forth to work in the August heat with that dreadful boot on my foot for at least a few more weeks. The third big incident is where I feel like everything came to a head and I completely broke. On days when calls are really slow, I mean like 20-30 minutes in between calls, they would send people home early if you signed up for it. Usually you’d get off about an hour early or more if this were to happen. This was on a Sunday and anyone who has taken public transport knows that Sunday schedules are always a pain. Halfway into the day I saw a lot of people going home early and was confident that at least an hour before my shift was to end I’d be leaving too. Well that time had come and gone and I was only hoping that they’d call my name early enough to catch the closest train instead of waiting for the next one an hour after my shift ended. Well turns out that whoever was supposed to check up on the list of names to go home early was bullshitting around and had completely forgot. I was called with about 10 minutes to grab my things and run to the train. I got to the parking lot of the train station as the train was pulling away. I literally fell to my knees and started sobbing uncontrollably and hyperventilating. When I was able to catch my breath and calm down I walked into the train station and immediately started calling therapists. That leads me to my second medical leave. This one my pay was screwed with heavily which led me to the hell I live today because of that I was unable to keep my apartment and my landlord refused to hear what was going on and why it was happening. The icing on the cake was I was told to quit my job right then and there. I was able to find another place with someone within a few days and returned to see if I could get my job back. I was told to wait a few days to see what they could do and in the end they told me they tried and tried, but since I was erased from the system I’d have to reapply and go through as a new employee again (never got a call back for that either I might add). I was also told that I should get unemployment. I cried my eyes out a few days before Christmas after talking with the unemployment office because this place, even though I wasn’t there anymore, got their last dig in and lied to me about that too. It was stupid of me to trust them on anything at all.
           My last job really did a number on me. Because of my work schedule and spending most of my day on a train or bus, I had no room for a social life. The friends I made at Borders I had lost contact with because I couldn’t do things with them and the days I did have off were for me to catch up on sleep or to see my therapist. Because I didn’t have time nor energy to make a home cooked meal most of the week I mainly ate fast food and microwaveable dinners. I gained close to 100lbs that, two years later, I still haven’t completely shed. Seeing myself at that weight really depressed me. I had never been a skinny girl, but never in my life had I ever been over 200lbs. The stress of that place really screwed with my body. At this place is where I lost my passion for writing. At the library I had down time to write as well as at Borders. Here I didn’t have the free time at all. Any free time I had I used to try and clear my mind from whatever hellish calls or bullshit meetings I had to endure earlier that day. This job also made me hate people. Yes, most of the time the customers were assholes who complained about an expense that really isn’t necessary to life and really isn’t worth the expensive price they’re paying. The people who made me hate people were my coworkers. The daily topic was always how much the place sucked and which boss screwed who over. It was fun to gossip at first and talk to people who had the same view that I did, but after a while it just became too heavy. I already have my own personal problems with this place and I really didn’t want to take on anyone else’s hatred. That was too much to take. So while I was there I did do a few irresponsible things like go to Lollapalooza three years in a row, see Paul McCartney, see U2 (which was a childhood dream of mine) and do other things that I otherwise never had a chance to do. It was very irresponsible of me to do those things, but going through the torture I felt day in and day out, I felt like I deserved a break every once in a while and do something that would give me at least a little bit of joy. As irresponsible as it was I’d do it again. When I saw Paul McCartney I had probably $10 to my name after getting those tickets, with no clue when I’d be paid again (since this was during one of my medical leaves) and it was worth it. I’ll probably never get to see him again in life, but dammit I did it and I’d do it again.
        Now I’m back in Ohio and I am so lost. I know that I need to get a job but I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m unappreciated and treated like shit. I refuse to get into a position where I spiral again. These experiences have left me fragile. I don’t want to put my health at risk and have constant panic attacks, which was something I started to experience while at the library, or gain a ton of weight, or God forbid, go to a dark place and never find my way out again. I don’t like being broke, but these things give me so much anxiety. I can’t pull up an application with out thinking “What if I get an asshole boss? What if I have to travel over an hour to get to work only to get shit on? What if I have to do the majority of everything? What if I have a family emergency and can’t be there for them because I’ll have a boss who won’t understand?”. Even just looking at an application makes my palms sweaty. I can’t go through these things again. IT. WILL. BREAK. ME. I know it will.
         All I want to do is write and when I was younger my writing was the only thing I wasn’t modest about. People would tell me I was good and I would tell them that they were right. These experiences have stripped me of my confidence in the one thing I was good at. I have no clue what I want to do now. From the time I was a kid I wanted to be a journalist, photographer, travel writer, director, etc and I just have to interest in these thing anymore. I don’t have interest in anything anymore. I just lay in bed and wish I could just disappear. That’s the only thing I feel semi passionate about. If I could just disappear I’d be better off and so would everyone around me. If I don’t have passion then what’s it all for? I was robbed of what I loved. I was robbed of fully enjoying a city I loved living in and more than anything I want to return to Chicago, but the will to fight for it isn’t there. I was robbed of my identity of being a person that liked to help people. Those parts of me no longer exists. I want to do something that I can share with the world and be a voice but the urge to disappear is stronger than that. I hope I can come to a point where I can clock in somewhere and meet new people so that I won’t have to be a burden on a few people anymore and try to gain some normalcy. I wish I could snap my fingers and have all these fears go away so I can continue a normal life, but I just can’t. My life right now is “I can’t.” I just don’t know what to do. I wish I knew what path to take and I wish I had the courage to even pick a path. I’m just so lost. I’m so so lost and the worst part is I’m doing it alone. Deep down I know I’ll find my way, but it’s not happening soon enough. I know the way I feel now has always been there, it just took my last job to bring out that hopelessness in full affect.

Thanks, Fuckcast.

-Asia Aneka Anderson 2015(c)
Tumblr- AsiaWrites

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