Achievements of another kind

Why is the bathroom shower one of the best places to do some thinking?

It’s not as if you get into the shower with a plan in mind to do some thinking. In that way, it’s totally unlike the spaces we create which are intended for productivity–an office at work, a desk at home. I’ve talked before about the importance of rituals, and the mindless ritual of showering lends itself well to facilitating more abstract thought processes. When I was in art school, I had two places where my abstract thought went into overdrive: the shower, and in bed right before falling asleep.

I didn’t make any big breakthroughs in the shower today, but I did feel like my thoughts during that time were the good kind that put me in the right frame of mind to go to work and try to make the best of the day. I contrast that with the times I’ve been assailed by bad thoughts that seem like they’re out of my control. I want to clarify that I do believe that our thoughts are usually well within our control, and our bad thoughts only tend to get out of hand and “beyond our control” when anxiety enters the picture.

Today in the shower I was thinking about how my perspective on “personal accomplishments” has changed over time. It has been a gradual change. The change hasn’t been drastic, either. I haven’t totally redefined what personal accomplishment looks like for me. I do think the change has been significant enough, though, that if I write about it here it’s possible that someone could find it helpful.


As a kid, I would have defined an accomplishment as having won something. Accomplishment = winning. Did I win something? If I didn’t, then no accomplishment took place. No achievement was made.

Awards weren’t the only way to win, though they were still the best type of accomplishment to make. An award is concrete proof that you are the best. The bigger the pool of candidates and the more prestigious the award, the more significant that award became and the more it helped to bolster my ego.

I was very preoccupied with winning awards in my three main areas of interest: sports, art, and academics.

And I did. I won a lot of awards. I didn’t win all of them though, so I was still a failure. A winner would have won every time.

I look back on that kid and I know that kid was too hard on herself. Today I realize that my problems with anxiety were taking root back then. I was the kid who would silently cry at her desk if my test score came back and I only received 98 points out of 100. I had to be perfect. I often went home from school with “stomach aches.” Looking back, these stomach aches were just the physical manifestation of my psychological issues. I didn’t make a connection between the two until a little later. I knew by Grade 8 that my excessive worrying was causing me to feel sick a lot. I wasn’t aware of any possible solution to that problem.

In Grade 8 we used to write daily journal entries in response to a topic selected by our homeroom teacher. Out of many journal entries, I only remember a few of them clearly. One question asked what our greatest wish was. My response at the time was that I wished I wouldn’t worry so much, followed by a couple elaborating paragraphs to fill the space left on the page. My teacher approached me about it afterward. She said she thought it was a wise response. I felt a sense of accomplishment from that, as if I’d won my teacher’s approval in some way. At the same time, that journal entry was a cry for help of sorts. I didn’t write it to impress my teacher, unlike many other things I did with the intention of impressing people. Because of the response I received, my screwed-up brain turned it into just another thing I used to bolster my pride.


The great thing about adulthood, so far, is that the awards are few and far between. A kid who has been accustomed to receiving awards in competitive settings has to wean themselves off of that feeling. At first, we find different ways by which to judge our own worth. Maybe we get accepted into the school of our choice. When it comes time to apply for our first “real job”, a feeling of accomplishment can arise if we are chosen for a position out of a large pool of potential candidates.

I haven’t gotten there yet. It’s something I’ve spent most of the last decade beating myself up about. My inability to secure a job in my field still weighs on my mind–even after the realization hit that I don’t really want to be in “my field” anymore.

Getting a job–the kind of job you go to school for–is just one achievement I wanted to have under my belt by this time in my life. Most chances at an “entry level” job in my field have passed me by. I’m not a recent graduate anymore. I’m not even in my twenties anymore. My resume is a cornucopia of unrelated, unskilled part-time jobs that would impress no one.

If I don’t achieve my dream of getting a job, what else is there?

As it turns out, I have plenty of other options–other ways to keep “achieving.”

I have had to redefine what that means for me.

One time at work, I overheard someone refer to me as a “nice person.” I don’t think I’d ever gotten such a HIGH off of being called nice before. Why? Because it doesn’t happen that often. I have spent a lot of time in my life being a jerk to people. I experienced a series of “rude awakenings” that all culminated in me realizing I’d been acting in a way that was contrary to how I believed I was acting.

These days, it’s an accomplishment to be viewed as being a kind person.

But a truly kind person would not be kind to others just to out-do other people who are also being kind.

If you decide you want to follow the path of kindness, you have to change something about the way you see other people. This is where my faith has helped me. My faith tells me that we are all children of God. We all have an intrinsic value, no matter what our actions might indicate. Even the worst, most undeserving people are included under the banner of “God’s children.”


Practicing kindness began with practicing patience.

I used to have zero patience. Now I have a lot of it. Now, I get taken advantage of more often. Part of having patience is opening yourself up to the possibility of being taken advantage of. No one wants to be a sucker. No one wants to be seen as naive. No one wants to have one of their virtues used against them.

But having patience allows us to do something that I see as a kind act: to withhold judgment.

As a teenager, I was very into myself and my own interests. I often looked down on people who didn’t share my specific views or tastes. I was quick to judge others and made no reservations about letting my opinion be known. Do you ever meet people who talk more about the things they hate than the things they enjoy? Do you ever get the impression that they experience a kind of joy when they discover yet another thing to dislike? It’s really obnoxious, but that’s how I think of myself at that age. And I know many people who are still stuck there, even as grown adults.

Practicing patience has allowed me to get to know people for who they really are. I don’t put a person on a pedestal just because we might have some superficial tastes in common. When I’ve done that in the past, it has led to me ignoring some of the more unsavory aspects of that person’s personality. Because at least we like the same music and can commiserate about our shared views on politics! Right? Gross.

I feel secure enough today in who I am that I don’t look for other people’s approval. My views are my own.

And I don’t feel compelled to inflict my views on other people. Here’s a scenario: You’re taking your lunch at work in the communal break room. A few people at your table are having an enthusiastic discussion about something they all enjoy. You very much do not enjoy that thing. In what way do you contribute to that conversation?

If the answer is something other than “listening politely,” we’ve got problems.

Have patience with people. Your opinion–my opinion–is not so important that you must take it upon yourself to ruin a pleasant conversation.

A while back I had to listen to my supervisor run down a much younger coworker–to his face–simply because this young man enjoyed the show The Big Bang Theory.

Is there anything more pathetic than an almost 40-year-old taking such offense at the TV-watching preferences of his younger subordinate to the point where he feels compelled to get into a heated discussion about it, the purpose of which was to convince this younger person that he shouldn’t enjoy a show that he currently enjoys?

I don’t know what he hoped to accomplish. Using your TV-watching preferences to demonstrate your superiority over another person is sad. It’s television. It’s all meant to be easily digestible in a 30-minute or hour-long format. I don’t care if it’s Game of Thrones or Peppa Pig–you sit there passively and watch it according to your interests and tastes. I don’t understand what there is to feel superior about.

And when someone is open about the things they enjoy, your first instinct should not be to run that thing down–I don’t care how much you dislike it. You’re being a jerk to someone who apparently made the mistake of showing enthusiasm around the wrong person. That wrong person is you.

Do you want to be the type of person who no one can be honest with? Because they fear your judgment, I mean. How’s that working out for you?

When I started to shut up and listen to people better, people started talking to me more. They know I won’t mock or ridicule them for something of no consequence.

I feel good about my newfound ability to shut my stupid face hole. It’s been a major accomplishment I’ve made as an adult and it’s helping me on my quest toward kindness.

Another thing I stopped doing: nitpicking the people who I’m supposed to love the most. The individuals on the receiving end of this nitpickery were most often my boyfriend and my brothers.

There was a time when everything annoyed me. I had no reservations about expressing my annoyance. Little brother cracking his knuckles? I would have lost my freaking mind. But it doesn’t bother me to that degree anymore. It bothers me so little, that I don’t comment on it. And I’m not just seething with anger, either. It’s just not a big deal. He doesn’t crack his knuckles to annoy me. He does it because it’s a habit he developed, and that’s it. I’m trying not to take things like that personally. It has nothing to do with me and it’s not meant to annoy me.

He is a very fidgety, anxious person at times. Sometimes when we’re sitting on a couch together, or eating lunch at a restaurant, his foot tapping is enough to make everything start shaking. I used to snap at him about this. I’ve stopped commenting on it altogether.

I try to look away when someone chews with their mouth open.

If someone is having a loud conversation via speakerphone, I quietly leave the area if it’s bothering me so much.

People don’t do these things to annoy me, so taking it personally would be a waste of energy and a totally misplaced reaction on my part.


Perhaps if I’d been given my dream job right out of school, or had other desires of mine easily fulfilled, I would not have seen any reason to change anything about myself. Sometimes when you get everything you want in life, you unconsciously see that as an affirmation of sorts. Just keep doing what you’re doing! Why change when being a jerk didn’t have any negative consequences?

But even if you’re a successful jerk, there’s a pretty good chance that if you look at the people surrounding you–especially people on a lower rung of the ladder, or perhaps your friends and family who’ve provided you with support along the way–you might find a lot of people who were inadvertently hurt or taken advantage of because of your ambitions.

It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at in life–there is absolutely nothing that should preclude you from practicing kindness.

It’s something we can achieve as individuals as well as collectively in our social groups. Why wouldn’t you make that choice? Kindness is not a competition, but we can certainly achieve it. And unlike most other awards and honors, we can make achievements in kindness without limit–starting now, and until the day we die. The possibility is there.

Language, please

I never meant for this blog to become a series of vented frustrations, but here we are.

For what it’s worth, I hope to diversify my output in the future. If you’d like to read something here that’s nice, I still like my post about The Song of Bernadette. I hope to write more about other movies and books I’ve enjoyed, but right now I’m still making my way through The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine. Somehow I doubt I’ll be reviewing it, because the scope of it is immense.

Onward.

Onward to the unrelated subject of grown adults with chronic potty-mouth syndrome.

As a child, I heard my mom say the “F-word” once, in anger, during an argument with my dad that I was eavesdropping on. Foul language was not a part of my early upbringing. I once chastised my aunt for saying the word “stupid.” At the time, the word “stupid” was just about the worst word I knew.

But it’s impossible to avoid hearing bad language unless you’re a completely sheltered individual. My brothers and I weren’t home schooled. We had television. We played video games. Eventually, we had internet access at home. My dad let us rent PG-13 movies much earlier than my mom would have preferred. If anyone else has had an experience wherein your mom overheard the line “Suck my white ass, ball!” while Happy Gilmore was playing, I’d love to hear from you. HOO BOY.

When I was 17, I said the “F-word” in front of my mom for the first time. I can’t remember what my punishment was–a severe grounding of some type, probably. I deserved it. My mom was and is a good mom for not tolerating that kind of disrespect.

On rare occasions I still use the “F-word” in moments of anger, though I’m working on eliminating it from my “casual conversation” vocabulary. In this blog, I’ve written “Suck my nuts” in anger, so I have no room to judge anyone else. Anyone who found this blog via tags or whatnot relating to my religious beliefs would perhaps consider it very hypocritical of me to cast stones at others for their use of foul language.

But I’m trying to practice some self-discipline now. I’ll be writing a follow-up post to this one about the other areas in which I’m trying to improve.

This attempt to curtail my use of profanities originally began in response to my environment at work. My coworkers use a lot of profanity in a way that is markedly different than what I’ve witnessed at previous jobs. The f-bomb is versatile as a part of speech and many people here delight in exploring its many uses. What the fuck? You fucker. Get fucked. And stop fucking bothering me, you fucking idiot.

I hate even writing that now! There was a time when I rolled my eyes at people who dared to suggest that the overuse of foul language makes one look stupid.

I’ve switched sides.

If I only had to hear those words when someone was pushed to their absolute limit–like the time I overheard my mom–I probably wouldn’t be writing this. Instead, I hear them all the time. The most common usage of the f-word that I hear is one applied during moments of minor frustration that I wouldn’t even categorize as anger. The other common usage I hear is one of emphasis, both good and bad.

That movie was so fucking good.

That movie fucking sucked.

Easy examples.

The most likely candidate for this type of language usage (based on my personal observations at work) is: youngish person, mid-twenties to late thirties. I can’t even recall hearing the same type of language from my coworkers past and present who were in their early twenties. Maybe their experiences with having strict parents are still very recent in their minds.

Almost any use of profanity is completely inappropriate in the workplace. It’s unprofessional. I’ll make an exception for any person whose job involves handling snakes.

I work in security, though. We sit on our butts all day doing close to nothing. When that’s what your job entails, and you get accustomed to a life of comfort, any minor inconvenience seems to be enough to justify the use of the f-word.

I hit my limit with a former coworker here who was incapable of expressing any thought without the use of profanity. The longer he was here, and the more he talked, the dumber he became. He went from being just another foul-mouthed individual to a person who no one trusted to act professionally in any situation.

The overuse of profanity in casual speech bothers me for many reasons.

If you and I are having a normal conversation, and you use profanity for no reason, understand that my perception is that you’re using the language of verbal assault. I don’t know why someone would intentionally want their choice of words to be similar to that of someone who engages in verbal assault.

Words have meaning and serve a purpose. I’m not anti-profanity, nor am I an advocate of censorship. If I’m working toward eliminating unnecessary profanities from my own speech, it’s because I’m trying to challenge myself to find a better way to express my thoughts. It’s also one of the most basic considerations I can make in my communications with others.

An older coworker of mine who rarely uses profanity has a favorite song that is known for its blistering use of profanity. When John Lennon sings a line like “…and you think you’re so clever and classless and free / but you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see” in “Working Class Hero” it has more impact and more meaning because he doesn’t use profanity as a crutch throughout the greater body of his work.

When you read Lady Chatterley’s Lover, your sense of propriety might be challenged, but your intelligence and sense of self-respect can remain intact. The use of fuck and cunt have a purpose, and that purpose is examined in the text itself if you don’t already find it self-evident.

I had a recent experience with a different coworker (featured here) who likes to pepper his everyday speech with profanities. He burst into the security dispatch office complaining about something or other, using his normal fuck-this and this-fucking-thing type of phraseology. At one point I tried to calm things down by saying “yikes,” to which he responded, “I’m not angry or anything.” Oh really? It was hard to tell.

I realized while writing this that my timid “yikes” overpowered all of his f-bombs.

When I was first hired on at my current job, many of my new coworkers tried to bring me up to speed concerning the who’s-who and the what’s-what of the job. Some of the information was helpful, but it quickly devolved into an exercise in advising me about who among our employees was terrible. I will never, ever forget the moment that one of my coworkers in security described one of the museum’s custodians as “subhuman.” For anyone who might be slow on the uptake, Untermensch became a favorite term of the Nazis, used in reference to the undesirable populations of people farther east: Jews, Slavs, Poles, and many others. Also please appreciate this callback to my current reading material.

Do I really have to keep reiterating how and why words matter? Would it depress you if I told you that my coworker who nonchalantly called another employee “subhuman” is currently enrolled in the creative writing program at a local university and plans to graduate soon? I suppose there’s a limit to what school can teach someone.

Works mentioned in post:
The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine by Serhii Plokhy
Happy Gilmore, directed by Dennis Dugan and starring Adam Sandler
“Working Class Hero” from Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

It’s a dog’s life

This blog is called Catholic-esque for a reason. I was raised Catholic and confirmed within the Church, but like many other people, I no longer belong to a parish or attend mass. Though I’ve entertained the thought of starting back up again, a few aspects of joining a church in an official capacity give me great pause.

great paws indeed

I would like to discuss the tendency of religious organizations to target and prey upon people when they are at their most vulnerable. This could be during times of great financial loss, or even following the loss of a loved one. Churches seem to have an incredible gift for offering comfort and support in exchange for free labor.

Note to self: Dial down the cynicism.

Note to self: Ignore first note. Always be yourself.

Certain denominations of Christianity are more evangelical than others. That term, used in this context, refers to their greater efforts spent in spreading the “Good News,” or the Gospel. I’m not here to make a judgment on the various recruiting tactics employed by different denominations. I’m trying to focus on what happens after a person has affiliated themselves with a church.

Before I continue, I want to give “church” a fair shake. So…

What do I like about the idea of attending church?

A few things:

Number One: Setting aside a specific time that is dedicated to God. Ideally, Christians would then use this time as a reminder that every moment of every day is God’s time. That challenge is the most difficult part of being a Christian. We can get so wrapped up in our everyday problems to the point where we forget to acknowledge the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. We forget to treat others as the children of God that we know they are. If you believe that. It’s fine if you don’t <–italicized because I’ve used this before and will use it again and again. I want anyone who isn’t a total asshole to feel welcome here, and I’m not in the business of trying to convert anyone.

Number Two: Engaging in rituals of worship can be helpful in connecting God with the rituals of our everyday existence. I’m talking about the most boring, mundane aspects of being alive. Church is boring for a lot of people, yes. We do the same thing there every week. The responsibilities and obligations that come with being alive are also quite boring or monotonous at times. Feed the pets, water the plants, take the kids to school, pick them back up, make dinner, do the laundry–only add about a hundred-or-so other things in there and you’ve accounted for an entire day’s worth of activities you’ve done before and will do again until the day you die. It can help to think of these obligations as a way of serving God and His creation. Participating in rituals of worship can help us direct our thoughts toward God. Consider how many preparatory rituals you might engage in at home before leaving the house for the day–taking a shower, brushing your teeth, making coffee–whatever they are, once you have your daily rituals down, you tend to repeat them day after day. Whenever you have a day where you feel rushed, or something gets in the way of these rituals, do you ever feel a little “off”? Like you might not be in the right head-space? My point is that observing rituals can be necessary to maintaining our own sense of inner peace. It’s no wonder that they factor into most religious services.

Number Three: The sense of community and belonging. Sounds great, but I struggle with this because I don’t actually feel like I belong in church. I remember times of feeling disgusted by what was being said during the priest’s homily. I know I would still have that reaction if I went to church and heard those same things today. I don’t want to be disappointed all over again. This is the main reason why I lost interest in my religion and why I abandoned my faith. Only later did I start to regard organized religion as a method by which the state keeps its citizenry subdued and “in check.” Today I still acknowledge this–I can’t find a convincing argument against it. If you’re a part of the militant atheist movement and want to “convert” believers to your side, I would suggest following that thread because it certainly worked on me for a while. In my first post here, I said that I didn’t want to blame God for my failures or my perceived failures of other people. So that’s how I believe in God while still agreeing with the view that religion is used to subjugate people.


I’m about to delve more into the reservations I have about getting involved in organized religion. Let it be known that I strongly dislike the following:
-getting up early
-being told what to do
-being recruited for volunteer activities

Those are minor things though. Maybe I should never, ever go back to church. Maybe. I’m not sure yet, and I’m trying to figure that out.

One major aspect of organized Christianity that gives me the creeps is…the creeps: the people who seem to be lying in wait to take advantage of you when you’re in a vulnerable state and seeking guidance. I don’t like seeing church leaders target people who are hurting. I feel like I’ve seen this time and time again–the people who are targeted are often women, and they feel compelled to increase their involvement in church functions and activities. Have you ever noticed how many parish volunteers are women? Are we so lacking for legitimate positions within our chosen spiritual communities that all we’re good for is selling raffle tickets at the church picnic, or serving scrambled eggs at a church breakfast? Add in a thousand other tasks and you start to wonder if any religious organization could possibly stay afloat without women providing consistent, unpaid labor. Women clearly want to get involved on some level, but we’re often prohibited from taking on actual leadership roles within our churches. Women are left doing the work no one else wants to do. They are expected to volunteer for it–and they do.

Women who are single may have more time to give to their church. Women with grown children may have more time to give to their church. Women who are recently widowed may have more time to give to their church. Women whose marriages have failed may find themselves looking for support, and even if they don’t have any more time to give, you may often see them giving that time (that they don’t have) to the church. Women give a disproportionate amount of their time when compared to men. It’s not necessarily related to their station in life or their circumstances–it’s just easier to take advantage of them when they are already struggling. I think these churches know that.

I tried looking up some stats on women’s over-representation in the area of unpaid work within Christian organizations, and I was only able to find some tangentially-related articles from the Pew Research Center about women in leadership roles. I’ll link them in case you’re interested:

Women relatively rare in top positions of religious leadership

The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World (this one is incredibly thorough and spans multiple pages)

I also found this while surfing the world wide web::

When Women Start Saying “No” to Church Activities

and I know it’s anecdotal, but it’s important. I should add some kind of disclaimer that I’m not affiliated with the writer in any way. I hesitate to link to anyone’s personal website when I don’t know much about them. I also hesitate because I highly doubt anyone in the Christian community wants to be affiliated with me. My views might be at odds with theirs in some way and I wouldn’t want to cause offense. Regardless, I think that post is worth reading.

Women disproportionately volunteer more than men do. I see this every Friday when I go to the Humane Society for Kennel Enrichment (in layman’s terms, we spend one-on-one time with the dogs). I’ve been there for a year and some months. In that entire time, only one man has volunteered with us (us women, I mean). You always hear guys talking about how much they love dogs…if they love them so much, tell them to contact their local animal shelter. They could use the extra help, I’m sure.

If you want a source for any of this:

Why Don’t Men Volunteer as Much as Women?
which directed me to the U.S. Department of Labor:
Volunteering in the United States, 2015

I don’t go to church unless I’m there for a wedding or a funeral. Sometimes I attend the occasional baptism. I did take my dog to the Franciscan Sisters to receive a blessing on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. I always loved taking our family dog to the “Blessing of the Pets” when we were kids. This was the first time in my adult life that I chose to participate in a religious service of my own accord. It was also the first time I witnessed a group a women performing a blessing. It was great, because my dog and I are both independent women.

doesn’t she look blessed? hopefully some of it rubbed off on the cat

What do you want to do with your life? pt. 2

Continued from Part 1

I wish I could be in college right now, for the first time. I love a lot of things today that I had no clue about back when I was actually going through college. The first book I read after graduating was Middlemarch by George Eliot. I had always loved to read, and I thought I read a lot. But I really didn’t. I barely even knew what I liked to read. I can’t say I’d ever read a book before that was “life changing”. Middlemarch was revolutionary for me because when I was reading it, I kept thinking to myself: Is this the best book I’ve ever read? I think this is the best book I’ve ever read. Why have I never read this before? What the hell have I been doing?

This is my copy and I love it so much.

And I’ve spent the years since then hyper-focused on making up for all the reading I didn’t do back when I was in school. I always say that the one constant good about my job is that it affords me a lot of time to read.

I’ve learned so much in the process. Reading Tolstoy during a time when I felt spiritually lost was the catalyst for me renewing my faith in God. Who, in a time of spiritual crisis, could possibly be left unaffected by Levin’s story in Anna Karenina? Or Pierre’s in War & Peace? Resurrection was so bold and unapologetic in its didacticism and I felt so challenged by it that I was left with a greater sense of confidence in my convictions I had previously been ashamed of.

Russian literature became a focus of mine. I have yet to make peace with the fact that it was left out of my formal education almost entirely–“almost,” because we did read The Cherry Orchard once in high school. I guess that was sufficient? I could go on for ages (take this as a warning) about how depressing it is that American students are only really exposed to American and English literature during their high school years. We talk a lot about diversity in authorship these days, and how to make room for more women and ethnic minorities among the authors of standard “classics” normally touched upon in the high school curriculum. I don’t really care to get too involved in that debate. We’re failing at including female voices and black voices, without a doubt. It’s a major failure in the culture at large. Remember seeing that incredible breakdown on film dialogue? I’m sure the dialogue in today’s best-selling books would fare much better, but that isn’t necessarily reflected where authorship is concerned and how it’s addressed in the high school classroom.

I’m getting a little off-topic. The reason I don’t want to get too bogged down in that specific debate is because if I’m “speaking my truth,” I think of Americans’ fixation on America as just as large of a problem. Do we even care at all about the rest of the world? The less we engage with the artistic output of other countries, the more foreign they’re going to seem to us as people. Americans have no qualms about practicing cultural isolationism, even in institutions of higher education. When we study literature, we study our own literature. We create an echo chamber and then we’re delusional enough to award degrees in it.

In the years following college graduation, I’ve learned that I have no particular affection or preference for American literature, film, or art. I used to think I preferred it, but that was all I knew. It’s pretty easy to have a preference for something when you have nothing to compare it to.

I entered college thinking that I knew what I liked. My focus was always on the arts, so I’ll keep these remarks along those lines.

I had no clue how great a book could be because I’d never read much of anything outside of the texts assigned in school. I rarely watched films that weren’t American productions, or at the very least, films with English-speaking actors. And I thought I loved these things! They were critically acclaimed! I was having fun and getting “cultured”–L to the O to the L. When I first signed up for Netflix and was getting DVDs mailed to my house, I watched a new movie nearly every night. This was one of my passions.

When I entered college and declared as an English major, it didn’t last long for various reasons. See previous post.

I should probably be glad that I took a different path. I was friends with enough English majors to know that they didn’t get to read Middlemarch either, anyway–at least not in school. Is it too long or something? I don’t get it. Here’s a hot take: books you read in school should be difficult. You should feel challenged by them. Your teacher is not mean or evil just because they might make you read something that isn’t easy to digest. Just the other day I had to listen to my 70-something-year-old coworker rant about a book he was assigned to read for class. In his words, his professor is a stupid idiot for assigning it and shouldn’t be allowed to teach anything. Why? Because it’s written in a stream-of-consciousness manner and my coworker thinks any book written in such a manner is garbage. God help his professor. It can’t be easy teaching a bunch of young adults who think they know everything, let alone a 70-year-old man who thinks he knows everything. Why even be in school at all? You know everything. Leave.

Maybe the books I enjoy now would’ve been lost on me when I was a teenager, or possibly even in college. It’s difficult to say for certain. I would love to have the chance again to study with intensity something that I love. I don’t mean to imply that college is wasted on young people. I do think that expecting any significant level of insight from young people whose brains are still developing is a Big Ask. And yet we expect them to know and decide what they want to do with their lives before they’ve ever really lived. If college were free, this would be no big deal.

I don’t know if I’ve actually gained any insight in regard to a future “dream” career. I was hoping to someday discover deep within myself some kind of passion for accounting that had been lying dormant all my life. Then I’d just go into the family business and I’d be set. I don’t think that’s going to happen though. Maybe some of us aren’t meant to make loads of money. Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m one of those people, if indeed I am. Maybe I’m able to deal with it better than someone else would.

What I’m saying might contradict what we’re taught to believe about the American dream. Plenty have called it out as a bogus concept, often citing examples of how opportunities for success simply aren’t made available to everyone equally. It’s a good point, and I get it. I just want to question what makes it worth pursuing in the first place.

Being able to choose your own path in life regardless of your background is a relatively recent human invention. Sometimes I think true happiness would be easier to find if we weren’t seeking the answer in our choice of career. Your job is just one small part of you.

Right now I’m thinking of those faith-based organizations that preach the “Prosperity Gospel.” Here’s another hot take: they are gross and they should be ashamed of themselves. If you’re reading this and you think God not only cares how much money you make, but wants to actively help you make MORE, you’re gross. Close this tab, exit your browser window, throw your computer out the window along with yourself–whatever you have to do. You are gross. You are harming yourself and the people around you.

It’s easy to mock prosperity theology, and to tell its believers to off themselves, but I think a lot of us live by its principles without realizing it. We idolize money. We idolize people who have it. We’re taught to pursue it even if the pursuit of it destroys our soul. We refuse to be content with what we do have. We assign value to actions based on how lucrative they are. Just recently, I skipped a shift I was supposed to work at the Humane Society because it got in the way of me going to my new part-time job. The only reason was money. One pays me, the other doesn’t. Which one I actually enjoy doing more–that didn’t factor in at all. I’d rather be with the dogs (note to self: new epitaph idea). But I didn’t go because they don’t pay me to go.

It’s almost time to end this. I meant to talk about a lot of other things–mainly just movies and books I’ve loved. I can’t find an easy way to go back and add any of that in among what I’ve already written. I’m sure I’ll have other opportunities in future posts. This is getting long enough as it is. I’m at work right now, but I’d rather be with the dogs, if ya know what I mean.

What do you want to do with your life?

How do you answer that question?

The answer can change from year to year, maybe even more frequently than that for some of us. I don’t think about it as much anymore, and when I realized that, I wondered Why?

Do you remember the days of being asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? I was trying to recall how I used to respond to that question. As children, it was something we were asked often in school throughout the years. We might be asked to draw pictures of our future selves, doing our dream job, sometimes accompanied by a little paragraph of description. When I was very small I wanted to write and illustrate my own books. I think my next phase was all about basketball–I wanted to play in college and then the WNBA. It makes me smile thinking back on that–the days of being convinced I could play a professional sport someday! The next phase may have been even less grounded in reality, if you can imagine: I wanted to be some kind of “rock star,” which led to me taking guitar lessons in grade 8 and begrudgingly continuing with them throughout high school and junior college. Let’s just say I didn’t exactly take to it. The thought of ever having to play in front of anyone made me want to crawl into a hole and die of embarrassment.

Drawing and painting had been a hobby of mine since I was very young. Unlike other things that caught my interest through the years, art was one that I actually pursued consistently and seemed to improve upon over time. It never felt as forced as some of my other hobbies. I never gave it much of a thought as a career. More on that later.

In high school I learned to enjoy writing. Before, it had only been something that I wished I could do. Then I suddenly had the opportunity to take an elective in Creative Writing, and it terrified me. I was so nervous for that first class–I only signed up because my friend Kelsy did. Between that class and another called Film Appreciation, both taught by the same instructor, I learned that I kind of enjoyed writing analytical essays. Who knew?

I can at least say it made college much easier– having lots of papers to write seemed like no huge task.

When it came time to apply to college, I decided to declare a major in English Literature. I only lasted one semester at that out-of-state university. I moved back home, enrolled in community college, and didn’t really have anything specific in mind for the future. I took classes in American literature, creative writing, film, theater, and painting. Clearly I was in it to make the big bucks…

One of my art instructors there told me that the department had a scholarship to offer me if I decided to declare a major in art. So I did. It paid my full tuition there and gave me a path to follow. The department’s Art Club even organized and raised money for a trip to London. I went. I was sick the entire time, but of course it was still wonderful.

After a year and a half in community college, I transferred to a small-ish school in the nearby city. Now I was in deep in the arts. This was My Thing now. Soon after, I switched my emphasis from Painting to Printmaking. I still took electives in other areas I enjoyed–creative writing, gender studies, poetry translation, basically whatever seemed fun. I took part in a study abroad program, living in Vienna for a couple of months during the spring and summer. The tail end of the trip took us to Venice for a week, where the 53rd Venice Biennale was happening. That was ten years ago. I thought of that summer as the most significant experience of my life for what it did in terms of propelling me forward in my work and my intellectual life. A few months of having so many new and intense experiences gave me the motivation I needed to complete my degree. I feel like it provided me with the solid foundation that I had been in search of. School changed in a drastic way–I became obsessed with my work in a way that I hadn’t been before. I still had two more years left to complete, but the enthusiasm that remained after that trip was not to be stifled.

And here I am, ten years later. Art is not my career. I doubt that it ever will be. The future I envisioned for myself at age 20 is not one that I can really relate to at 30.

For instance, when I was in art school, the idea of exhibiting my work was still a very attractive idea to me. I enjoyed nearly every chance I got to be a part of different shows or exhibitions. Especially toward the end, we were organizing a lot of these things. People would turn up; all my friends would be there (because they were in these shows too). The pressure seemed minimal. I took pleasure in prepping for the exhibitions and getting everything ready. The receptions could also be fun. Eventually the work came down, and we’d do it all over again with another show at another place with new work to display.

Graduating from art school involved writing my thesis and taking part in organizing the final BFA exhibition. I’m still proud of what I did for it, but the actual reception was one of the most unpleasant I can remember. The work I exhibited was made up of 151 ceramic vessels. A few were broken during the course of the night. It was kind of nightmarish for me at the time. Literally, I had nightmares for months afterward about the show because of how stressful it was. I did win an award, and my step-mom cried out of happiness, which made me feel good because I knew she was proud of me. Most of my family was there, and that was the best part. I didn’t produce any more work after that, not for at least a year.

In the last ten years, I’ve gradually lost my enthusiasm for pursuing a career in art. I don’t think I fully grasped what the “business” side of art entailed. The networking, the rigorous self-promotion, the constant filling-out of applications for residencies, shows, and whatnot–none of that ever stops. It’s not like other jobs where you apply once, maybe get an interview and then a job offer, and then you’re finally able to focus on doing your work (with the guarantee that you will be compensated). When that reality settled in, the future I thought I had wanted began to look very bleak.

In school they don’t really tell you that charisma and connections are just as essential to the working artist as the actual art practice itself.

No matter what job it seems that I have, the ability to be totally professional and polished at all times is beyond me. Sometimes I think having a structured workplace is the only thing that keeps me in check. I don’t think I have what it takes to be in the business of “Me.” Over the years I’ve been involved in little side-projects at times to keep myself entertained, but these things tend to wear out their welcome once they become more of an obligation than simply a “fun project”. If I still wanted to pursue a career in art, I would have to be 100% invested in my art practice, in my own self-promotion, in the constant and endless search for opportunities, and somehow I’d still have to find a way to make money because it’s not as if I’d automatically be compensated for these efforts.

Maybe at age 18 or 20 we’re not really in the best position to make decisions regarding who we want to be or what we want to do for the rest of our lives. I wish apprenticeships were more of a popular thing nowadays. Vocational school sort of addresses that need in some ways, but not to the extent I’m imagining. Four-year college is just too expensive to justify enrolling in when you’re still at an age when you’re discovering new things about yourself, your interests, and your abilities on a daily basis.

I wonder how different my life would be today if at age 16 I had begun an apprenticeship with someone who was willing to teach me a specialized skill set of some sort. What it is doesn’t matter–just imagine some skill you wish you had today, and substitute that in this example. Carpentry, cooking, cobbling, computers, cameras, canines (and the training thereof)–I’m trying to be funny and it’s not working. Just imagine anything. Anything you can imagine becoming pretty skilled at doing, and doing it for about ten years, until you’re in your late twenties or thereabouts. And then you enroll in college.

To be continued…in Part 2

Kind of a tough few days, pt. 2

I’m glad I waited a day to begin writing this. I have new information that confirms some things that before would’ve been called speculation.

Unfortunately this also means that my worst suspicions were confirmed.

This story involves my coworker, Donald. I had the pleasure of working with him at my previous museum job. His sister was working there before he did, and helped get him a job with us. We were all gallery attendants at the time. His sister and I became friends–in my mind, she should be running the whole place right now. She’s a good person and a hard worker; her kindness knows no bounds, but she’s also tough enough to stand up for what is right. I admire that about her.

We all loved her there and were excited to meet and work with her brother.

Donald is awesome. He’s extremely conscientious. He takes his job seriously–giving anything less than 100% seems like a foreign concept to him. He used to be in the military. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard him talk about it though. He would rather talk about his other interests, if he’s inclined to talk. He also has a sense of humor that catches you off-guard because he’s not the type who constantly cracks jokes. Donald also has an amazing speaking voice, and the fact that he doesn’t have a radio show or something to showcase it is a real bummer (to me).

When people first meet Donald, they tend to speculate about possible “neuroatypical” diagnoses he might have. Donald is just Donald though. I’ve never been given any concrete information about that part of him, if it’s even part of him. It doesn’t matter in the long run. Pretty much everyone at work who meets Donald ends up loving him because he’s the ideal coworker. He doesn’t talk as much as everyone else, but if you can respect that about him and get to know him, you’ll only discover things to appreciate.

A while back, after I had left that old job where I first met him and his sister, I got a message from Donald’s sister asking if I could put a word in for him at my current job. He was hoping to find full-time employment, which his job at the time (still at that museum) didn’t offer. Gallery was the only department with any open spots. He had already put in an application, but hadn’t heard back yet despite having worked as a gallery attendant for a few years already. This was just because our workplace tends to perform very poorly when it comes to the timeliness of our hiring practices. My boyfriend is one of the Gallery supervisors, so I asked him to look for Donald’s application. They immediately set up an interview with him and he got the job.

I was really thrilled. Donald did very well in that department, but I knew his goal was to eventually find an opportunity to transfer to the Security department. Full-time spots in Security can be hard to come by. The first one that opened up was on the Midnight shift. It’s a terrible shift, but I thought he would excel regardless of the hours.

My only concern was that certain people in our department might not treat him with the basic respect and dignity that should be afforded to every person. I have had issues in the past with the Midnight crew. They aren’t exactly nice people. But I know Donald and I knew the last thing he would ever do was bother anyone, so I hoped for the best.

Instead it was like throwing him to the wolves.

I truly don’t know what’s wrong with people sometimes. I don’t understand what makes them so mean, so hateful, and so vindictive. Donald was an easy target for them. It didn’t matter that he has a military background–something they usually respect. He doesn’t flaunt it like most guys in our department do (if they’ve served). He’s just not the type of person who would think that he’s owed something “extra” because of it. I typically don’t get along with folks who act that way anyway.

For months and months now, he’s been the target of some of the most unnecessary vitriol I’ve ever heard in my life. I took whatever opportunity I could to defend him, but I didn’t want it to seem like that’s what I was trying to do. I didn’t want Donald to feel embarrassed. Donald usually arrives for his shift very early–he relies on public transportation or rides from family to get to work since he doesn’t have a car. He’s not the only one who is in that situation and it’s normally not a big deal.

When he first began showing up early, I started hearing the most insane complaints directed his way, and from some of the idiots on my own shift. It’s the first time and hopefully the last time I will ever hear people complain about someone showing up early for THEIR JOB.

I’m only sharing this to give you a sense of what Donald would eventually be criticized for, and that was anything and everything.

The Midnight crew decided they didn’t like him before they’d ever even met him or talked to him. They thought he was weird, which was reason enough for them to continue tormenting him. My shift only overlaps theirs by a half an hour, and I still had plenty of opportunities to hear them say things to him that made me queasy.

I can’t imagine how Donald felt. Donald is always so calm and cool. He rarely lets on that something is bothering him. There were times when I just figured he had a thicker skin than I did if he was still able to tolerate that kind of treatment.

It starts from the moment the rest of the Midnight crew arrives, meaning late or on the verge of it. Already Donald has demonstrated that he’s far more reliable than the rest of the crew (though he would never think that or say it). They come in and immediately settle down in the break room. Donald has already been there for at least 30 minutes if not longer, waiting for his shift to start so he can clock in.

When you don’t have a vehicle of your own, you do what is necessary to get to work on time if you’re at all concerned with being a responsible adult. Donald arrives early because our public transportation system in this city is complete crap. If he didn’t make a conscious effort to take the earlier bus or train, he would be putting himself into a situation where he could probably get to work on time most nights if everything’s running on time, but that isn’t a risk Donald feels comfortable taking–especially if it means there’s a remote possibility he’d be a few minutes late.

So there’s Donald sitting in the break room. Joe, his coworker, finally arrives with no time left to spare. Joe usually brings with him some giant fast food feast–getting to work on time isn’t as important as swinging by Hardee’s on the way, and though Joe has his own vehicle, he couldn’t possibly just start leaving five minutes earlier in order to be able to get Hardee’s and arrive to work on time.

Donald would never, ever think to “call him out” on this, or even lightly tease him. These are just things I wish I could do whenever Joe starts running his mouth, which happens the second he sees Donald.

“You’re in my spot.” Joe speaking to Donald. Some variation of this comment happens every night. It doesn’t seem to matter where Donald sits–it’s inevitably in either “Joe’s spot” or “Rick’s spot”, and they’re both only too happy to point it out. Keep in mind these are two grown adults, Joe being in his mid-thirties and Rick already being past retirement age. Grown adults acting like children in a school cafeteria.

If I’m ever present in the break room at this time, usually when I’m cleaning out my coffee cup or other food containers, I’ll interject by saying that if they wanted the spot so badly, they would have shown up earlier. I try to laugh at them and treat it as a joke (which it’s not–they are being completely serious). Anything to take the pressure off of Donald. One thing I love about Donald is that he never dignifies them with a response. He keeps quiet. People often give that advice: Ignore them and they’ll go away. Unfortunately, with these guys, it’s more of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. They crave a response. They also resent anyone who chooses not to speak to them. Joe and Rick are both loudmouths. They’re both the type of guy who thinks talking louder and more often is what validates someone’s opinion. Today we just call them Trump-types.

And basically Donald spends the rest of his night being verbally abused, criticized, and belittled. I’ve worked enough fill-in Midnight supervisor shifts to have seen it firsthand. They love to openly critique his job performance even though he’s better at his job than they’ll ever be. Donald would have a lot of material to work with if he ever wanted to call them out on their extreme laziness. Donald takes the high road though, always and in all matters.

Eventually it becomes too much to bear. Yesterday I found out that Donald had contacted his former supervisor from Gallery asking if there was still a spot open for him in his old department. This would mean taking a significant pay cut. Even in this e-mail he wrote, Donald make no reference to any reason behind wanting to make the transfer. The e-mail was one sentence long, something to the effect of “Is there still a spot available for me back in Gallery?”

Donald isn’t the type to elaborate further. My boyfriend, who like I said is also a Gallery supervisor, was the one who brought this whole matter to my attention. I immediately suspected that Donald had finally had enough of dealing with these jerks on the Midnight shift. My boyfriend agreed, but we also kept in mind it could be a simple matter of wanting better hours. Given the pay cut involved, however, my spidey sense was tingling and telling me that something worse had happened.

It was my day off yesterday, but I decided to text my own supervisor informing him of the situation in hopes that we could prevent the transfer from happening and instead offer him a spot on our Evening shift. If Donald’s transfer request was simply about getting better hours, Evening shift probably wouldn’t be much better and he would decline the offer. He would still have to struggle with finding a way home at midnight every night, and it was still a possibility that he desired the transfer in order to return to a normal daytime work schedule.

My supervisor’s immediate response was to be concerned about who would fill Donald’s Midnight position, because whatever the result was–whether he chose the Gallery position or this potential but as yet un-offered Evening shift position–we would still have to find a new person to take over his old shift.

I lost my mind reading that. I had told him that my suspicions were that Donald had finally reached his breaking point when it came to working with Joe and Rick. My supervisor wasn’t ready to accept that possibility. Thankfully, he did reach out to Donald. My suspicions were confirmed.

Donald had in fact reached out to our boss weeks earlier about the possibility of moving to a different shift. Our boss told no one about this request. He simply denied the request, stating that we didn’t have any other spots open for him. Donald would have to stay on Midnights.

I’m sure Donald then spent some time weighing his options. Stay on Midnights, or try to transfer back to Gallery even though it meant taking a pay cut.

His experience on Midnights was so awful, and the support from our boss so nonexistent, that he finally reached out to his old supervisor in Gallery. He was immediately told they’d be happy to have him back. God bless that department.

But things are working out. Donald will not have to take a pay cut, because he will not be returning to Gallery after all. My boss and my supervisor finally decided to start taking this seriously. They offered Donald a spot on Evenings, and I’m happy to say he accepted!

For all I care, Midnights can eat it. They should be forced to cover Donald’s open spot themselves until they are able to find a replacement. That would mean no days off for any of them until that happens. I’m usually very much pro-“workers’ rights”, but in this case I want to see them all suffer the consequences of their actions.

Of course that’s not going to happen, because no one in this department has any backbone when it comes to standing up to those guys.

But I’m still pleased with the results so far. And now I get to work with Donald again. I win. I am winning hard right now, and those sorry, pathetic individuals that Donald used to work with will never understand this kind of joy as long as they keep up with their same old miserable ways.

I previewed this post, thinking that it was finished, but when I got to the end I thought it fell kind of flat.

So, to Joe and Rick and everyone else out there like them:

SUCK. MY. NUTS.

Kind of a tough few days

Many problems at work. I feel like my department is a lost cause sometimes. We have little recourse when it comes to addressing our concerns. My shift might be the ideal shift to be on at this time, if only because we haven’t fully entered “hostile work environment” territory (if you can ignore Gun Guy from previous post). I have noticed that people have found it easier to succeed on my shift. Despite its many issues, we have a good crew that for the most part supports each other.

I recently began working some earlier shifts on days when I’m not the fill-in Evening supervisor–granted, it’s only two hours earlier than my norm, but it means I clock out at 10 p.m. instead of midnight. I was hoping to create a better work/life balance for myself, and now I can actually spend real time with my boyfriend. We’re looking to buy a house soon if everything works out, and we’re planning on getting engaged soon as well.

We don’t live together currently–I live with my brother, but he’s graduating from medical school soon and awaiting news of his placement. He wants to move as close as possible to wherever the place turns out to be. We’re all hoping he can stay in the same city we’re in now. He has a pet cat that is paralyzed and his hope is to be able to find a place within walking distance from his future workplace. That way, he can walk home during his break to take care of his cat. I do hope everything works out for him–he has put everything he has into caring for his cat, who is very happy and much more mobile than you’d imagine. The cat is somewhat famous on the internet and was even featured on TV this year during the Cat Bowl. I didn’t get to see it air because work always gets in the way of things.

But now I’ve started this slightly earlier shift. I was very nervous for my first day. I’m not particularly well-liked among some of the Day crew in my department, and now I’d be overlapping that shift by a couple of hours. The first one went just fine though. Leaving at 10 p.m. was amazing.

Wednesday was a tough day though. I learned that one of the Day shift supervisors was intentionally trying to “get to me” in an effort to force me off of that shift entirely. I’ve long been aware that the shift is very insular, and they’ve successfully managed to ban at least five other current or former employees from their shift since I’ve worked there. Interlopers are made to feel very unwelcome. They are currently trying to get our newest employee fired or moved to another shift. She’s a very nice woman who I don’t know much about personally since she only works part-time and during hours that I’m not there. The moment I met her, I worried that she was too nice to survive on that shift for long. They’re already working on a list of complaints against her. This is their usual tactic and so far it has worked every time. Wednesday was the day I found out that I might be the next target.

I was not prepared to also discover that my Evening shift supervisor is hoping that these tactics will work on me and that I’ll come back to my normal shift from 3:30 to midnight. Apparently he was hurt when I put in the request for a slightly earlier shift.

I’m finding it difficult right now working for two different supervisors who are both rooting for me to fail–albeit for different reasons. I guess it’s “nice” that I’m wanted back on my old shift, but I don’t actually think it’s nice to sabotage someone else’s opportunities. The reason behind it becomes irrelevant if the result is something that hurts me.

One of my favorite coworkers just got an amazing job opportunity and will most likely be leaving. He’s considering staying on part-time, but that remains to be seen. His new job sounds amazing. He gets to travel to D.C. for a month of training. The job pays a lot more and once training is completed, it will be mostly work-from-home. In this past year he has lost two immediate family members, so getting the news about this job made me very happy for him. He’s a great guy who deserves some good news for a change. And I’ll miss having him around.

Imagine being the type of person who is unable to feel happy for this guy because his absence might cause you a slight inconvenience. Or because you feel threatened by someone else’s success. Those seem to be the Top-2 reasons why people at this job sabotage each other on a frequent basis.

I’m not sure how much longer I can stick it out here. I want to stick it out and I want to show them that I’m not bothered by any of it. If you’re reading this, you’ll know that in truth I’m very much bothered by it. But they don’t have to know this and I hope to make sure it stays that way.

I no longer talk to my Evening supervisor in confidence like I used to. I don’t enjoy the idea of having to defend my request for a better shift. It should be apparent why anyone would want a better shift– it’s because it’s better. Loyalty in the workplace is a joke if it’s only meant to benefit those in positions of power. True loyalty looks like this: You get an unexpected phone call from a person because your coworker has used you as a reference during their job search. You like this coworker, and even though it means you may no longer get to work with them, you give a glowing recommendation to their potential future employer. Even if you don’t like your coworker, you keep your personal feelings out of it and give the best recommendation you’re able to based on their job performance as well as any good qualities you can hopefully emphasize about them.

Loyalty also looks like this: Your supervisor levels an accusation against you that you know isn’t true, or is perhaps embellished. You know the full story, but the full story implicates someone else you work with who might then take the brunt of your supervisor’s anger if the supervisor knew the full story. You know that you don’t have anything to gain by throwing your other coworker under the bus just to clear your own name. The issue is over a matter of hurt feelings, and nothing that would lead to anyone getting reprimanded anyway. You choose to let your supervisor think you’re “guilty”, because the alternative involves your coworker being treated as the guilty party instead. And if the supervisor knew the full story, the hurt feelings would be multiplied tenfold.

I’m trying to show some loyalty here to my coworker because he told me something in confidence. This is what happened:

I came in for one of my earlier shifts. I saw on the daily schedule that I was assigned a certain post at 3:00 p.m. that is generally unpleasant for me because it means I’ll be in the dispatch office. And at 3:00 p.m. is when certain people, my supervisor included, like to sit in that same office, turn on the TV (which I hate and is very distracting when you’re trying to listen to all the radio calls coming through) and watch the show Maury (which I find distasteful and absolutely despise, more on that later).

My supervisor has given me that 3:00 p.m. post every single day that I’ve come in. It’s normally a post reserved for the shift supervisor, it being the last dispatch post during Day shift and a time that requires the Day shift supervisor to pass on information to the Evening shift supervisor.

This supervisor knows that I never watch TV when I’m in the dispatch office. He knows that I find it distracting. He also knows how much I hate the show Maury (someone else told him as a heads-up, which this supervisor took offense to). My supervisor puts me there, hoping that I’ll be so bothered that I’ll request to move back to my old shift.

When I came in on Wednesday, a different coworker was in the dispatch office at the time. I made a comment about how I wished I didn’t have to be in there at 3:00 again. My coworker offered to cover that post for me. This is a normal occurrence–people swap posts all the time, especially in dispatch. Usually on my normal shift, those requests are made because someone wants to watch the news at 5:30 or a hockey game that night or something.

At first I said no to swapping, saying that it wasn’t that big of a deal. My coworker offered again and told me that the offer was on the table because it would get him out of having to make keys later with Jason. Jason is this supervisor.

I was only too happy to make that swap after he said that. It made me laugh. Jason is very difficult to be around, so it was like we were doing each other a favor. I wouldn’t have to be stuck in there during Maury time, and my coworker wouldn’t have to be stuck making keys with Jason.

Jason saw the change made to the schedule. He complained about me to our boss, saying that I was crossing my name off the schedule and wasn’t showing up for my posts. This happened only that once, and it was prearranged. His account made it sound like this was something I had been doing consistently and without getting my post covered.

If Jason knew the actual story, he’d feel very hurt. Unlike his feelings toward me, he actually likes and respects this other coworker of ours. Coworker may not return those exact feelings, but he always works well with everyone and has never shown any disrespect toward Jason.

Jason is pursuing this “action” against me, and I really hope it stops. I don’t want to tell him the full story. I hope it resolves itself, and I hope I get to keep this new shift that I’m on.

I’m pretty sure there will be a Part 2 to this post, because I haven’t addressed the “hostile work environment” comment from earlier. In case you thought I was including my situation underneath that umbrella–I’m not. I found out yesterday, my day off, that one of my coworkers on Midnight shift has put in a request to leave our Security department in order to return to the Gallery department (where he first started out). I suspect it’s because of how poorly he’s been treated by his coworkers on the Midnight shift. So I might return to this subject in a future post in order to provide some context. I don’t want to lump that in with my problems in this post because the treatment he has received is far worse than anything I’ve ever experienced at any job I’ve had.

So I’ll just end this post by talking about why I hate Maury. I don’t care what Maury Povich has said in defence of his own show (I’m thinking back to an interview with him on The Breakfast Club). Maury is a show that encourages its viewers to laugh at black people. Most of the guests on Maury are black. Half of its home-viewing audience is black, per demographic reports. While I was trying to look up hard stats on Maury guest demographics, I came across this article on The Root. Read if you want, it addresses some of my concerns.

My coworkers who delight in the Maury show, who mock and belittle its guests, are white. They enjoy imitating loudly any perceived laughable thing that is said on the show. When Maury is on at work, the dispatch office turns into a circus. Few seem to question whether this is appropriate behavior to be engaging in at work.

White people also love Cops. I presume that this show is still on the air because there’s no limit to how much we’re willing to laugh at poor people going through difficult situations. Some may claim to watch Cops because they like watching criminals being taken off the street. Call me when they decide to tackle criminals who are in actual positions of power. I might consider joining in on the laughter if I ever got to see Donald Trump being led away in handcuffs.

Maury viewers of all races and backgrounds are given an opportunity to feel superior to the people on screen. You’re not supposed to come out of it with a greater sense of understanding or empathy for its guests. If Maury makes you feel good, it’s because that good feeling is one of superiority. Cops does the same thing through the way they focus on people considered “lower class”. At least you didn’t just get busted smoking meth in your trailer, right? You might verbally abuse your own girlfriend, but at least Cops will present to you as entertainment some other domestic abuser who seems a little worse than yourself because he lives in undesirable conditions. Poverty in this country is equated with a lack of dignity. We’re encouraged to make only the worst assumptions about people experiencing financial hardship.

I feel like conversations involving issues of morality often fail to address basic human dignity. Instead we use morality as an excuse to legislate people’s intimate lives. Here’s something I don’t care about: who you’re having sex with and how often, whether you’re married or not, how many sexual partners you have, what this or that church says about sexual morality– it’s all bogus and irrelevant. It’s a titillating distraction from the ways in which society is actually morally bankrupt. Consider how we treat the poorest members of society before you ask me to care about someone’s sexual orientation, or how many “baby daddies” someone has.

I find a lot of behaviors at work to be highly immoral, but addressing that at work is not acceptable. I can’t ask someone to turn off Maury because the show is morally offensive and mean-spirited. I can say it’s annoying, maybe. I can say I don’t like having the TV on. I might be able to say that it’s inappropriate for the workplace, but I’d love to be able to say that it’s degrading.

We all think we’re smarter than the media we consume. We tell ourselves we’re not influenced by advertisements and commercials. We defend the garbage we watch on TV as “entertainment”.

Garbage in, garbage out.