Go toward God

Sometimes I’ve wondered about people who find this blog and what they might think about the content of it when coupled with the name “Catholic-esque.” I don’t talk about God all the time on here. I wasn’t really sure what direction this project might go in, but in going through it I have often had to remind myself that the content should come naturally.

What does that look like for me? It means I write what I feel like writing and I try to be truthful in how it reflects life as I know it. The only way I know how to make any of this palatable is through clarity. Sometimes I hit upon a subject that I can’t see through to its end, and it’s usually because I find that the writing lacks clarity of thought or feeling. Those would-be posts remain in my unfinished drafts–they are often useful at future points, so I don’t agonize over their incompleteness. I only regret not being able to finish one of them that I began writing after my brother’s graduation from medical school. I tried to fit too much into it–not just his graduation, but updates on buying a house and becoming engaged. I hadn’t written anything in a little while, and I had too much to say. The main point of the post was lost in all the details. I regret not finishing because it was going to be very happy. I’m not one for big events or celebrations, but my brother’s graduation affected me deeply. I had a difficult time writing about it, though.

Wanting the content of this blog to come naturally means that I’m not going to search for a Bible verse to tack onto the end of each post, and I’m not going to shoehorn God into situations where–if I’m honest with myself–he’s not playing a prominent role. God is everywhere and is present in all things, I do believe that. But if I’m sitting down to write about my problems with work, I know it’s probably not going to end up being a post about my spiritual journey. I need some room to vent. I do look toward God in times of turmoil, but I know who I am to some extent and I know I wouldn’t use those opportunities to then write about my relationship with God. God is always good to me. He is somewhere beyond those petty concerns. He is helping me in bigger ways.

I took a family vacation recently and it was mostly very pleasant. I only had some minor little brother problems–nothing worth writing about–and some confusion over how to best carve out some time to spend with just my fiancé and his son (something that I thought was important for us to do). But overall it was excellent.

We rented a house, my favorite feature being the deck. The surrounding trees were growing so near that it felt like the deck was settled upon them somehow. It was very relaxing to spend the morning time alone, on the deck, floating in the treetops.

I was trying to make a decision about my job, or to be more accurate, I had decided against taking a new job. I didn’t know that I would receive a counter-offer that would force me to reconsider my initial decision. So at the time, I was trying to make peace with my choice to remain at my current job. I was doing some writing here and there. I watched the trees from the deck.

I had going through my head so many thoughts about happiness and what causes it. It’s different for everyone. I knew I had a lot of things in my life that help to create happiness–mine always boil down to love and family. I have love. I have family. It’s hard for me to admit when I feel there’s a missing piece to that puzzle. I feel ungrateful. The knowledge that I have love and family helps put everything else into perspective, because if it came down to a matter of choice, I would choose those two things above a career, or money, or recognition. That didn’t stop the gears from turning, though. Career. Money. Recognition. Freedom. Travel. Leisure. I kept asking myself, where does my ambition lie? I tried getting myself to really imagine and feel the presence of those things in my life–what I imagine they could be like. I imagined and felt what it might be like to have a job that I loved someday. I tried to let that feeling sink in. It would be wonderful to be proud of my job. Of course it would.

I imagined what it might be like to not live paycheck to paycheck. I imagined taking my car in to the shop after the slightest hiccup, knowing I could afford the repairs. I thought of all the work we could do on the house with just a little more money in the bank. With money, I might even be able to go back to school. I could study whatever I wanted with little regard for practicality. I was imagining the kind of money that is separate from the money you work for. I don’t believe that all hard work pays off–monetarily, it does not. I just let myself imagine a life lived not hurting for money. Where that extra money would come from, I tried to imagine as well. What would I be willing to sacrifice for more money? It doesn’t appear out of nowhere. I considered what my own values were. It became more and more difficult to imagine this life with money.

I imagined myself in another scenario, one where I had more leisure time and the freedom to spend that time however I wanted. I imagined traveling to Russia. I want to visit Yasnaya Polyana before I die. I tried to feel however it might feel to do that.

I want to visit museums, cathedrals. I want to see mountains. I want to see glaciers. That’s when I start dreaming.

I return to reality. Career and money, family and friends. Love and ambition. My own limitations–what can I do with them? What can I do right now?

I watched the trees from the deck; my mind was buzzing. I couldn’t stop it. I knew the feeling, I had felt it many times before. I had read it in Tolstoy, as the screw in Pierre’s head, turning this way and that until it is stripped and no longer catches hold and keeps endlessly turning. But then mine stopped and I don’t know how. I was looking at the trees and how they moved. I forgot for a moment where I was, who I was, and what I’d been thinking about.

I had a new thought, but it didn’t feel like I thought it. I had known it already and I had known it for a long time and I knew it didn’t come from me. I wrote it down.

The only real purpose in life is to become one with God and to pursue that always.

I have forgotten it since, only to remember it again. I get to remember it over and over. One night I cried in bed because I had forgotten it. The screw had started turning again and I couldn’t stop it. I was agitated and I could not understand my feelings. The only feelings I had that I could give names to were regret and worry.

And it hit me again, I am unhappy because I’ve been neglecting God.

I think about God all the time, but sometimes I stop searching for Him. I say that I acknowledge his presence in all things, but that’s not exactly true. It’s my ideal frame of mind, but it’s not the reality of my mind. My mind easily forgets God.

God doesn’t forget about me though. I don’t know why this keeps happening, but I really feel like at some of my worst moments, God makes Himself known to me despite the neglect I’ve shown toward Him. I want it to keep happening. I have to open my heart to Him always. I hope He knows that’s how I feel.

The first time I felt God’s presence was in Texas. Howdy! I was still with my first boyfriend, and we had driven down to Tyler to visit his sister. His sister was (and I’m sure still is) a very devout Christian. I was so nervous about staying with her in her home. I was not religious, but I also didn’t talk about my beliefs (or lack thereof). His sister is a very warm and kind person and made me feel very welcome. Still, I was unsettled by how different we were. I can’t explain it. Imagine a non-believer meeting a real Christian for the first time, one who actually seems to embody everything that is Christlike and good. Again, I can’t explain it. I was so nervous about staying in her house. My boyfriend and I slept in separate rooms during our visit. I never did well sleeping in new places, especially alone. I remember wishing we could stay up and watch TV all night together, just so I wouldn’t have to be alone. I was nervous about going to sleep. When the time came, I felt panicked. I laid down in bed, overcome with nerves. I felt like crying. On the wall next to the bed hung a picture of Jesus. I gazed at it and felt like a child. I always had trouble at night. Scared of the dark, scared of everything. Monsters were everywhere.

I was looking at this picture when suddenly I was struck by the most profound sense of peace I had ever felt. I couldn’t compare it to anything from before. I felt it through my entire body, I felt it envelop my mind. I kept looking at the picture, not understanding what was happening. I fell asleep shortly after. I never spoke to anyone about it. I couldn’t tell my boyfriend because I thought he would laugh at me. I still did not believe in God. I couldn’t explain what had happened. In my heart, I knew God was making Himself known to me. I didn’t think things like that could happen though, so I never told anyone. You could say I ignored it. My beliefs did not change in that moment, nor did they change in the wake of it. But it gnawed at me, and continued to do so for a long time, because I had no explanation to offer.

God did His work that night; I believe that completely. I, on the other hand, was not working toward God in any way, and I wasn’t ready to start. I did not want God in my life. God was too complicated. I abandoned the idea of God in the first place because it complicated my life too much. If I acknowledged God, that meant I would have to reckon with a lot of things that could be painful. I’m a sinner, and I sin against God in my thoughts and in my actions. If I acknowledged God, I would have to try to stop sinning (or somehow live with myself while knowing I was sinning against God). If I continued to ignore God, I could keep sinning and feel no guilt. Back then, I liked to think that living ethically was a fine substitute for living faithfully. Forget whether I actually lived ethically–I didn’t, and don’t–it was a convenient distraction. I wanted so little to do with God, but at the same time was very much concerned with how to fill the void left in his absence. If God isn’t real to me, there should be no void to fill, right? Somehow that never occurred to me.

I haven’t found a human invention that is a perfect substitute for God’s law. Our own laws are meant to ensure justice, but they lack the moral guidance of “turn the other cheek,” Christ’s comquestand (made up a word to mean halfway between a command and a request because of how nicely it was phrased so please just roll with it) that pushes far beyond what is addressed in human law in that it acknowledges every human being’s ability to grow spiritually, to be more than mere law-abiders: to become active peacemakers in the world. Our collective purpose is to create the Kingdom of God on Earth.

An aside: I say I don’t write about God very often. I write about my beliefs and values and I consider them adjacent to my faith in some way. My faith may inform my values, my values may inform my faith. It would feel unnatural for me to exclusively talk about my faith in everything I write. Still, my moniker on here is “Catholic-esque” because I think it’s important for people to understand that faith is complicated and that is does not necessarily prescribe certain viewpoints that are typically associated with folks who believe in God. I believe in God. I really don’t care if you do or not. I know that some of the most avowed atheists are doing a better job of protecting God’s creation than are some of the most vocal Christians. It often takes the courage of a non-believer (or maybe I should say a differently-believing person) to bring attention to the most callous acts perpetrated by the Church. The Catholic Church is long overdue for a good toppling. I suppose it’s possible that someone reading this blog, expecting to find more faith-based content, would be left disappointed. I’m not writing for them. I’m writing for myself and others like me. Maybe some of this content goes down easier because readers can assure themselves that the writing is coming from the point of view of someone with faith. That’s an absurd thing to even write, given that many of my posts receive zero views. Zero, and I’m thinking about my audience. It’s a laugh. Still, I consider that this content could be read, so in some way I write for an audience and imagine who they could be. End of aside.

When I look back on the events of the last ten years or so, I see clearly that God was guiding me toward Him. I feel like he began by guiding me toward some very beautiful things in life that would serve to put me in touch with God. I wasn’t going to be a person who suddenly decides to go to church again. I wasn’t going to take comfort in reading my Bible. But I did experience a resurgence of interest in reading, just one example of God providing me with a source of comfort through a difficult time. It led to me discovering many new passions that lend the spice to life. I think God gave me Tolstoy so that I might find Him. And He made sure that I continued to experience Him through other works of art as well. It’s the only way I could ever hope to make any sense of God. I had to connect Him with everything that is good, beautiful, and true in the world.

Portrait of a quitter

It’s official–I quit my job! I’m still very terrified of what lies ahead. The “unknown” unsettles me more than it excites me. I’m risk-averse by nature and I don’t like to make big life changes unless the necessity of doing so is staring me in the face, nay, punching me in the face.

As a committed non-risk-taker, I have another job lined up. I declined the offer at first because the health insurance was costly and not up to par (another risk!), but eventually decided to prioritize my mental well-being (only after the salary was increased to compensate for the extra costs).

I’m grateful that this new place showed that level of interest in convincing me to accept the job. I hope it goes well. You just never can know. I remain skeptical as always.

I’m leaving behind the possibility of ever getting to work with my fiancé, which kills me. We have had so much fun together there.

I’m also leaving behind one of the worst supervisors I’ve had the displeasure of working with, and the thought that I might never have to see him again fills me with joy. I was friendly with this person for a brief time, but because I am not a masochist, I chose to deescalate that friendship once I saw his true colors. I’ve been paying the price for that ever since. Soon after the deescalation happened, this man was appointed to the role of my supervisor, and took advantage of his position in order to make my time there as unpleasant as he could while still remaining within the boundaries of workplace acceptability. It helps that very few people know the entire truth about this person, his poor treatment of myself and others, and the selfish motivations that exist behind everything he does.

He is a person who can only do good to others in whom he sees a potential to become exactly like himself. As soon as he gets an inkling that a dissimilarity exists between himself and another person, he begins to attack and undermine that person’s character. If a person is unfortunate enough to find themselves in disagreement with him and even more unfortunate as to think of vocalizing their opinion–whether it be an issue of differing philosophies or differing opinions on the merit of something as innocuous as a television show–they can expect to be downgraded in his mind and therefore subject to tactics of intimidation and humiliation. And I say this as a person who has previously ranted about Maury.

My supervisor’s name is Dan, to make this easier.

I’ve spent a lot of time observing him. I am with him more often than I’m with the most cherished people in my life. That’s the cruel joke of the workplace. I think of all the time I’ve wasted in his presence, and how the sick thing about life is that our obligations to work and make money mean that much of our life may be spent suffering through people who we would not otherwise allow into our lives.

Dan thinks of himself as a smart guy. He can talk circles around people–of course he can, because he learned how to in the Police Academy. He can take a single course in “Verbal Judo” and think he’s the smartest man alive because he learned “tactics” in how to manipulate others into doing what he wants them to do. This has worked extremely well for him in his position and has helped to delude others into thinking that he is of a superior mind.

Dan doesn’t speak to many people–or I should say, many types of people. He only speaks to people who he thinks are relevant, whether it’s because they can do something for him, or because they are akin to him in some way that he has identified. He might try to form a bond with a person when he discovers they share a similar interest, however minuscule it may be. That’s how he knows he has an “in”–he recognizes that sharing interests often softens one person’s heart toward another, and he will exploit that as best as he can. He will begin to pressure you and manipulate you into adopting other interests, practices, behaviors, and outlooks that he finds desirable because they are his own. When you don’t, he makes sure you feel the pain of having contradicted him.

Dan is a person who wants to be liked. He is arrogant enough to presume that there could be no acceptable reason for why another person might not like him. Upon being given the position of supervisor, he fully expected to become the most favored supervisor in the department. He tried his best to insert a wedge between his shift and the others. He participated in and encouraged negative talk directed toward every person who happened to be on a shift that wasn’t his own. He is very skilled at fostering an “Us vs. Them” mentality, and he was able to take it far enough that it became insidious and has taken much time and effort to combat.

Dan’s desire to be well-liked as a supervisor first manifested in the only way he knows how to garner praise and appreciation from his employees: by bringing in food he makes at home and pestering everyone to eat it even after they politely decline. He began to organize potlucks on a monthly basis, which would be fine in circumstances in which everyone was on-board and interested, but comes off as yet another coercive tactic when one realizes he actually has to assign these food-making tasks to people who would rather not participate. Assigning these tasks was his only through road when confronted with people who would not volunteer with excitement and enthusiasm. The people who would do the most leg-work in making Dan’s vision come true became his most favored employees. The others were leeches because they only offered to bring in soda or chips.

When a not-nice person tries to do a nice-appearing thing, they often cannot keep themselves from sabotaging their own efforts because kind acts actually go against their nature. The person will inevitably feel that their niceness was not sufficiently appreciated, and will lash out and become bitter because kindness is never its own reward for a person like this. Dan would give us certain instructions around potluck time regarding who was allowed to eat the food and who wasn’t. He never wanted the other shifts to catch wind of what we were doing, because he feared that they would take advantage of the free food without offering anything in return. He would make sure to make a plate for a certain gallery attendant who often manned one of our posts for us on those late nights, as well as another staff member in administration who would bring in a homemade dessert of some type and who was therefore allowed to enjoy the buffet. If you did something for Dan that benefited Dan and Dan’s plans, you were allowed to help yourself to the food. Every potluck involved an excessive amount of food being left over at the end of the night. Instead of sharing the remaining food with other people who were also working that night, Dan would put it into containers and store it in the office refrigerator, where it could spoil and stink. He would never have opted to share the food with others who did not contribute (and could not contribute because they were unaware of what we were doing to begin with) because his fear of being taken advantage of is just one of the things that overrides his need to be liked.

The benefit of having Dan as a supervisor is that it has provided me with a stunning example of how not to be kind. If I ever think of feeling like my kindness is being taken advantage of, I consider the alternative: the emptiness of a life in which my kindness is conditional.

I’ve already said that Dan doesn’t speak to many people. He also doesn’t read, ever, unless it’s a book that pertains to urban homesteading or maybe a self-help book that is read to convince himself of the powers of his own mind. This wouldn’t be a problem if he wasn’t so captivated by his self-declared intelligence. Unlike some people who have struggled with situational disadvantages like poor education, learning disabilities, a lack of resources, or perhaps they labor too much in life to even have time to spend doing anything else, Dan is a privileged person by anyone’s measure and his inflated sense of self-worth assures him that his current knowledge of the world is sufficient and he has chosen not to expand upon it. He is a person who thinks that all problems can be solved with logic and reason, and is often befuddled because humans actually operate with more complexity than your average robot. Dan would like to think of himself as the sort of person who isn’t a slave to his emotions, but is more than willing to ignore all of the times his own emotions, which are no more complex than those of a fussy infant, have led him to make decisions that are harmful to others. Since “others” are the victims, he can reassure himself that at least Dan was not harmed in the making of this picture.

Dan is a man, a man like many modern men, who cannot handle the word “No.” He would call himself a progressive, just like those modern men he keeps company with. That doesn’t stop him from operating like a caveman who forgot his club at home. I made the mistake of saying “No” once to his command that we “walk and talk” at work together (this was a frequent command of his back then, never once phrased into a question in deference to common politeness). That day, when he said, “Let’s walk,” and I declined, he left in a huff and shut me out for the rest of the shift. It has since been brought to my attention that he had a crush on me at the time, so of course his feelings–not his logic or his reason–were hurt. Maybe I shouldn’t claim that his reason wasn’t hurt, because Dan reasons that Dan is the most attractive, desirable man at our place of employment, and any woman who would turn him down must be defective in some way. When a woman turns him down at work, he makes attempts to undermine the woman’s reputation as well as that of any man she may have chosen to give attention to instead of Dan. I’ve heard him describe one such man as a “garbage person.” That’s one of Dan’s favorite descriptive terms for a person who is a threat to Dan.

Beware of people who make liberal use of descriptors like “garbage person” or “human trash” as short-cuts through exploring their real feelings about people. If Dan had any insight, he may have been able to notice a pattern developing among the people who in his opinion befitted these terms. As an outside observer, I see one commonality: they are all men who slept with women who Dan tried and failed to coerce into sleeping with himself.

Dan’s insight doesn’t always fail him, but it doesn’t always tell him what he wants to hear either. My now-fiancé (hereafter known as “M”) and I met at work and got to know each other during the time that Dan was aggressively trying to pursue my companionship. He obviously noticed my preference for M’s company, and though it registered that something was amiss, Dan was still in utter disbelief that a woman would choose another man’s company over his own. He assumed–possibly due to our age difference–that M and I were just close friends, so Dan continued in his efforts to draw my attention away from the one person whose company I desired the most. Because Dan’s efforts were failing where I was concerned, he switched gears and began directing soft insults toward M in order to undermine his confidence. The insults pertained primarily to his appearance–he would refer to M as “Kramer” while mocking his hairstyle and lanky build. What is even funnier and more pathetic is that Dan actually vocalized to M that in our particular dynamic as friends, Dan was Jerry and I was Elaine. This habit of turning his supposed friends into gross caricatures of human beings represented in a television show is par for the course for a person who seems unable to see any value in getting to know what is in a person’s heart or soul, or attempts to understand their inner world at all. The fact that M’s characterization was intended to be demeaning while mine and Dan’s implied that we were the kind of friends who might sleep together does not escape my notice. It also speaks volumes about Dan’s lack of awareness of the meaning behind the media he purports to enjoy that he would use as a basis for comparison a show known for its depiction of characters who, while hilarious and well-written, were meant to embody some of the basest qualities found in humans.

Whenever Dan did speak to me, it was usually about Dan and his thoughts and feelings. He’s the kind of person who is always at the ready with a TV show, restaurant, or band to recommend to others without ever asking a person what it is that they personally do enjoy already. If any of these phrases ring a bell, you might know someone similar:

“You should really watch…”

“You should really check out…”

“You should really listen to…”

And this way of relating to people is “really” fine, but I feel like it can become exhausting as soon as you realize the Recommender-in-Chief has never made a single inquiry into your own likes or dislikes, your taste in a more general way of speaking, or whether you’re even the type of person who uses taste in media as a basis upon which your friendships are formed. Whenever I receive a recommendation from a very enthusiastic person who absolutely insists I must drop everything I’m doing and watch Game of Thrones, or drop everything I’m doing and buy a pressure cooker online, I want to run, run, run. These people are far too exhausting for me to want to have as close friends. As a fully-formed human being working on becoming even fullier and formier, I have plenty of my own interests that I already struggle to create time for enjoying, and I am just not interested in setting those aside in order to please someone who can’t even make an effort to get to know me. If Dan had made a respectable effort of any kind, he would have found out that I:

  • do not enjoy bloated television dramas filled with excessive violence, nudity, and foul language, and
  • don’t even cook meat at home and would probably never buy a pressure cooker, let alone want to start cooking meat in it using the sous-vide method which produces a disgustingly slimy-soft something that I wouldn’t feed even to a 90-year-old granny sans dents.

Dan is aware that he has some powers of persuasion, and he doesn’t like seeing those powers fail him. He gains great satisfaction from advising people in matters he considers himself an authority on and seeing his directions carried out according to his specifications. When Dan purchased his house, many of us were subjected to his newfound authority on the subject of home-ownership. He even suggested that I was foolish for renting an apartment, as if purchasing a home were some easy task. Now that I’ve had the experience of having gone and done it with M, I think my own advice would run contrary to his in many circumstances given how quickly the list of repairs is piling up and how few are the resources we have for managing them.

Another incident springs to mind–one from my early days of getting to know Dan–that should have served as a major red flag. He was talking to me about a friend of his who was down on her luck and who he was encouraging to apply at our workplace. Their exchange was taking place in real time via text message. She made the mistake of telling him that she had looked at the online application, and that it was too lengthy and convoluted to justify spending that amount of time on for such little pay. She was accurate in her observations on both accounts, and to top it off, she wouldn’t have even been aware that it usually takes months for an application to be reviewed at our particular institution (and of course Dan neglected to tell her this). Dan responded by sending her a text message that in its length rivaled the length of the application (I jest, but he is a known paragraph-upon-paragraph texter, just as I am with this blog). In the text, he lashed out at her, saying that he was sorry that he took the time out of his day to help someone who obviously didn’t appreciate his help, and proceeded to attack her for being lazy and irresponsible. He showed me the back-and-forth of their entire exchange with a certain amount of pride, and said, “Well, I guess that friendship is over.” He was even proud to show me the part where she in turn called him out on his tendency to exert his control over the lives of people who are supposed to be his friends, and that he had a problem with minding his own business. She hadn’t even requested his help in the first place.

Another story from around the same time: Dan decided one day to tell me a lot of details from his recent past, including ones relating to his broken engagement. I heard a long story of various betrayals, which all painted a picture of what appeared to be a highly erratic person (his former fiancé) who he stayed with longer than he should have, in his words. When I asked why he tolerated all of that behavior, he said, “Well, she was really fucking hot,” and left it at that. Given that I’ve since experienced my own broken engagement which occurred not too long after, I can tell you with confidence that my former fiancé’s looks were just about the last thing on my mind when I called it quits. I think at the time I was a little too distracted by his descent into alcoholism, his determination to bring me down with him, and the resulting abuse directed my way (emotional and verbal, one time physical) that I forgot to factor into my decision the idea that I had once found this man attractive. Knowing that I wanted out of the relationship was an easy conclusion to come to–going through with it was much more difficult. It’s not easy to give up on a person who once had a soul you fell in love with, even if you haven’t seen that side in a while. I do not and cannot understand, at all, that Dan’s reluctance to end his own engagement was based entirely on his partner’s appearance. But I suspect it made Dan feel good about himself to have an attractive mate–he cares much for the appearance of things and very little for what is inside.

Today my coworkers found out that I’m quitting. One coworker, Donald, was very kind toward me when he found out. I’ve written about him before. He is the person from the Midnight shift who I refer to in this post and who reappears in part two. I never wrote an update to that second post. At the time, I considered the matter resolved. When it turned out that the situation was not as it originally appeared, I neglected to write another update because what actually ended up happening was just too depressing. If you feel like reading the second part to the story, be aware that the supervisor in that story is Dan. This is what ended up happening:

Donald was offered the position on my shift, Evenings, AKA “second shift.” Then: radio silence from our boss and supervisors. They rescinded the offer without ever telling him. Dan did not want Donald on our shift. He was determined that the spot be taken by another person who was on a temporary full-time status at the time. This person then started working for us on a permanent basis. Still no one informed Donald. He waited and waited. He kept wondering why his schedule hadn’t changed yet. No one spoke to him about it. Of course he eventually realized what had happened. He stayed on Midnights for months afterward, trying to get his spot back as a gallery attendant. It finally happened, and today was his first day back I believe. As he was leaving work, he asked me why I was quitting. I didn’t have time to elaborate on the many reasons that factored in to my decision, so I just told him it was because of Dan. That I couldn’t stand working with him anymore. Donald replied, “Yeah…Dan kind of stabbed me in the back.” It was the first time I had ever heard a critical word from Donald about anyone here. I said I knew all about it, and I told him about my conversation with Dan, and how Dan assured me that he (Donald) would be moved up to Evening shift. Donald went on to say that they had indeed given him the position, only to put another person in his place without telling him.

Actions, we are told, speak louder than words. These cowards couldn’t even use their words to speak to Donald, so I don’t know where that leaves us. If Dan didn’t want him, it was his duty to inform him of that fact. He never did. He left him hanging. He knew he could do this because Donald is in no way a threat to Dan. Dan acted as if a mosquito had landed on his arm, and swatted it away without a thought.

I have little else to add about Dan as a supervisor. I know him too well to have any respect for him, but at the very least one would have hoped that despite his shortcomings as a human being, he would have still been able to perform the functions of his job in a competent manner. Instead, working with him has felt like an exercise in chaos management. His judgment is questionable at its best and reprehensible at its worst, and I will thank God for every day that I get to spend apart from him in the future.

Good tidings to all who made it this far.

And if you have anyone in your life who frequently likes to play devil’s advocate, consider asking them why that would ever be necessary.

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.

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.