Sometimes that meant having to work during a heat-wave with no air-conditioning, or being in a warehouse that would be condemned by every safety inspector–except for the ones who oversee sweatshops. It has meant working with someone who wanted nothing more than to see me fail, who attempted to undermine me by telling management how “lazy” I was, or by trying to exploit my issues with depression and anxiety to get me fired. It even meant dragging my sick self to work when I knew I should have stayed home.
The awesome thing is; I wouldn’t change a thing. I was scared of my own shadow when I started my job. Everything and everyone intimidated me. I was so desperate to be liked that I agreed with people just because I didn’t want them to hate me. The first time a customer yelled at me, I cried in the bathroom. (And then I cried to my parents.) My last sales floor shift was in 2008, and when the customer yelled at me that day, I told him that he could kindly take his business elsewhere. (And then I smiled and told him to ‘have a wonderful day’ :D)
The years of struggling, grinning and bearing foolishness, and working my behind off, have served me well. I recognize my anxiety triggers enough to avoid them, I can lift my own weight now because I do nothing but move two to 50 pound boxes around all day, and I no longer care about being well-liked. Also, I am not afraid of anyone. (Even when I should be!)
Working taught me that life is not like Burger King. I can’t have it my way. I am employed by people who expect things of me, and I can’t opt out because I don’t like the assignment; or because I don’t like my co-worker; or because the warehouse smells bad. 😛 I don’t work for myself, so I don’t get to decide the terms. I get to show up, work, and then go home.
While I’m at work, I listen to talk radio (CBC one) because there’s always a show on that reminds me how blessed I really am. One day I was whining about how little I was being paid, until I heard a story about a third-world factory worker whose monthly wage was $10. (A month!)
I stopped complaining after that.
I have learned to work through discomfort (I hate being cold, but I wear sweaters when the air-conditioning is turned on). I’m sure there’s still a contingent of people who would love to see me “piss-off”, but I just ignore them and watch the universal law of reciprocity go to work. The most astounding change has to do with anxiety; I never thought I’d be without it, but for 3 years now I have been anxiety-free. The usual triggers aren’t affecting me the way they used to, and with the exception of large parties, I can pretty much mingle with the general public without having a panic-attack.
I can honestly say that I love my job. I love being surrounded by shiny new books and large boxes. I enjoy the chaos that comes with having six pallets of books delivered, when I only have room for four, and I enjoy shooting the breeze with the truckers because it reminds me of what I loved most about being on the sales floor; talking to interesting people on a daily basis.
It is natural for humans to try to avoid difficult situations. However, my life is proof that opposition can be a source of strength, rather than weakness. Had I not gone through the anxiety, depression, and difficulty of my former years I wouldn’t be reaping the benefits in my latter ones. The easiest thing to do in a difficult situation is give up, but I guarantee that going through life with a hopeful heart– as well as the faith to continue, things will improve.
All you have to do is believe.