Five months later, I've got a whole lot to say about my adventures in my new job. The most pressing of which is this: I have found myself once again. But that part comes later. First, there is the part that explains a bit more about how I got lost.
Over this holiday season, I've been asked a couple of times, "What exactly happened at your other job, anyway?" The answer, of course, is complex, in the way that life often is. There are layers that cross over people and time; strings that are tangled together and, when gently pulled as though to release one, the others become hopelessly knotted that much more. And yet, after allowing my thoughts to simmer for five months, after gaining distance and perspective and confidence once again, I think that I can say this with a fair amount of certainty: There were things I should have said.
When my supervisor said, "You are like my ex-husband. You are manipulating and controlling me. You're creating rigid boundaries and making it very hard for me to work with you." I should have said, "No. I'm asking for you to be here when you say you will be, to meet with me, and to respect me as an employee. And although I am your subordinate, I have every right to ask that you either support me in my efforts to complete the tasks you've given me or take back those things that have fallen to me as I've worked to pick up the pieces that you've dropped."
When she said, "Others don't trust you. They say you are insincere. They say you don't care about them and you only care about yourself." I should have said: "If others have truly said those things, please ask them to talk to me, because I clearly have work to do. And yet....and yet...I doubt that is what they said. Because, although I am sometimes shy, I am one of the most authentic and trustworthy people you will ever meet. And if you can't see that, then that is something that resides inside of you, not me."
When my supervisor said, "You are rallying the troops and making me into a target. You need to stop talking to other people; you need to stop pushing agendas and making a mess of everything." I should have said, "No. I'm doing what needs to be done, because you are rarely here and the program is suffering badly. And if in doing those things, others begin to see me as more of a leader than you, that's because this is what a leader does. If others stand up for me, rest assured I have not asked them to do so. I have too much pride to ask others to speak on my behalf. And, should our peers have negative opinions of you, they have come to those conclusions on their own. Because, unlike you, I do not speak badly about others; despite what you have said about me, I have done nothing but attempt to support you in front those who you are supposed to be leading."
When she said, "You are a square peg in a round hole. I need someone who knows how to work with others. I need someone who can take in a lot of information and communicate it well. You clearly aren't capable of that." I should have said, "I am more than capable of processing a large amount of information, making excellent decisions and communicating well with others. Please refer to my previous eleven years of outstanding performance appraisals, the variety of new programs I have created, and the strong community relationships we have as a result of the work that I have done. And, if upon examining these things, you find that you are threatened by them, than perhaps we have found the reason that you act the way you do."
And when my supervisor looked her boss in the face and lied about her presence in the clinic, when she used half-truths and lies to throw me under the bus as if I were the problem, and when she then then proceeded to come and ask me for help once her boss was gone, I should have said: I quit.
Oh wait, I did.
At least I got that one right.
Looking back, reading through what I just wrote, it somehow doesn't seem so bad after all. But what I'll tell you is this: When words like these come from someone you trust, someone who has power over you, someone who is exceedingly adept at saying them in a way that make you believe what she is saying, when comments such as these start small and grow, when they are slipped into voice-mails and dropped into e-mails, when they become part of daily life, these words gain power. Somehow, somehow, these words become weeds that insidiously snake their way through a garden and eventually overpower the beauty that was once there.
I know that I am trustworthy. I know I'm not manipulative. I know I am sincere, and smart, and good.
But for a period of time last year, I doubted all of that.
Became the one of of the best choices I'd ever made.
For the past five months, I've stepped into challenges over and over again. Honestly, I didn't know if I could do it. I didn't know if I could take on three college courses and teach them at the same time as I supervised and supported students working as new clinicians. I didn't know if I could stand in front of 65 college students without stumbling over my words. I didn't know if I could inspire students to grow. I didn't know if I could learn all the new technology needed to teach an online class; if I could reach across distance and still somehow create a learning community just the same. I didn't know if I could find my place among a whole new set of colleagues, if I could trust myself to share my opinion without a quaking voice, if I could believe in myself again. I didn't know if I had what it took.
But I did.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face... you must do the thing you think you cannot do.”