I tend not to spend much time on problems I’m not interested in solving, and I have now spent many years with the problem of work. Because I find self-responsibility a most reliable beacon as I chart the course of my life, you have read what comes before this epilogue. This has obviously been a personal perspective on the problem indicated in the title.
Writing this series of blog posts has allowed me to once again consider this problem in depth while reflecting on some of the best thinking on the topic. Much of that thinking allows the individual to eschew all responsibility for his or her experience. This is a mistake, it seems to me. We can only effect change where we have some responsibility, and that, of course, includes our experience of the workplace.
My own experience of work life continues to challenge me to metamorphose along my own developmental path, challenging my values and occasionally my vision. None of us can sit on high and hand down a set of tablets on which are writ the strictly coded rules for mastery of corporate life within the human experience. Our challenges are individual though they have broad similarities. Our work communities naturally fall into configurations that challenge us as surely as any set of enduring human relationships challenge us to learn, grow, and change within the context of the community and our own human potential, proving or disproving our fitness to take the next step in our growth.
A little more than a year after she was cowering under the sheets in her bedroom, my friend eased herself off of her anxiety and depression management medications. During the intervening year she had confronted the incongruities in her life that had rent her personality that morning. She no longer had the fancy job with the corner office and the very nice salary. She had started her own business, an act of self-reliance that helped her feel far safer. And, in partnership with her husband, she had reset her boundaries at home, as well. She has continued on her journey.
For my part, upon returning from my five-day re-orientation at the coast, I brought with me a new costume to hide behind while I gathered my wits and created an exit plan: skirts and sweaters in pastel shades and daintily printed and embossed post-it notes. I even surfaced two pairs of pink pumps. Several weeks since, the project has ended. Upon entering the project, I had three personal goals:
- Complete the project with as little damage as possible.
- Stay in school.
- Keep my dog in good health.
In the course of the project:
- I learned a great deal about the kinds of damage that can be inflicted in the work environment.
- I took an incomplete in the course I was then enrolled in.
- I had to put my dog to sleep.
However, because I had exemplars and friends to throw cautions before me and because of the study of work life that I was engaged in, I am incorporating this valuable experience fairly quickly. Today I write this final post for the course I took an incomplete in, and George, my new puppy, is sleeping at my feet as I complete it. I recently completed an interview for a job that smacked of many of the challenges of this last project, and, knowing I haven’t yet returned to that level of strength, I chose to look for something more nurturing so that I can retain my energy for my studies.
The cold desert we all must visit for reflection sometimes is a quiet place where the soul casts itself when it despairs of resolving its challenges. Because we become unavailable to the world during this time of reflection, whether that unavailability is precipitated by a nervous breakdown or a hardening of the heart, those who are not there with us tend to be horrified by our sojourn. For a time, we are unlike them and more in communication with the richness of death than the distractions of life. If we come back, we may be carrying gifts that cannot be gotten elsewhere. While I do not recommend it as a vacation destination, I acknowledge it as a tremendously clarifying way station.