“I hate my job,” she says.
“Understandably,” I tell her. “They don’t treat you well.”
She starts to complain once again about her working conditions. The bullying and harassment. This is a very familiar recap. I’ve heard her talk about it many times before. It’s an extremely toxic workplace. As she talks, I think, as I always do, that she would probably have a good shot at a hostile work environment case. Much of it actually happened in writing, via email. From her supervisor, no less.
I tell her the same thing I always tell her. That she should at the very least get out of there. Find another job. That this is so bad she arguably has a legal case. But at the very least, she has more than enough cause to leave and work somewhere else.
And she responds the same way I’ve come to expect her to respond. She says, “I can’t.”
Her partner still works there, she says, and she’s worried what will happen if she leaves them working there all alone. Let alone what would happen if she brought a suit against her workplace.
“Retaliation against your partner would backfire on them terribly,” I say. “It would lend more credence to any other claim you’d have.”
“I know,” she says. “I just can’t do it.”
We’re back to where we always are.
It’s frustrating, but it occurs to me then that it’s like listening to the person I was ten years ago speak.
You Shed Fucks as the Years Go On
When I was younger, I was too scared to fight. I worried about the ifs and thens. The yeah buts. The what comes next.
I edited my anger back because I was afraid of being alone, telling myself I was lucky to have anyone. Anyone at all.
I kept my head down at work, enduring abuse, telling myself I was lucky to have a job. Any job. So what if they treated me terribly?
But somewhere along the line, and I’m not sure when, something shifted inside of me. I realized I’m never truly helpless.
Sure, some risks backfire. And then you have to hustle and improvise to get by. And those moments can be terrifying, as you don’t know if you’ll make it. Because you don’t know what lies over the horizon: Oblivion or something better.
But I’ve come to prefer the unknown wilderness to the known nightmare.
I give fewer fucks now than when I was young. And I’m very particular about where I give them. And why.
I think you shed fucks as the years go on. Like a stately tree drops its leaves, fanning its bare branches against the bright blue sky. Knowing it’ll survive the winter better without petty concerns to sap its strength.