notquiteold

Nancy Roman

The Escape

Years ago, a close friend asked me for advice on her workplace issue.

She worked in a very small office – I think the staff totaled no more than five. She had very little in common with any of her co-workers. She was unhappy and had tried various methods to improve her relationships with the rest of the office staff.

She had tried seeking them out, looking for commonality. But they had belittled her interests and done little to share their own.

She had tried offering to help with everyone’s work load. But they had responded by telling her they were perfectly capable of doing their jobs without her help.

She had tried bringing in goodies – baked goods and fruit and candy, but they were left untouched.

She had tried commiserating if they complained, or expressing enthusiasm for whatever made them happy. She agreed with them outwardly even if she privately disagreed. They responded by making outrageous statements, and then feigning shock if she agreed.

Nothing helped.

She had reached the invisibility stage. She went to work and did her job in silence. She interacted only when absolutely necessary.

And she was miserable.

I wasn’t surprised at her misery. A big factor in liking your job is having friends there. You go and see people you like. You talk. You laugh. You feel like part of the team, part of the family.

And job satisfaction in turn is a big part of life satisfaction. You spend the majority of your day at work. How can you go home happy after eight hours of anxiety?

I told her to look for another job. That she had exhausted all strategies and she should move on. And also that, although many people enjoy the atmosphere of a small office, she should consider looking for employment in a larger corporation. I had seen from my own college and workplace experience that, instead of feeling like an faceless cog in a big impersonal machine, a diverse environment had given me a much better chance to find kindred spirits. I had hundreds of chances to find like-minded friends, not five.

“It’s like dating in a really small town,” I said. “It’s wonderful if your soul mate is one of the only three guys your age who live there. But if one is a drinker, one is gay, and one has his heart set on the girl who is prettier than you, who do you marry? You have to say adios to Hicksville and move to the big city.”

“Oh, really?” my friend replied. “That’s how you solve a problem? You run away?”

That surprised me. I hadn’t really thought of it like that. Was running away from a problem my preferred solution?

And you know what?

It is.

Problem avoidance is not necessarily a bad choice.

“Maybe,” I said. “Only I don’t call it ‘running away.’ I call it: ‘I don’t really have to live this way if it doesn’t make me happy.'”

My friend did eventually leave that job. But she stuck it out way longer than I would have. I guess I admire her in some ways for not giving up. But mostly, I think it was a shame that she stayed unhappy for too long.

Yes, we should confront our problems.

Yes, we should be brave.

But sometimes, confronting our problems and being brave also entails running away.

It is not so cowardly to say, “I don’t have to take this anymore”

15 Comments

  1. Exactly how I felt when a relationship failed after 8 years. I wasn’t happy and making everyone else unhappy. I realised I didn’t even like the guy I was living with and trying to please everyone was mainly to blame for my breakdown. I didn’t leave until I’d sorted everything out and knowing I had exhausted every avenue in trying to make the relationship work. That was over 30 years ago and I never regretted my decision.

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  2. I totally agree with you. My soon-to-be-ex-wife would not however. When all the avenues have been attempted and there is still nothing there it is time to go. Why continue doing something that doesn’t work. If hitting my head on a post doesn’t make the headache go away, it is time to stop doing it.

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  3. I agree too. Leaving after you have tried your hardest to remedy a situation is not shameful. It might feel like letting the bad guys win but who cares? It is more important to take care of your mental health.
    It is difficult if you know it will be hard to get another job or you really like the actual work but really it’s not worth it. Work takes up such a large part of your life that it’s important to be if not happy at least content.
    Your friend’s co-workers sound as if they were determined not to accept her no matter what she did. In a small workplace especially, there is often one person who is just different but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the team shouldn’t be polite. You don’t have to like someone to say “Good Morning”, “Thank You” when offered help and “How was your weekend?” That’s just common courtesy.

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  4. Laurie Howard

    thank you for this post today…..I needed the validation.

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  5. Deb

    Nancy, you just explained my decision to end my marriage 2 years ago perfectly. It was time to end the unhappiness and walk away.

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  6. Another one who agrees with you. But a small office is an obstacle that is hard to overcome. I don’t necessarily hang out with my co-workers, but I do get along with them. Need to get along with them. If you feel comfortable being a loner in an office, that’s one thing. But if you need the friendship that’s another. And you owe it to yourself to be true to what you need.

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  7. Excellent post. Explains a lot of relationships not just a work situation. I also agree that leaving, (saying “running away” puts a negative spin on it) is the best solution, even if you no longer have the energy to try more ways to resolve things.

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  8. When we are unhappy and in a bad situation we need to take a breathe and change what we can to make you happy

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  9. Donna W.

    Excellent life point made. Extremely well written. Gorgeous photograph. I love Theo! Love you too, Nancy!

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  10. Exactly. I’m still kicking myself for staying 17 yrs when the last 5 were so miserable. By the time I finally left it was too late to find another decent job.

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  11. I stayed too long in a job that didn’t satisfy me and once in an environment that toxic, as well as in a marriage that wasn’t working (and hadn’t been for nearly 10 years) because I’d been raised with the mantra, “You made your bed, now you have to lie in it”. It took me years to realize how wrong that message was. If all attempts to work through problems and/or “fix” things don’t pan out, then by all means, move on! I know people who have stuck with jobs and relationships that suck them dry and make them miserable and wonder why they are punishing themselves. Life’s too short to be unhappy throughout.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Living your truth is not the same thing as running away. The Universe can reveal a path for us, but we are always responsible to take the first step. Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Patricia Mitchell Lapidus

    Thanks you Nancy. You are so right. Maybe think of the change as running toward. Reminds me of the urgency I felt about leaving my home town to find out things that no one there seemed to know. I’m glad I did. In ancient fairy tales there is a stage of personal growth called The Wanderer. The name implies both geographical travel and spiritual travel.

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  14. Aim 4aCreativeLife

    You wrote so well. Since the comments went into relationships and not just workplace, I’ll pipe in. The “why stay miserable for so long?” issue definitely strikes me after a friend finally left her abusive 20-yr marriage. Yet in NON-abusive relationships, I think commitment makes a difference.

    It is true that none of us HAVE to live in any way that makes us unhappy at the time. Discomfort, though, can be a signal of need for growth or a sign of growth itself. I would have lost a very good man simply because I would have given up on him too soon during our 9 years of conflict and and hurt through his lack of connection [undiagnosed spectrum issues we are realizing] and my codependence issues I’ve had to work through [neediness and controllingness=unhealthy boundaries].).
    Through couples’ counseling, improving communication and lots of hard work, my marriage is becoming the one I thought it would be, after about 10 years. I was definitely unhappy back then, but now I am so happy I have such a faithful, committed guy by my side, providing for me and my kids, and having fun again.

    But yeah, back to your point–work where you’re happy! A job does not require sworn commitment!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. There are a lot of people who are trapped in that situation. They have no choice. Quitting their job would leave them without a way to pay rent or feed their family. It is a true blessing when you love where you work and the people you work with. It’s just not available to everyone.

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