I’m one of those all or nothing people.
I suck at faking it. Whatever ‘it’ may be.
People close to me love and hate this with equal intensity. I’m incapable of bullshit because I just think it a waste of time. The rubber-band sting of immediate disappointment/rejection/truth is far preferable to the severed-limb agony of being lied to and let down after an emotional investment.
Mostly I’m referring to private live, but something happened last week in my professional life that made me pause.
I’m no stranger to work drama. A friend and former colleague rationalized this unhappy truth by saying that I make jobs too personal. This always makes me think of that scene in You’ve Got Mail, where Joe Fox keeps repeating to Kathleen Kelly that “It’s not personal; it’s business.” At times, I wish I could have such a Spartan view of my work life but then again, it would take all the color from my day.
Passion is probably the thing that has sustained – me through job losses, company bankruptcies, recessions, implosions, exhaustion, demotion, and descrimination. Sure, I’ve learned a few lessons along the way (I hope). Sure, I’ve made mistakes that cost me financially, personally, and professionally. My preference remains, however, to go out in a blaze of glory. Or at the very least, with my head high.
Ok, admittedly, that is a little dramatic. And I haven’t actually pulled a Jerry Maguire exit at any of my employers. Once, however, two HR professionals had flown in from out of town to admit the company’s fault and prescribe no repurcussions for the guilty executive. I listened for three whole minutes before saying, “I think we’re done here” and walked out of the meeting leaving them with nothing to do but wait for their flight home.
When it comes to my work, I, inevitably, end up “drinking the Kool-Aid”. I can’t give my all to a cause I don’t believe in. Maybe that’s a defect. But on the upside, I have never suffered through a toxic work situation without actively participating in changing that situation.
So when I found out a former client went to work at a place that gut-punched me when I was most vulnerable, I got vertigo. As politely as I could manage, I said, “I’m sorry. I just can’t talk about that.”
(Pause for dramatic effect.)
I know this probably sounds childish. It certainly isn’t her fault what happened to me. She likely has no idea that it did. The job is likely a great step for her career path. I feel sad that I am so changed by that experience and that I haven’t “gotten over it.”
Maybe I will someday. Maybe I won’t. Some things cannot be made right, but I hear they get less pointy with time.
While likely confusing to this client, my abrupt silence accomplished one thing: I didn’t poison her with any of my own experience.
I may be guilty of drinking the Kool-Aid, but I refuse to drink the poison.