I just got my end of the week paycheck. Yeehah! Party down! Well, not exactly. Once again, when I was handed the window envelope, my reward for a completed work week, I cringed with disappointment. As I slipped my index finger through the seam to open it, I played a little game with myself. I pretended not to know what the net amount would be and that it might somehow be bigger than I expected. Alas, I had no such luck. I am not in corporate America anymore, so it is what it is, oh well.
Every week, when I collect this small check, I find myself pushing against a limiting belief that tells me I am “less than” because of the figure on the pay stub. Each Friday, when I open the envelope, I feel a defensive pit in my gut and it is all I can do not to yell out, “Just so you know, I used to make a lot more,” to anybody standing nearby, especially some of the members who really crack me up because they assume; well they just assume, let’s leave it at that. It is not about needing the money, there is plenty in the bank, but it is about what I tell myself it means that the amount is so small, as if my worth equates to how much I earn. “Not!”.
As I put the envelope securely away, I know that I will once again check out Indeed.com when I get home in my continued quest to find a great new gig, one where I work to my potential and am compensated accordingly for my skill set, but for now I remember that I am in a “meantime” gig and pat myself on the back for being here and doing the best I can. As I pat, I tell myself to make sure my next position absolutely does not involve a time clock. It’s just such a hit to my self esteem to use one when I arrive at work these days.
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s my ego, but even though I’ve trained myself to be grateful for daily opportunities to be of service as I clock in, sometimes it’s hard to mean it. I do thank my Higher Power for putting me where I am because I trust that I can make a difference, but once in awhile I stand still for a minute when I arrive, wondering whether to hold on or let go here. Inevitably I press “IN” and head inside to get lost in the day’s work that will keep me busy, distracted and hopefully helpful until the next too small paycheck. All too often these past few months, I find myself wondering how I have landed at this mediocre job; how I have come to this place where I receive a weekly stipend resembling what I earned when I was sixteen and working at a luncheonette (actually, I got tips back then besides).
How have I gone backwards? Or have I? For some time now I have been trying not to let the memories of “used to be” get in my way. I will get beyond this, but for now I am remembering how much I loved being part of a big company with their name at the top of my business card. I loved that feeling, five mornings a week, as my heels click clacked across the marble lobbies in Manhattan, then Greenwich, then Boston. The feeling of being “someone going somewhere” with my power shawl draped over my shoulders, and the subtle trace of Chanel 22 in the air following me as I’d purposefully walk towards the bank of elevators.
Together with other freshly pressed riders, all politely trying not to make eye contact in the too small setting, I’d ride up, up, up to one of the lighted numbers above until we arrived at our prospective floors. Floors where the employees, myself included, garnered excellent medical benefits, paid upscale lunches and several weeks of vacation time. I remember feeling like “somebody” back then. Part of other somebody’s riding up in those Otis cars, and even though we had no idea what kind of salaries anyone else was getting, it was understood that in those buildings I commuted to, we were all doing pretty well.
Each day, after arriving at my floor, I’d settle into an ergonomically correct chair at a mahogany desk with matching accessories. I’d cradle the blue and white Acropolis adorned paper cup, the one I got at the coffee shop that had my breakfast order ready simultaneously with me walking in their door, and take a moment to look out onto Avenue of the Americas, Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Avenue or the Charles River, depending on which office I was in. In those moments, I felt as if I mattered, as if I was somebody going somewhere.
Now, I arrive at the back room of a golf shop, where all the stuff is housed that nobody knows what to do with. It is here, at a Formica table top, that the bulk of my work takes place as I procure what is sold to members at a price that will both make them money and provide what they want (almost an impossible task).
The wall behind my desk is in dire need of a paint job and there are several small holes in it desperate for spackle. These are remnants from a shelf that fell down, well before my time, because it wasn’t anchored properly. I know, because I have learned this here the hard way, that a replacement shelf is unlikely to be put up. Actually, there is a maintenance man who handles this type of thing, but along with the shelf there are many things in my work arena that seem “un-maintained.” Once, when a light bulb blew, it took 4 days and a requisition form until it was bright enough to read the invoices on my desk again. Another, after a week of waiting for a replacement filter for the air conditioner, I wound up at Lowes buying it.
This is very different from back in the day, in those offices in the sky. All I had to do was call building administration and although the company was charged heavily, things were fixed immediately. I can’t help but think it is because, back then, I mattered at my job. I mattered. My surroundings reflected it and I got paid a salary commensurate with showing me I did. At least that’s where my head can wander to lately.
The carpet in my “office” now is worn and the only cleaning crew available to vacuum it is whichever staff member is the last to leave at night. That person, often me, gets the honor of running The Shark in an attempt to spit shine the place ever so slightly at the end of the day. If this task does fall to me, I push the machine across the floor as quickly as I can, because God forbid anyone actually sees me. My only thought as I hold the cord out of the way is “Please tell me I have not come to this!”
Occasionally someone will knock on the large picture window, looking in at my mortified self, because they have a tee time crisis. As I shut off the power and unlock the door, I am tempted to tell them, “Don’t get the wrong idea here. I am not an office cleaner. By the way, did you know that I used to share a corner office and made six figures up north? Oh, and by the way, I have been to Europe many times. How about you?” And then I get bummed out at myself because I know better. At least I ought to, since I’ve put in so many 24’s turning to God and working on my spirituality and all. I don’t know why I can’t always remember that my job tasks do not define me, nor do the amount of zeros at the end of a check. I just forget sometimes that God may have me where I am right now for a reason. I wish I could always “know” that as long as I am working with purpose and trying to make a difference, I am a success, no matter what, no matter what. If only I could remember to say “OM” every week before I open my paycheck, perhaps I wouldn’t have these moments.
I do inherently know that my journey right now is not about a paycheck, but I’d be lying if I said it isn’t hard every time I open that damn envelope. If only I could remind myself whenever I do even the most menial task, that it is in the doing that I am a success and not because of what I get for it. This being human and having to go to gratitude all the time can be tough stuff, especially when I look backwards on my careers. But, whenever I do, thankfully I am reminded that God has a plan and the reason for my being at this job may not have anything to do with me. It may be about something bigger, some higher purpose, and just because I can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t so.
So, here goes: “Dear God, I promise, I have done my job with dignity thus far and will continue to do so. I will keep praying for guidance to do the best I can each day. Help me to punch the time clock with a purposeful smile and turn to you for messages about why I am here. I pray for humility and gratitude for what I have. Thank you for helping me to find both, even in the midst of yearning for more. Help me to remember that I am no longer a woman who needs corporate America and all of its trappings. Please and thank you! Amen.” There, I feel much better now. And tomorrow, I will once again pray for guidance. As I do, if the answer comes for me to move on, I will do that gracefully. If not, I will punch in and work hard and even run the vacuum as necessary until I punch out again.