I will never forget the first time I left a job that I detested. I worked in fast food in high school at a local Burger King. It was one of the most challenging positions I ever worked in because of the drama. Restaurants and retail are challenging businesses to work in for various reasons. The customer thinks they are always right and expect the treatment of the red carpet mentality. Sometimes they receive five-star service, and other times they receive service that makes a person wonder why they ever dropped money in the establishment in the first place. I was sixteen at the time. The manager that worked the night shift hated his job and despised me with a passion. One night, I was mopping the women’s bathroom, and because he couldn’t find me, he clocked me out. When I came back from cleaning, he yelled at me in front of the entire staff, told me to clock back in, and then told me that I was “to do what he wanted, when he wanted, and the only thing he wanted my mouth to do was to shut up and be a good little girl.” He looked me up and down and said, “if I were older, he’d teach me a thing or two about respect.” I haven’t talked about that incident until now. I tried to take him to the district manager, but that was in 1986.
Times were different then, and sexual harassment lacked exposure the way it is today. Eventually, the company terminated him because of excessive drug use, but the memories he left in me remain to this day. About six months after he was gone, I had another manager who embezzled a lot of money from the company. It’s ironic how my drawer was always perfect every time any other manager counted it, but it was always short about $20-$50 when he did it. Eventually, he was busted for stealing. I left Burger King when I graduated high school and haven’t looked back. There are so many stories similar to mine that others have experienced.
It took a long time for me to comprehend leaving toxic environments can lead to happier and healthier opportunities. For example, at nineteen, I met a musician and fell head over heels in love with him. He was a bass pIt took a long time for me to comprehend leaving toxic environments can lead to happier and healthier opportunities. For example, at nineteen, I met a musician and fell head over heels in love with him. He was a bass player for a local heavy metal group. Unbeknownst to me, he struggled with sexual identity. We were in a serious relationship for a while, and he started having a physical relationship with a young girl around the age of sixteen. This information destroyed me. In retaliation, I hooked up with his best friend and stayed in a relationship with him for four years. I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. When I finally closed the door on that relationship and toxicity, I allowed myself to see options outside of the cycle of abuse. That’s one of the reasons I implore you all to think about the decisions you make before you jump headfirst into a situation. Whether we realize it or not, many of us make bad decisions when we’re hurting. Through the lessons that life teaches us, we understand how closing doors on people and places that are hurting us physically, emotionally, and psychologically can open the brightest opportunities to our future.
I know I mentioned this before, but I worked for Habitat for Humanity in Greensboro, NC, for several years. I loved and hated the job all at the same time. When I lost my job due to budget cuts, I was hollow inside. I had no clue how I would get a job, what kind of work I would be doing, how soon I would find something, or even what I wanted to do. I was dealing with losing a job, my father was getting sicker by the day, and no one knew why, my marriage collapsed, I lost a child, and I was drowning in debt on top of all those things happening. I had no time to process anything. Life shut all these doors, and I couldn’t see a crack anywhere for opportunities to open. I had no time to react to anything because not long after losing my job, my mom and I learned Dad had a stage IV glioma. My heart dropped.
When life causes you to lose everything, the only place left to go is up. I started learning everything I could about brain cancers. I learned about the newest treatments and what to look for in treatments. I began asking questions about what Dad was experiencing and how to relate to him since he lost the ability to communicate verbally. I figured out that he could still make good use of his hands, so I kept questions to a “yes” or “no” answer. One squeeze of his hand meant “yes,” while two squeezes meant “no.”
The nursing staff appreciated that communication because it made it easier for them to assure his comfort levels. Since I retired from healthcare, I understood the non-clinical part of the hospital’s role. One night, after Dad’s admittance, I went home after no sleep for almost two days. The nurses said they would call me if anything were out of the ordinary. I was able to sleep for about 4 hours. I went back to the hospital with a friend of mine, and the minute I walked into my father’s room, I went ballistic. His blood pressure had skyrocketed to 188/166. The machines were going nuts; his nurse didn’t acknowledge me at all. She went back to her station and ignored me when I tried to get her attention. My friend Darla was with me when I went into the room. Dad was freaking out because they bound his hands so he wouldn’t pull out his Foley (apologies if I spelled this incorrectly) and the entire scenario was enough to make anyone with a heart livid.
Through Dad’s treatment, I learned to close the door on remaining ignorant to the world around me. Life has many lessons to teach, and if we are willing to change our perceptions and limitations, it’s incredible what we learn. Not too long ago, I had a customer who exhibited many of the same symptoms that my dad had when the disease was misdiagnosed. Thankfully, I recognized the symptoms and urged her to get checked out. I’ll never know if she did or didn’t go to the specialist, but at least I felt I was better prepared to help someone else. Dad couldn’t be saved, but the lessons I learned have armed me to pay attention to symptoms I may have, or others may exhibit.
We all need time to grieve when we leave an environment that has impacted our ability to believe in ourselves. But if you’ve survived relationships and jobs that were toxic, celebrate how you emerged more robust, more informed, and ready to embrace the new opportunities life has for you. Life is fast and short. What matters is that we don’t dwell on the past but keep progressing forward. That’s why I immerse myself in the study of data analytics. I know that the only person who has the power to stop myself and propel myself is me. No one else is going to fight my battles for me. I won’t lie to you and tell you that it’s easy to walk away from the people and places that pulled back. What I can tell you is when you decide to stop letting the past ruin your future, you will find so many opportunities open up to you. Have a great Thursday, everyone.