Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Losing my mind in: Lunch Lady Land...

So who needs a counseling session? I do. Man, it's like my third day in my new labor position and I am a hot mess. I might've been cool if I could have just had a moment to leave and collect myself, but when they told me that we didn't get any breaks and the guy was like getting all loud and firm with me about "I should've done this..." and you're wrong, I went from seriously wanting to lose it to breaking down in tears. It wasn't all dramatic or anything. I tried to be cool about it, but damn it I'm old, and tired. I don't need five different people, who haven't even trained me micromanaging me all the time, and talking to me any kind of way. Their fast food management style may work at Dairy Queen, but this is a campus job. I'm just there so that I can keep my scholarship and there should be a million other places that I could go. Still I don't want to be a punk or a diva about it, so I tried to go in with the attitude that I should be honored to have the opportunity to do a little bit of grunt work to be able to go to school, but the working conditions there are a little too intense for me, I'm not even going to lie. I left the restaurant industry for good reason. That type of environment is too much for me, particularly with my history of being abused and let's face it, I'm old. I already have a lot of moral objections to how they operate the facility, and I tried to convince myself that if the other kids have to do it, then I need to suck it up and play my part. But seriously, working there is like being stuck in a giant hotflash, and I leave every shift feeling miserable and reluctant to show up the next time.

I've tried humor. The movie Office Space comes to mind and I keep myself entertained by coming up with elaborate schemes to get fired, like hi-jacking all of the meat and torching it in the quad or something in a form of protest. But I'm not trying to get kicked out of school. We just got done reading this book called Whistle While You Work, about pursuing your life's calling and that only makes me more resentful, which is contradictory to the Brahman standard that I'd adopted a few years back that it is honorable to want to be of service, because I don't feel like I'm being of service. I feel like I'm being dumped into a station, with no training, no music, no sense of belonging, and I'm certainly not being treated respectfully by my supervisors, and it's hard for me to want to own that. I know these guys are only doing their job, and they haven't really been trained how to train people so that they don't have to project their sense of crises mode onto what I'm doing... and I do it quite well, I might add. But seriously, these kids are like several years older than me and I don't want to have to feel like I'm having to make the choice between getting them straight or subjecting myself to being treated like an infant by some "12 year old".

This one guy lit into me after I asked him how the breaks worked, about an hour before we were supposed to leave and I firmly but professionally explained to him that there had been some discrepancies and lack of clarity regarding how that information was disemminated and he started acting like he was looking to get cussed out. I could feel it. My blood was boiling and I started getting really agitated, and when I get to that point it's like I can't even formulate complete sentences anymore except to calmly repeat any further clarification of what my grievance was, and by the time I figured out this dude wasn't listening, I just was like, "fine..." Man, that was a bad idea, cause then he was like, "oh, what you want to talk now? What did you have to say, go on say it." Then I started to tear up, and it called unnecessary attention to me, and people were looking and I had to go out to the back dock to have the talk.

"Gettin em told..."

I told the dude, my issue wasn't even about the food, I was just pissed about being talked to any kind of way and harassed by people, who didn't even make the effort to train me, but expected me to know everything. And it wasn't like I was standing around with my thumb up my ass.. Most of the time when I was getting interrupted from what I was doing, I was doing other work. I had a cart out on the floor and was stocking things. Then one person would as me to do something and I'd be like sure, let me just finish this up, then I'd go to do that thing and they'd be like, "what are you doing? Why aren't you doing this other thing? or we need you to do such and such in addition to what you're already doing because so and so didn't show up, or oh somebody else did that, why don't you go do this, and why isn't this stocked, and who did you ask cause they told you wrong...." that's what really got under my skin I think.... being reprimanded because someone else told me the wrong information if they did that. And it isn't like I wasn't asking for the information, they just were so unclear as if I was supposed to have esp or something and just magically figure it out.

Anyway, I explained it to the guy and he explained it to the other people and they treated me like a leper for the rest of the shift. It was fabulous.... No but seriously, what the hell? I don't know how I'm going to make it through the rest of the semester. I hate to be that person but I HATE MY JOB... and if there wasn't a lot more at stake I'd have just gone home or something. It's just too much for me. That stuff is pretty demanding, and I couldn't handle it before, and I haven't gotten any more adept at handling it now. School is difficult enough without the distraction of getting sucked into workplace drama. I don't know how I'm going to handle it, but I'd totally be open to any suggestions at this time.

From a different perspective....

Ironically, I had this epiphany about 2 hours into my second shift why cafeteria workers always look so miserable or depressed all the time. I don't know. Maybe you know some nice and pleasant ones, you may even know me, I try to put off that vibe when I'm working, mostly because I'm grateful that anyone even acknowledges me when I'm donning the hairnet. But seriously, it got me thinking about people who cop the "reverse discrimination" plea at places like U of M and Georgia. Those people complain that they don't think that it's fair that minorities get preferrential treatment for need based scholarship and work study programs. The reality is that most of those people get dumped in the sh*t jobs that nobody else on campus wants to work. The usually have loans, have difficulty adjusting to the curriculum because the revenue generated by their schools or the administration didn't have the foresight to adequately prepare for the collegiate experience and consequently they have to work like umpteenth times harder just to keep caught up, and they get treated like crap. They slave under inhumane conditions, and they're forced to grin in bear it or forever be tarnished with a reputation for having an attitude problem and targeted to be followed around and harassed.

Is there support for people like this? I doubt there's like a student cafeteria workers' or janitors' union or something. No they get treated like crap by their supervisors and yelled at by chefs and ignored by their fellow classmates. I'd love to see those people who are so quick to criticize the current affirmative action do some of that kind of work for any amount of time. But they take that kind of stuff for granted, the fact that a lot of these people are probably able to tolerate this kind of nonsense because it's probably the kind of work they were forced to do back home and they're used to it. Hell, they've earned those scholarships. As for me, I did it, but I'm old enough to have sense enough to know what is acceptable for me or not. That's just a little to intense for me, and by a little I mean a lot. I had to go out and smoke just to calm my nerves so that I could stop bawling. Thank goodness my RA was able to understand where I was coming from. If you go to my other site you can probably get a better sense of what I've dealt with and why this is so hard for me. I'm going to have to develop some better coping mechanisms if I'm going to stick this out. otherwise I'm going to have to make some drastic executive decisions.

I only lasted as long as I did in the industry as long as I did because there was unlimited access to alcohol and cigarettes for me and here, not so much. This is like a whole new paradigm for me. I've gotten so accustomed to taking things slowly and focusing on specific areas one at a time that when I get "weeded" I sort of hit the wall in terms of knowing how to deal with that. I don't quite know what avenue I'm going to take. But I think that I may have to hit the gym or something before shifts just to build up the energy and tolerance to patiently get through my shift. I just hope they don't start treating me like I'm the special ed kid or something because of it.

Back to the present...

On the school front, I'm slowly but surely coming into my own. I had a few meetings within the past week and I learned that some of the things that I was counting upon, like doing my independent study and graduating on time are not going to happen the way I anticipated, but I'm just going to make the most of it and try to stick it out.... and develop some contingency plans. The most direct route will require an additional 6 years of school, but perhaps I can come up with something that is better suited to my needs. I don't know. We'll get it figured out. Or at least I can try. I may just do it and go for the dual degree, but I don't know how I'd be able to afford an additional 2 years of school, so if anyone has any ideas on how to accomplish that I'd be open to suggestions on that as well.

My classes are enjoyable, particularly the math and chinese [my most difficult subjects] at least for right now. Tech is a godsend. We watched a video on environmental intelligence and the impacts of sustainable design on industry and it was an affirmation for why i had chosen to do the things that i'd wanted to do. now i just need to fine tune my specifications for getting there and find more videos to watch along that area whenever i'm feeling overwhelmed or burnt out. the excitement of it makes me want to get out of bed in the morning. Yay! The people, are cool. They respect that I'm busy, and when I can make the time they enrich my experience, so I'm pleased with that. Even the instructors provide the attention that I need and they have some excellent resources to help me determine how to best accomadate my transition and educational needs. I couldn't tell you how the other stuff works though because I really haven't had the time to explore it.

It's just as well. I am on a very specific path, and these things are merely obstacles. I have made a committment not to settle for anything less than what is best for me. Perhaps if I remember that it will be the affirmation I will be able to use as my guide. So how do I determine that? Should I stick it out or seek something else? I suppose the best thing I can do is wait and see how things play out Thurday and then I'll be more equipped to decide.


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