He helped me pack up my office that afternoon, my last, at The Research Company.
“You know it’s not you, Connie,” he said and placed the last of my belongings in my trunk. “Just be glad you’re getting out of here.” He was the only co-worker I could trust.
Later, I wondered if I really did know it wasn’t my fault. How could I land in a place, after twenty-three years as a professional nurse and things go so terribly wrong? I was totally unprepared for dealing with that toxic work environment. I’d never been in that situation.
The half-mile road through my neighborhood became my track of travail as I walked back and forth, attempting to process my emotions, thinking through the issues, reviewing the complaints they had against me. It was hard to let go of my anger and to understand how God could allow me to go through cancer and that job at the same time.
After a couple of months of job interviews, I decided to return to working as a school nurse.
While I thought that I’d left the negative impact of The Research Company behind, soon into my new job, I found I wasn’t as far along as I’d thought.
The Assistant Principal came to my door.
“Connie, could you come to my office?” she asked. “I need to talk with you.”
I felt my heart race and was lightheaded with anxiety. What did I do wrong, I thought and felt like I’d been called to that final meeting at The Research Company.
“You know the boy you saw this morning, the one in the fight?” she asked.
My mind raced through the students, trying to focus in spite of my panicky feelings. Finally, I recalled the 7th grader she was referring to.
“Yes, I remember.”
“What’s your take on what happened with him and the other boy?” she asked. “I have to call his mother.”
She just wants my opinion, I thought and felt so relieved.
That incident made me realize I’d been on edge, especially when I sensed my competence was being challenged. It was more than my temperament of being sensitive, it was like my self-confidence was damaged. I’d seen students who’d been abused and were always in a defensive posture, watching for potential danger. While I tried to understand what it was like for them, I’d never been in that situation.
Now I saw, that even as a grown woman, with a great work history, advanced degree, supportive family and friends, the two years I’d stayed in that toxic work environment had torn me down. How insidious those undermining comments, favoritism, disrespect that were the daily norm at The Research Company. While it wasn’t like the physical abuse of a student, it resembled that less-easy-to-identify emotional abuse that had just as harmful an effect.
When I wrote the first draft of my memoir, Saved by Sedona, I’d shared quite candidly about my struggle with breast cancer. But there were only veiled references to my work at The Research Company. I’d buried my shame of losing that job so deeply that it took years of healing before I could acknowledge it. Now, I had to go back and tell the whole truth.
I’ve rewritten Saved by Sedona. When I recently attended the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers’ Conference, we had to dress as the main character of our book. For the first time, I publicly acknowledged that toxic job and cancer, dressing in my solo journey hiking attire and wearing a backpack with a toxic waste sticker of The Research Company and a Breast Cancer Ribbon.
I proudly stood on stage in that huge auditorium and spoke into the microphone.
“My memoir is my story of leaving behind a toxic job and breast cancer and journeying toward a new life of solo journeys.”
Thankfully, after what I’d gone through at The Research Company, my return to the school system had landed me in a healthy work environment. I would never take that for granted again.
How about you?
Have you ever buried a truth that was too difficult to face?
Were there ways that you continued to be impacted?
How could you tenderly work through this issue and fold it into a whole view of yourself?