Workplace epiphanies

So… I’m having coworker problems. That would be the easiest way to say it.

But what I’m actually having a problem with is the realisation that I have lived a very privileged life up until the end of my teens, having dealt only with the smartest and most intellectual peers. Also, and more importantly, I’m having a problem dealing with the consequences of not having the social skills required to deal with people who are, pardon my French, idiots. Big time idiots. And maybe most importantly, having to recognise that I may not be as empathetic as I once thought I was.

At this point in the blog, I go ahead and introduce something mostly relevant from my past, explain how it impacted me socially and mentally, and how vastly different it is with my life currently. I’ve done it multiple times, and you get the point, so here’s the short version: I was the kid who scored 75 – 80% in her tests, and hung out with the kids who scored 95 – 100% in their tests. To make a short story shorter, I hung out with people much smarter than me.

But pursuing my passion of working with animals and being a vet took me to vet school where, funnily enough, I didn’t meet a lot of intellectuals. I met people across the board, as you do in life outside school (or life in general), and found it difficult to connect people because I spent the last 18 years experiencing a level of intellectual high ground I was no longer enjoying with my then company at the time. I spent a significant time dumbing down myself in order to fit in which, as I learnt after graduation, was a total failure since most people included me in their group because I happened to be there, not because I connected with them on any level.

Wow, this took a fun turn.

Having said that, however, I realised that I wasn’t doing any favours to anyone by dumbing myself down. It took me a lot longer, though, to realise that I wasn’t going to find the kind of mental and intellectual stimulation and satisfaction with my peers, and while hanging out with them was fun once in a while, I had to enjoy doing the activities that I previously did with others, by myself, since most of the people I enjoyed these activities with are no longer in the same country as me.

And while I didn’t have to face the consequences of this self-imposed isolation while I lived at home, the silence of isolation while living alone has been deafening. I did tell myself, at one point, that I wouldn’t depend on others to have a good time, but I find myself craving company increasingly as time passes. And my most frequent companion happens to be my coworker.

Let’s call my coworker A, and let’s give them a neutral gender.

A is… Not the brightest bulb in the box, or in the factory, for that matter. Thankfully, they are aware than they don’t shine all that brightly, and don’t pretend to be anything they’re not. Staying with the bulb analogy, A doesn’t have the quickest reaction time to stimulus and, as I realised recently, has a fuse that melts easily.

And this is where I step into asshole territory.

Let me tell you why I’m an asshole. I’m an asshole because I’m unable to empathise with A’s inability to handle pressure, and their reaction to increase in said pressure. I’m also an asshole because I personally feel that their workload isn’t half as heavy as mine, and I don’t know how to sympathise, let alone empathise, with A as they rant about how everyone is bearing down on them.

As it isn’t in my practice to kick people while they’re down, I try to sympathise. I listen to A, and I try to find points in their statements that I agree with, while simultaneously swallowing the urge to point out the inconsistencies in their complaints. I try very hard to be sensitive – something I’ve tried to not be for the past two years – to A’s grievances, but all I hear is whining. Non-stop, incessant whining that I can’t really get behind and support.

As someone who is aware of my own tendency to complain and whine significantly when things don’t happen the way I think they should, I’ve also become aware of the truth of life that a lot of things don’t happen the way they should, and I have to either work to change it, or I’ve to be okay with that. So, while I don’t have a problem with A complaining or whining, I do have a problem with one thing – and that’s sitting on your behind and not doing anything about it.

A’s inability to handle pressure isn’t a sin or a crime or even something bothersome – we’ve all been there, one time or another. What really gets my goat (a phrase that made my partner laugh) is A’s inability to better their situation, to want to learn from situations, in order to make life easier for themselves in the long run. And watching A react to the same situation with the same energy as a hamster on an exercise wheel, every single time, is… Frustrating. And hilariously confusing, in the same vein as watching a person furiously search for their glasses while it’s perched on their head.

And why I can’t sympathise with A, as I mentioned earlier, is because, subjectively, A doesn’t have it as hard as they think they do, or at least, as hard as I think they think they do. And given that A’s the only coworker of my station – with everyone else we work with occupying senior positions – my only point of reference is myself.

Why I can’t sympathise with A is because so much gets done without their knowledge or help. All work slightly complicated or requiring a little more than the baseline level of knowledge, A leaves to me. Anything that requires more work than usual, or repetition, A doesn’t touch. And, as these things go, the longer I associate with A, the more I realise that doing the the work myself saves way more time and energy than having to explain to A how to do it, and then have to clean up as they invariably mess it up somehow.

Hoping you pardon my French, but as I find A’s problems to be the mole hills they truly are, I find myself to be the unsympathetic bitch that I truly am, finding myself running out of fucks to give for a situation that truly doesn’t need any. But even as I write this, realisation dawns on me as to why I’m lying through my teeth, and to A’s face, when I say I understand what they’re going through.

I’m putting myself in A’s situation and seeing it for what I think it is, and not seeing A’s situation through their perspective. I’m not thinking along the lines of a person who, until three months ago, lived a life of minimal tension and little drama. I’m not looking at life the way a person with little exposure and lesser experience would. Sitting on my proverbial high horse built from insane experiences, high pressure situations and intense drama, I’ve failed to understand how scary the life A and I currently lead must be to someone who has never stepped out of their extremely narrow, extremely pleasant comfort zone.

Maybe I’m not as unsympathetic or as apathetic as I thought. What I am is impatient, and I have forgotten that, at some point long ago, I, too, stood where A stands now. And while what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, seeing how A reacts to what the future holds is going to be… Interesting, to say the least.

For all my griping, I do like A in my own way. They’re a good person, not malicious and with a good heart. They try to be good to the people around them, and help others out in their own way. How much of that they’re able to hold on to, and how much of that they’ll come to change in the future is something I’ll get to see, at least for some time.

This rant aside, I’m genuinely rooting for A. And some day, I hope that A learns to fix back her fuse, and shine a bit brighter than they did before.

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