I Bit My Lip So Hard It Bled

August 31, 2019

An employee is crying
Will Hollo

I Bit My Lip So Hard It Bled

I thought I had an ambitious idea, one that I was sure would make my boss appreciate my initiative: to approach our firm’s lapsed clients and discover if I could bring them back to work with us. I was shocked when he said no – almost without thinking – and even more so when he added that it was because he didn’t want me to embarrass myself or the company. It was insulting to me.

I felt the tears welling up behind my eyelids, but I refused to be seen crying. I bit my lip and didn’t let out another word. When the meeting came to a close, I rushed to the bathroom and the waterworks began. I was the only female stockbroker on the floor, and crying in front of my colleagues would have validated the stereotypes that were surely held in this male-dominated field. My lip was bleeding.

My boss never explicitly gave me permission to approach our lapsed clients. But after some time and with consistent determination, I won the backing of an executive, my boss’s senior, and went ahead with my plan. Just as I had suspected, the idea worked brilliantly. Through the work that we went on to do with the regained clients, I became the top salesperson in the department.

When I left to start my own business, my boss refused to shake my hand, which was fine with me. I knew he was watching as millions of dollars in sales walked out the front door.

“Why would you want to quit? You have a dream job!”

I graduated college and told myself I needed a real job, the 9 to 5 I had always heard about. My college experience had been great, but the truth was that I had coasted through it. When I graduated, I had a resonant feeling that I had done no real work at all. That feeling didn’t sit well with me. I reached out to a friend from college who had graduated a few years earlier. He was working for an environmental compliance firm based in the mountains and told myself it was my dream work. If I could just get the job…

Sure enough there was an entry-level opening, and after a few short video interviews, I was offered a full-time position. I couldn’t believe my good luck. I moved to the town the firm was located in, settled in and got right to work. Through the interviews and first few months on the job, I felt the work was meaningful and fulfilling. We conducted environmental analysis for large development projects occurring on federal lands and disclosed the anticipated impacts to the public, so they could weigh in on potential development occurring on their lands. I felt I was doing the work I was meant to do.

Over time, though, everything changed. The day-to-day began to feel repetitive and monotonous. I grew tired of the small town I was living in. More than anything else, I realized that the work itself was bureaucratic and nothing more than a means to the end of development for massive corporations that would get their projects approved one way or the other.

I would sit in the office working, listening to podcasts about why you should quit your job. I would call friends and family during my lunch break to complain about work, then walk back to the office and sit down at my desk; five more hours. The irony was palpable. More than a few times I found myself crying in the bathroom. It felt like I was living a lie.

After almost two years on the job, I was done. During one quiet day in my cubicle, I walked into my boss’s office and put in my two-week’s notice. I remember driving home from work that day, blasting Bob Dylan’s “The Man In Me” in the car and singing along: “Oh, what a wonderful feeling!

One of the factors contributing to my waiting so long to finally quit was what everyone else would think. I knew that to the outside world, the job looked simply perfect. When I would complain about it to close friends, often my thoughts would be met with incredulity. They would tell me that they’d do the job if I didn’t want to. None of that helped. It simply made me more concerned with external input and less focused on my own life, my own experience.

At some point I realized it didn’t matter how great the job seemed if it felt wrong to me. That’s when I quit, and I haven’t looked back since.

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