The Problem of Pain – at Work

This is harder for me than I thought it would be.

Nearly half a year has gone by, yet if I were to be honest with myself, not a day has passed that I haven’t looked back on that episode of my career with spirit-crushing defeat and despair.

Why else am I still recalling unpleasant work scenarios that wake me up at wee hours of many a morning these past months with a tight feeling in my chest? Why else do I look despondently out of my window at the full, beautiful, but oh-so lonely moon in the dark twilight sky, wondering the very question that has plagued humankind immemorial – “What if…?”

Maybe the moon understands the loneliness I feel. Maybe it knows the pain that episode has brought to me, and how I’ve yet to get over the humiliation. What I told T, my then supervisor, when I tendered my resignation, is still very very true now for me: I desperately wanted it to work! I really wanted the choice to work there to take-off, but when the reality struck and I saw no other way out, I was unable to deal with the bitter disappointment of conceding defeat.

Perhaps the prospect now of returning to work (I resumed part-time work-skills teaching this week) has resurrected these feelings I’ve tried to bury. By resuming these teaching positions as a way of making ends meet, I’ve returned to that place which I thought I was over and done with. A place that I had thought was “too small a pond” for someone of my ‘immense talent and abilities’. To be brought bone-crushingly back to earth, back to this place again, makes it abundantly clear to me how foolish I am to have thought so highly of myself all that time!

I never thought that I had held so strongly to these views of myself. But I finally realise now that I’ve not suitably dealt with this pain, this loss. I who prided myself for being above career, have been secretly harbouring and agonizing my loss and defeat at losing it. Yes I can put it down to a simple case of job misfit, but the truth is rarely ‘simple’ now is it? I was called out for my incompetence; my seemingly-unending series of missteps; my lack of writing ability! That last one was in fact one of my first and deepest humiliations, considering especially that I used to teach class upon class of students how to write!

What a joke!

I feel like I need to go back and apologise to my (most likely bemused and bewildered) students and colleagues, thinking I could ditch them and successfully make the transition that I did into the private sector last year, at the ripe old age of 48. Gosh, how stupid I am to think that?! How far more stupid that I still do think that, even now! Even after the clear and present and very final defeat I had ‘suffered’.

Desperately I seek someone to blame. I could easily say that my bosses weren’t helpful, or that they didn’t give me second chances, or that the work was just so dry and boring. But I can’t, because none of that is true.

So in the end, I only have myself to blame. And so it’s to me that I turn to now and ask the all-important question: “Why is this keeping me up at nights, even now some 5-6 months down the road?”

Is it because I’ve long since held on tightly to the age-old conventional idea of tying my self-worth to my job title/position/status and accomplishments? Is it because I’ve had issues of self-esteem and peer envy that were never resolved? Has becoming a full-time stay-home dad brought me to a new low?

Sighhhh…it’s so crushing, this feeling of total and unmistakable defeat. And oh how it keeps plaguing me, like the proverbial Paul-line thorn in the flesh that refuses to be removed. And so I live with this defeat everyday of my life, always having it on stand-by as it were, ready to call me out for my failure at the slightest invitation, cos it’s just bubbling beneath the surface.

I’ve no doubt God left me this thorn for the same reason he left one for the great Apostle Paul: to discover that we need God everyday to sustain and lift us up by Him and Him alone, not by our own merits.

Whatever it is, I just hope to sleep better at nights.

And soon.

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