October 20, 2011

I finished orientation yesterday. Jim’s out sick, so I’ll probably have a couple days now where I can fly under the radar. If he would just stop SNARKING at me, I feel like I could handle all this. I get it, I get it, life’s trying to toughen me up. But — hang in there! Stay upbeat, and you can take anything! …heh. Me, upbeat. LOL. eugh, if I were just a bit more optimistic, I could be the happiest person on earth. I mean, what is this? These other people with their scraps of skill and talent go swaggering around all self-assured and confident, and I’M sitting around doubting my abilities, my gifts?? Dear Lord, when you gave me everything, why didn’t you keep half and leave me a little self-confidence and contentment?!!

It’s cool! It’s cool! it’s going to be okay. Because, I have to say, Will, you were right. Already, getting out and being around people, seeing what they do and how they live, I’m feeling a lot better about myself. It’s so true — the way people are, we’re always comparing ourselves with everything, so whether you feel good or bad depends on what you surround yourself with, and that’s where isolation gets really dangerous. Because your imagination automatically starts filling in the details, especially if Facebook is feeding you these ideas about how everyone else is doing, and you build up this whole image of humanity where you’re at the very bottom, and everyone else looks like they’re way more amazing and they’re doing way better. And that’s totally natural. We all spend a lot of time feeling like we’re missing something, and it’s easy to feel like someone else has exactly what we don’t, and then we project onto them all the things we actually do have, plus this idealized sense of contentment. So we end up with this perfect, happy person who’s a total figment of our imagination :-/

On the other hand, though, if you try to work with your weakness and your inertia and just keep trying to move forward, you’ll find a lot of the time that you can get farther tacking back and forth than other people can sailing straight into the wind — and…that’s a really validating feeling, when you catch up with someone or even pull ahead.

November 26, 2011

I’m actually starting to feel pretty okay here. The best part is, I always have something to do; and there’s so many people and just so MUCH here, it’s like watching a kaleidoscope :) I’ve been getting to know the Chief Innovation Officer, G____ — I have to say, I look up to this guy more every day, he’s got such a wide-ranging intellect, but he doesn’t act superior about it at all, his whole way of being just glows with this tremendous aliveness to caring and friendship. He’s kind of taken me under his wing ever since the first time I presented a report to him — apparently, as soon as I started talking, he could tell we were on the same wavelength, that he could talk to me in a way he can’t with everyone (!) And I can’t get over how open he’s been with me. There’s nothing in the world that warms your heart like when a really amazing person opens up to you <3

December 24, 2011

Jim is driving. me. CRAZY. I called it! He must be the most stupidly OCD person I’ve ever met. He lives his whole life like a checklist, fussing around like an old lady—the kind of person who’s never happy with himself, so good luck ever getting him to say you’ve done a good job. The way I work, I just kind of toss things off, and how it comes out is how it comes out; but he sends me literally every report back with like a hundred tracked changes, all “Not bad, but why don’t you give it another pass.” “Maybe you can find a better word here.” “I think you can tighten this bit up a little.” It makes me want to scream. Every semicolon, every dash has to be used exactly technically correctly; and any archaic phrases that strike my fancy inspire in him deathly enmity—if you don’t plunk out your clauses according to the established tune, he thinks it’s gibberish. It’s MURDER, working with someone like that.

The only thing keeping me in one piece is being so close to the Chief Innovation Officer, G____. He told me outright the other day how frustrated he was with how slow and anal Jim is. People are complaining about it all over the office, to him and to the rest of management — but G____ says you’ve got to learn to accept these things. He’s so funny…at the office holiday party last week, he gave me a motivational poster with a picture of a mountain and the text “Get over it!”. I guess that’s all you can do :P

Meanwhile, Ol’ Jimmy can totally tell the CIO likes me more than him, and that bugs him, and he takes every chance he gets to badmouth the CIO to me. I stick up for him, of course, and so everything just gets even worse. Yesterday Jim really set me off because he started bringing me into it: he said the CIO was a solid thinker, a hard worker, and a good writer, but he was totally useless when it came to basic street smarts, just like all those ‘arty-farty’ types. And then he gave me this look, like, you feel that BURN? But it bounced right off me, and I just thought: okay, if that’s how you’re going to think and talk, I now have zero respect for you. I stood up to him, and fought back pretty hard. I said the CIO was someone you had to respect, for his character AND his brilliance. I said I’d never known anyone who was so excited about learning new things and expanding the scope of his knowledge & thought who could still be so practical and get things done in everyday life. — This was all Greek to Mr. Genius here, and I just walked out to save myself the aneurism in case he said something even stupider.

And this is all YOUR FAULT, all of you who talked me into this ball and chain, and sang me such pretty songs about “productivity.” Productivity! A farmer gets more done than I do just by planting his potatoes, driving into town, and selling his produce. Prove me wrong and I’ll happily row myself to pieces for another ten years chained to this accursèd galley.

And the glitzy misery, the boredom oozing from these horrible people all around me! This status-mania they all have! It’s like all they do is scope each other out and do everything they can to get one tiny step ahead of each other. Talk about nasty, vile, and brutish—this is humanity without the fig leaf. There’s this woman here, for instance, who brags to anyone who’ll listen about her raise and how huge her apartment is, to the point where anyone who didn’t know her would think, wow, this person must be incredibly shallow, to be so obsessed by how well off she is; — but it’s even worse than that, because the girl was an INTERN until three months ago, she’s still commuting in from J____y… I mean, come on. I know about “fake it ’til you make it”, but this is just gross.

So… yeah, William dear, every day it gets more and more obvious to me how stupid it is to judge yourself by comparing yourself to others. And since I’ve got so much to deal with just in myself and this storm-tossed heart o’ mine… buh, I’d be happy to let everyone else walk their own path, if they’d let me walk mine in peace.

What really gets to me is this horrible class-consciousness everywhere. I mean, yes, I understand there’s always going to be privilege, and goodness knows how much I benefit from it myself, but—I just wish it wouldn’t get in my way in the exact places I might actually be able to find a little joy, a little shimmer of happiness in this world. The other day, when I was walking in C____ Park, I bumped into this girl B____ I recognized from work, a suuuper charming person, already pretty far up the company ladder, who’s somehow managed to stay alive and real in this rigid, artificial place. We got chatting and really hit it off, and when we split up I asked her for her number. She gave it to me super excitedly, and we starting texting like crazy, and she invited me over to her place—I was SO excited looking forward to meeting up with her! She’s not from the city originally, and she’s staying with her aunt. So… the aunt’s there when I come over, and right off the bat, this lady’s whole vibe rubs me the wrong way. I tried to be very polite to her, and asked her a lot of questions, and in less than half an hour I’d pretty much got the picture (and B____ confirmed this all later): Dear Aged Auntie has nothing going for her, she’s got no real money to speak of, no personality, and nothing to lean on except her Mayflower-status, nothing to cover her but this aristocratic veneer she plasters over herself, and no pleasure in life other than looking down from her rent-controlled apartment over the yuppie heads going by. Apparently she was pretty when she was young and butterflied her life away breaking young men’s hearts; later she settled down with a retired general, which involved a lot of obedient cowering and housekeeping until he finally died; and now, in her — I don’t know about golden years, maybe, like, corrugated cast-iron years, she’s all alone, and no one would ever come over if her niece weren’t so darn cute.

January 8, 2012

These PEOPLE! It’s like this corporate hierarchy has consumed their entire identity… the scheming, and the maneuvering about who’s going to have what position, and oh, who’s looking for “power”—it just never ends! And it’s not like there’s nothing else to do; no, actually, everything’s always running behind here, because people waste so much time over this drama that actually important things are always getting held up. Sigh… even the company ski trip a few weeks ago was all, “who’s going to sit next to the CEO on the ski lift?!?”… it was horrible.

And these morons don’t even understand that, really, it’s not about position at all! People at the top are almost never in charge! CEOs get ‘managed’ by their VPs, VPs get ‘managed’ by their assistants… and then who’s really running things? I feel like if you know how to read people and you can steer them consciously or unconsciously towards carrying out your vision, heck, you’re the boss.

January 20 (Werther to Lotte)

Dear Lotte —

I feel like I have to write you right now, from my tiny room in this motel upstate where I’ve pulled off the highway to get out of a blizzard. The whole time I’ve been in that madhouse N___ Y___, running around everywhere with all these people I barely know who are so deeply not my people, I haven’t had a single moment, not one, when my heart called to me to write you; but now, in this little room in the middle of nowhere, alone, with snow and sleet raging against my tiny window, here, you were the first thing I thought of. I walked in and images and memories flooded over me of you, oh, Lotte—so sacred, so warm! oh God… it took me right back to that first night again.

If you could see me now, dear heart, in this vortex of distraction! My soul is shriveling up… not one moment of fullness of heart, not one second of sacredness! nothing! nothing! It’s like I’m watching a screen, seeing people and cars flicker by, feeling like I’m in some kind of video game… And I play along—or actually, I get played, like a character in a game, and sometimes I take my neighbor by his digital hand and give it a shake… At night I promise myself to get up early and enjoy the sunrise, and I never make it out of bed; at work I dream about catching some moon-rays, and then I just stay inside. I don’t really know why I’m getting up or going to bed at all.

The spark that used to fire up my life is missing; the zest that kept me smiling in the dark of night is lost—that thing that got me out of bed in the morning… it’s gone.

I have met one person here, this young woman B____—she’s a lot like you, Lotte dear, I mean—as much as anyone could be. “Eww,” you’re probably thinking, “he’s being so cheesy!” And… you’re not wrong. I’ve gotten so smarmy lately, you can’t help it here, I’m all “smooth” now, and guys have started calling me a player (= which translates into English as “a liar”, by the way, since that’s what “game” is all about—you know?)… anyway. I was trying to tell you about B_____. She has so much soul—you can see it shining out of her blue eyes. She’s sick of her “successful” life that doesn’t nourish her heart at all. She wants so badly to get out of the rat race, and we spend hours together fantasizing about selling everything and going backpacking or taking a road trip… mmm! and visiting you! She’s always saying how wonderful you sound—really, this isn’t me, this is her talking!—she loves hearing about you… you’re very dear to her already.

…I wish I were still there with you, sitting at your feet in your living room, with all our dear little’uns crawling all over me… and if they ever got too loud for you, I’d draw them all around me and quiet them down with one of my spooky fairytales o.O …

The sunset is glittering on the snow-covered hills, the storm has died down, and I—I have to go lock myself up in my cage again. — Be well! How are things with Albert? Are you guys still—ahhhhh, I’m so sorry, that wasn’t okay, I’m sorry!

February 8

We’ve been having the most miserable weather for the last eight days and it’s been so soothing. Because ever since I’ve been here, I haven’t had a single beautiful day that someone hasn’t ended up ruining or spoiling. But now, when it’s rainy and slushy and freezing and wet: ha! I figure, it can’t be any worse indoors than it is outside (or vice-versa)—and that, I can handle. If it’s sunny in the morning and it looks like a nice day, I can never help yelling, “One more heavenly blessing for them to cheat each other out of!” They cheat each other out of everything… health, reputation, happiness, peace of mind! And mostly just from sheer stupidity, lack of understanding, and narrow-mindedness—and, according to them, all with the best of intentions. Sometimes I want to get on my knees and beg them, please, look what you’re doing to yourselves…

February 17

I don’t think Jim and I can keep this up much longer. That guy is totally, 100% UNBEARABLE. His way of working and getting things done is so absurd that I can’t help talking back to him, and a lot of the time I just go ahead and do things my way, which means of course as always they don’t meet his “standards”. He actually went and complained about me to management recently, and I got a, granted, very mild warning from the head of HR, but it was still a warning, and I was seriously thinking about giving my two weeks’ notice, when I suddenly got another letter from her in my personal email that was so generous and noble and wise I actually got down on my knees and prayed to the computer :P She called me out for being way too sensitive, she acknowledged all my overblown ideas about responsibility and setting a good example and quality work, and even celebrated them as ‘youthful passion’—not trying to stamp them out, just trying to moderate them and direct them in a way that they could actually see some play and have a real effect. And since then, this past week, I’ve felt so much more grounded and in tune with myself. It’s an amazing thing, peace in your soul, and joy in your Self. Priceless as a Ming vase, Will…and, sadly, just as fragile :-/

February 20 (Werther to Albert)

Wow—congratulations to both of you! God grant you all the happy days he takes away from me!

You know, Albert, I’m actually glad you went behind my back. I kept waiting to hear when the wedding was going to be, and I had this whole ritual planned out of taking Lotte’s silhouette down from my wall that day and burying it at the bottom of a drawer. But now you’re married, and the picture’s still up! And you know what? It’s staying up! ‘Cause why not? I mean, we’re all still so close, I know it’s not like Lotte’s relationship with you diminishes what she and I have, I’m still #2 in her heart and I want to & HAVE to stay there. Gah, I would go crazy if she ever forgot—Albert, that thought goes to a very dark place. Be well, Albert! Be well, Angel of Heaven! Be well, Lotte!

March 15

I have been SO HUMILIATED I can’t stay here. I can’t. I could punch someone! FUCK! there’s no way to make this right, and this is all YOUR fault, all of you who nagged me and prodded me and pushed me into a job that wasn’t ME. Well, here I am! There you go! And before you say I’m twisting things again with my “tendency to exaggerate”, Dear Friend, here’s the story, plain and simple. Just the FACTS.

The CIO, G____, loves me, he’s taken me under his wing, we got that, I’ve told you a billion times. So, yesterday evening, he and I were hanging out at the office, on what happened to be the night of this reception for investors/board members etc., which I’d barely even registered was happening, and which it had never occurred to me we underlings weren’t welcome at. Cool. The CIO and I get takeout, and after we’re done eating we go walking up and down the event hall, we’re talking, after a while the VP of sales shows up and joins the conversation, and eventually the start time for the reception rolls around. And I swear I’m still totally oblivious. Then in comes Mrs. S____, the ultimate 1%-er, with her banker husband, and her doofus daughter all “boho”d up, and as they walk past me they stick their high-class eyes and noses in the air, and since that whole species rubs me wrong way, I wanted to peace right then and was just waiting until the CIO could extricate himself from their moronic small talk, when my friend, that girl B____, came in. Since my heart always lifts a little when I see her, I figured, heck, I’ll stay, I went and hung around behind her chair, and I noticed after a while that she was being a lot less open than usual and kind of awkward towards me. That struck me. IS she just like the others, after all? I wondered, and that hurt, and made me want to leave, but I stayed, because I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, and I couldn’t believe it, and I kept hoping a switch would flip and she’d be nice again, and — whatever. Meanwhile, the crowd was filling in. Deputy Mayor F_____, in the same horrendous suit he’s been wearing since 1970, our event planner, R__ — excuse me, Chief Happiness Engineer, R__ — with his deaf wife, etc., and let’s not forget J___, the walking fashion crime, thinking his Kanye glasses will make up for his 80’s shoulderpads, they’re all piling in, and I’m talking with a few of the people I know from the company, who are all veeery short with me. I thought…okay, and just focused on B____. I didn’t notice that the women at the end of the room were whispering to each other, that it was filtering through the men, that Mrs. S____ was talking to the CIO (this is all stuff B____ told me later), until finally the CIO came over to me and walked me over to a window. “You know our friendship is a bit of an unusual thing,” he said, “and I’m getting the feeling this crowd is a little uncomfortable with your being here —” “Oh my god,” I jumped in, “I’m so sorry! I totally should have picked up on that earlier, I hope you won’t hold it against me; I was actually about to head out ages ago, but I was — part of me was just being dumb,” I added, smiling. We shook hands, and he squeezed mine with a warmth that said it all. I jetted out of there, hailed a cab, and drove out to the E___ R_____ pier, where I watched the sun set over the water while I read that great bit from Homer about how graciously the dear old swineherd welcomes Odysseus into his house. And then it was all good.

That evening, I walked back into midtown and got a drink at a bar a lot of us go to after work; it was pretty empty, just a couple people in a corner playing games on their phones. Then Aiden came in, this really nice guy from work, pulled off his beanie when he saw me, came over, and said to me quietly, “Are you okay?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” I said.
“The CIO threw you out of the reception.”
“Are you fucking kidding?” I said. “I was glad to leave, I couldn’t breathe in there.”
“Okay,” he said, “well, I’m glad you’re taking it well. I’m just bummed that’s the story everyone’s telling already.”

That’s when it started eating away at me. Every person from work who came in and stared at me, I kept thinking, you know why they’re looking at you? THAT’s why. I was…not in a good place.

And the way everyone keeps texting me now to say how SORRY for me they are, and everyone feels the need to tell me how my haters are all patting themselves on the back saying, “Finally, someone put that little kiss-ass back in his place, thinking he was so special, like the rules didn’t apply to him,” and all this other bullshit — it makes me want to stick a knife through my heart; because sure, whatever, “inner peace”, but I want to see the guy who can be zen when people are putting him down and they actually have the edge on him…when it’s just talk, then fuck it, let ‘em talk.

March 16

And it just keeps going. Today at work I bumped into B___ in a hallway, I couldn’t keep it in, I had to talk to her, and as soon we found an empty meeting room I told her how hurt I was she was acting so distant all of a sudden. “Oh, Werther,” she said, so heartfelt, “how can you think that’s what this is, I just didn’t know what to do, but I mean, you know me! It’s been killing me, ever since I walked in and saw you there. I saw the whole thing coming, I was this close like a thousand times to telling you. I knew S__ and T___ would rather quit the board than stay in a room with you; I knew the CIO couldn’t afford to burn bridges with them — and now all this drama!” “Wh— what do you mean?” I said, fighting down the panic rising inside me; because everything Aiden had told me the day before went shooting through my veins like boiling water. “I’ve been through so much already…”, she said, starting to cry. I almost totally lost control, I practically collapsed in front of her. “Please, what are you talking about?!” I screamed. The tears started running down her cheeks. I was freaking out. She wiped them away, not even trying to hide them. “You met my aunt…she was there, she’s on the board, and…oh my god, when she saw all that…Werther, last night I got a whole lecture on my relationship with you, and again this morning, and I just had to sit there and listen to you being put down and insulted and I… not even being able to stand up for you…”

Every word she said was like a bullet through my heart. She couldn’t see how much kinder it would have been to keep that all from me… and then she went on about all the other gossip flying around and everyone lapping it up: how people are saying this is karma for my being so stuck up and looking down on everyone, and passing around this Condescending Werther meme… God, Will, hearing all this from her, all in this saaaad sympathetic tone — it broke me, and I’m still raging inside. I wish one of them had the balls to tell it to my face so I could put a knife in him; seeing some blood would help a lot right now. Eugh, the number of times I’ve grabbed a knife, to give this heart a little breathing room… I read an article about this special breed of horses, that when they’re badly overheating and they’re being ridden too hard, instinctually bite open a vein to let in more oxygen. That’s how I feel a lot, like if I just opened a vein I could be free forever…