The church is near but the road is all ice;
the tavern is far but I’ll walk very carefully.
Years ago, I was working for a minimal salary. My net pay barely covered the expenses of professional clothing, commuting, food and rent. I worked very hard the first year, trying to be the perfect employee, working quickly, seeking extra work, hoping I would earn a big raise. I slid sideways into debt when my car was totaled in an accident and my cat needed expensive medicine.
When I got my review, it was lukewarm, with no acknowledgement of my efforts and a minimal raise, not even keeping pace with inflation. I had a meeting with my boss, and I asked him if he was unhappy with my work. He said no.
“Did I forget any tasks you gave me or do them wrong? Was I too slow?”
Again, “No and no.”
“Then why are you giving me such a small raise?”
“Do you think you deserve the same raise as Monica who has been here nearly twenty years?”
“Are you saying I won’t get a good raise unless I work here twenty years?”
“You have to understand that we all have wives and children to support, and they come first. Why would I give you money that I could give to my wife and kids?”
I didn’t have any answer for that, and I got depressed. I had always believed that hard work was rewarded. I worked quickly, efficiently, but when I finished my work, I no longer sought extra. I started doing my own writing in the office, which angered him and eventually he fired me. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I realize now that I chose to stay despite my unhappiness. Instead of leaving, I acted less than professionally and ended up deeply unhappy with him, but more importantly, with myself.
When I was fired, at first my self-esteem sank even lower, but financial desperation pushed me into following up every lead for new job. I found a great job where I relearned to value myself. I felt freer than I had in years. I changed careers and cities, which were great decisions. Being fired was a pivot point for me, and I learned something invaluable.
If I make bad choices, I only hurt myself, and I must make better choices. It sounds so simple, and maybe it is to some people. For me, it’s a daily effort. Some days I fail. Other days, it feels like climbing Mount Everest. But I am worth that effort.
dark clouds blow in fast
ice wolves wail and circle
curl up warm inside
These days, I don’t have every answer, and I’m not perfect. That is no longer even my goal. Each day I try to make good decisions. I try to respect myself, to find ways of seeking joy, and, as a result, I occasionally even find it.
green shoots reach skyward
gray ice mountains collapse
heart and soul quicken
Copyright 2014 Brenda Davis Harsham
Brenda Davis Harsham is an author, photographer and artist, currently publishing fairy tales, photography and poems celebrating magic and nature for kids of all ages. She teaches writing and is a member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.