Trying something new. What do you think?
One of the worst jobs I ever had was right after I graduated with my MFA in creative nonfiction. I’d applied as a Chiropractic Assistant (CA) at an office in Moscow, Idaho. The ad promised I’d be writing marketing material, transcribing Dr. X’s notes and working with clients. When I got an interview, I was stoked.
Red flags hit me in the face right after I walked in. All of us interviewees, ranging in age from 17 to 60 plus, were there at the same time: 3:30 p.m. Dr. X and her staff of five CAs introduced themselves. Dr. X, a pale woman in her 60s, had earned a master’s in literature but never found a professorship, so she went into chiropractic medicine. During the interview, Dr. X gave a presentation on light-touch therapy. She mumbled as though she had olives in her mouth.
The second hour of the interview involved writing and editing tests. The other participants were in the room, too, so the process was intimidating and strange. After our assessments, we each met alone with the five staff members. I answered a long list of questions about what kind of team player I would be. No one had told us the interview would last four hours, and I was starving. Needless to say, when I got the call that I was hired, I was stunned.
The 17-year old and the woman in her 20s were hired too. I felt bad for the older women, who I learned later never had a chance. Dr. X did not hire “heavy”, “ugly,” or “old” people. When I discovered I would be making $8.00 an hour with zero benefits, no lunch and a promise of no more than 20 hours per week, I cried. Ten years of education and I was making less than I did as a writing tutor. But my husband was a full-time student and we had two daughters to feed.
My job consisted of watching Dr. X perform light-tough therapy on clients, taking notes, and answering client questions because Dr. X ignored them. She made her money through ridiculously expensive vitamins and new client appointments, which included x-rays. Many clients did not come back, and some of the ones who did asked, “Why am I still in pain?”
I should say that I do believe in chiropractic medicine. As staff members, we received daily adjustments for free, which was a fabulous perk. And it wasn’t all bad: I got to fly to Chicago for a marketing conference, where I found out many business people, who were not chiropractors, owned chiropractic clinics and were getting rich. OK. That wasn’t good.
Dr. X fired the 17-year old because, “He wasn’t fast enough.” She shot me dirty looks every time I talked about something other than work. She also said I was too loud. I do have a deep voice that carries, and I like to laugh. That coupled with some of the stranger techniques I could not get behind, like putting colored sun glasses on clients and using tuning forks over their troubled areas, took their toll. And after several weeks of writing zero marketing materials and getting scowls from Dr. X, I became disenchanted. I still participated in our mandatory prayer circles every morning.
One evening, during a staff meeting (Dr. X did not attend), one of my coworkers said, “Does anyone else notice that Dr. X treats Cindy like crap?” Everyone nodded. And then George, a budding chiropractor who’d worked for Dr. X thirteen years said, “Oh yeah. She always finds a dog to kick around.” The next morning, I called Dr. X and said, “I quit.”
I had never left a job without notice, not even some of the arduous ones from my past, like McDonald’s, U.S. Bank, Subway, and Shari’s Restaurant. Dr. X insisted I come in and work that day, so I did–no sense in stiffing the staff members, whom I really liked. Dr. X ignored me the entire day. And at 5:30 p.m., the staff and I said our good-byes.
Within a week, I landed a job as an administrative assistant to the catering director at a hotel. I made $10.00 an hour with benefits and free lunches. It wasn’t a dream job, but it got me by and paid the bills. My boss there was a delight.
I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t wait to say buh-bye to 2015. It was another year of being single, working my butt off in production more so than writing, and selling the home I had lived in for almost a decade with my former husband and our kids. I spent some time free-lance writing and even submitted work to journals. In April I participated in the poem-a-day movement, and in November, I spent a wonderful weekend with two of my best friends at a writing workshop in Port Townsend. But as Christmas songs played in the dentist office, gas stations and department stores, my optimism fell like a snowflake.
New Year’s Eve was spent with my ten-year-old son Vinny and another best friend, my sister from another mister, Aimee. I’d had a daughter disappointment right before the New Year, which I’d rather not disclose, but believed that 2016 would be a better year! But not long after my holiday vacation ended, I had a personal disappointment. Normally I don’t let life get me down; but when it rains, it pours, and I have lost my umbrella.
Suffice it to say, a blog is a safe space to share. But part of me thinks no one wants to hear my problems. And others tell me that I am the only person who can control my life. I need to make changes. I need to read self-help books. I need to let things go. I need to be honest about my needs. Saying those things and doing them are as different as heat and cold.
And I don’t want to be negative. I want to offer life-affirming tips for dealing with everyday disappointments. But right now, all I have is advice from others. I write to understand my life, so I’ve been working on an “after the divorce” essay and several poems. I’ve been talking to every friend who will listen. I’m sure I’m a real treat.
Last week, after hearing of my so-called disappointments, I turned into a Peanuts character, walking along the street with my head down. While kicking a stone, the toe of my boot stuck to the sidewalk and I fell face-first on the concrete. I cracked the glass on the front of my iPhone and my ego. It was the perfect end to a perfect week.
On a bright note, I finished a book called What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage by Amy Sutherland. What a pleasure it was to read. Sutherland talks about positive reinforcement and rewarding behavior–stuff from psych 101, but with real life examples. She observed aspiring animal trainers that work with predators, ones that can tear arms off or kill people with a bite to the neck.
Basically I learned to ignore bad behavior, a daughter screaming in my face, or a client criticizing my brochure, and reward good behavior: Thank you for picking up your dirty socks, Daughter, and Thank you, Client, for your feedback. I’m writing this in its simplest form, but feel free to check it out yourself. I’m going to reread the book.
My plan moving ahead, and you know I have one, is to dress for success, support, not enable, my daughters, and build character in my son. I will breathe deeply before walking into a difficult situation, smile when I don’t feel like smiling, and write as much as possible. Let’s hope February is a better month.