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A tale of work, frenemies, bad decisions and good outcomes

I’ve wanted to write about this for a while, but I wasn’t sure how to approach it. I’ve been concerned with the ramifications that could occur from writing about my career. Not so much my new one but more my old one. I was concerned with burning bridges, but I’m pretty sure that’s not an issue. And until recently, there wasn’t really a proper ending to this. I’m still not sure if I’ll ever hit “Publish” but getting writing the words might be what I need.

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A little over a year ago I did an about-face and switched careers. I was a magazine editor for 16 years. I started at the bottom and worked my way up to a fairly senior-level position. I worked my ass off and thought I was good at what I did. I loved everything about publishing. I got so much satisfaction out of it. I loved being involved in planning issues from conception to printing. I felt lucky that I actually liked what I did and couldn’t believe I got paid to do it. (Cue the little birds chirping and Snow White singing “Whistle While Your Work.”) Although I knew the rhythms and the cycles of the job every issue was a new challenge. But I reached a point at which I felt I needed a change. Some of the reasons were legitimately related to the work in general, but one of the reasons—a huge reason—I left still chaffs me a bit.

What finally pushed me to find a new job was when someone I used to consider a friend purposefully and deliberately sabotaged me. He did everything he could to make it impossible for me to effectively do my job. He worked tirelessly to drive me out. And what’s worse, our boss knew what was going on and allowed this to happen. This asshat ex-friend and I used to make a good team—but only as long as I worked for him and not with him, which became clear after some changes occurred and he and I were working on a level playing field.

So when this other opportunity—the job I’m in now—came up, I embraced the idea of change. In fact, I sought it out. I worked hard to get this new job. When I gave my notice, my boss seemed genuinely surprised. I don’t think he wanted me to leave but he didn’t want to address this bigger issues that would have made me stay. He’s a head-in-the-sand kind of guy and he had his own problems to deal with, his own battles to fight. So it became easy for me to make it about money. I knew they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) meet the new salary, so I allowed that to become my reason for leaving. It was easier to let my boss and co-workers think I sold out, than it was to admit that I gave up fighting. I sold that story so well that even my friends from that job still think it was about the money. But it never was. Never. I would have stayed if someone had just stood up for me, if someone told me they valued what I contributed. It was wishful thinking and it didn’t happen. I could have stayed. I could have collected a paycheck and rode it out with little to no real responsibility. But that’s not who I am. I want more for myself than that. I hate employees like that. The bottom line is, it wasn’t a battle that I was going to win, so I cut my losses, gathered up my remaining self-respect while I still had some, and I moved on.

It was a rocky transition. Although the skills I need in this new position are very similar and make the change easier, I was still thinking like an editor. I was trying to force this new job into something it was never going to be (square peg in a round hold, anyone?). Although I was glad to be rid of the bullshit and the backstabbing motherfucker of a former friend (whom I’m clearly still angry at), I missed the actual work that I used to do. I kept hoping I would get the phone call begging me to come back. But that just doesn’t happen in real life.

I questioned myself. I second-guessed my decision. Part of that stemmed from the fact that over the years, I allowed what I did for a living to define me. We weren’t curing cancer or performing brain surgery, so to my friends in the real world who read this, who know some of these details, it’s probably going to sound stupid for me to say that I wondered sometimes who I was if I wasn’t an editor. It’s silly and sounds dramatic. I get it. But I don’t have kids and I never will. My career was everything to me, which made this so much harder. And very personal.

So this week was sort of bittersweet for me. The boss who wouldn’t fight for me left his job and the company this week. The piece-of-shit backstabbing “friend” who wanted my job so badly, left a few months ago. I guess taking my job from me wasn’t all it was cracked up to be after all. (I could have told him that. It’s not like he got a promotion. He just got double the work. Dumb-ass.) That stings a bit because, to me, it comes off more like a vendetta than ambition. I’m sure I could have started to fight back, play dirty. But behaving like that is just not who I am. I survived in my career by keeping my head down, doing my job and trying to be supportive of the team. I never sought anyone out to actively dismantle everything they worked for. I don’t think I ever let my ambition hurt anyone.

I am not angry. Not now anyway. I am very lucky to have the opportunities that I have now. I work for a much smaller company, which means by necessity, I’m doing a lot of different things, giving me experiences that I would have never had at my old job. It’s challenging me and it’s exciting sometimes. And although it has been rough (I’ve been in tears more than a couple of times) I don’t regret making the move. I feel good that I left my old job on my terms.

But there’s a part of me that hopes my old “friend” finds himself in position similar to the one he put me in, and thinks about—even if it’s for a millisecond—what he did and actually feels bad. I think I’m giving him too much credit (you know, for the having feelings thing), but I believe that what goes around comes around. I believe payback is a bitch. And I hope that bitch comes in the form of a vindictive co-worker disguised as a friend.

Mature? Nope. Healthy? Probably not. Do I give a shit? I do not.

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7 Responses

  1. Congratulations on getting this out there into the universe! They say that what goes around, comes around, or something like that. Unfortunately, what “they” don’t tell you is that most of the time you’re not there to see it happen. Way less satisfying, but the way it is.

  2. wow

    sad thing is I don’t know if I can disagree with much of what you wrote…as I dealt with a lot of the same stuff a little more closely, but not as bad since I had a different skill set so the competition factor wasn’t as blatant.

    It certainly does make the office sound more exciting than it is though.

    I have to think you are happier where you are as I remember there were some times that you were far from happy here 🙂 Plus you have the other LJ (not saying that the other LJ is as good as the original, but they are both pretty darn great 🙂

    It is strange how things come around, and change is inevitable.

    Interesting from now on is an understatement LOL

    Good for you getting it out though…I knew the ex-friend wasn’t me when you said he left…whew 🙂

    C

  3. If you feel that strongly that being an editor is your calling in life, then maybe you could find a way to do that again? Maybe for a different company? Maybe freelance? Meanwhile, I’m glad the move turned out so nicely for everyone!

  4. snark. i totally know where you are coming from, except in my case, i am still there and so is the co worker and the no balls so called boss. what i hate more than the co worker is the boss and how they can think that it’s okay to not support their staff and thats its okay not to deal with issues within the team. what, i ask, is their job then? if you don’t have good relationships with the people who are good people and you let the ones that are sabotaging people and situations do what they want, what message is that making? a bad one. they eventually lose credibility and that’s precicely what’s happening now. maybe why your boss has moved along??

    you should really still go after your dreams of being an editor. i agree with XUP, perhaps freelance.

    you are correct, what goes around comes around but sometimes it takes WAY TOO LONG.

    make you stronger though.

    and for the record, i don’t think that theres anything wrong with making your job high on the priority list. i have kids and my job is hugely important to me. maybe i’m a loser but my job is one of the things that defines me.

  5. Elaine: I do feel better for getting it out in the universe. I don’t care if I’m around to see anything happen. It’s enough for me that he knows what he did someday.

    Ho: I WAS miserable there, but not with the job itself. It does sort of blow that in some ways I felt forced to re-evaluate my life and career, but sometimes that’s not such a bad thing. By comparison, though, it’s a little boring around here. I miss the whole Ugly Betty vibe sometimes. It’s not nearly as exciting in an office of 16 people!

    Raino: I feel your pain. It’s frustrating to be in a situation like that. One thing I learned from this is a good boss makes all the difference in the world and credibility in leadership is everything. Without it, the team falls apart. But you’re right—having to fight for yourself makes you stronger.

    I don’t think anyone who takes their job seriously, who makes it their priority is a loser. I wish there were more people like you out there. I think the lesson I learned from this is that my job is my job, it is not everything I am and it’s not everything I’m going to be. I got to the point that I was so cranky and angry that I’d fight with my husband over nothing—I had no outlet for it at work, so I’d drag it all home. It wasn’t easy for my husband to deal with because frankly, I was a bitch. So if it came down to it, I’d choose him over a job that made me that stressed out any day of the week.

    XUP: I may freelance again at some point. My job right now keeps me slammed 5 months of the year—I barely have time to sleep—but when it settles down again, I’ll start investigating opportunities. In the meantime, having this blog as a creative outlet goes a long way toward satisfying that side of me.

  6. I’m glad you were able to get your feelings and thoughts out. Work IS important and when it is a miserable environment, it tends to make all parts of our lives harder.

    I hope all the dreams you hold most dear come true!

  7. This one hit close to home. I was fired by a friend who told me, “I got your back”. She did, too. I think I still have the scar where the knife went in.

    Blog therapy is great.

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