In my very early 20’s, my very first job was at a nursing home. I worked in the acute rehab center where I played “cheerleader” to short-term residents to engage them in such activities as bingo and arts and crafts. Most of these residents did not take me seriously. They took one doubtful look at me and spouted almost scornfully, “You could be my daughter. Why should I do what you tell me?” I played it off with a big smile and kept on with pity, sympathy, and empathy deep inside me that many of these elderly residents whether in my department or in others were waiting in wheelchairs for their family to visit with many family members actually not visiting. I often find that feeling pity rather than anger for someone makes for more tolerance, patience, and peace. I’ll take all that over anger.
I actually loved my job! I always felt a kinship with the elderly. I loved painting pretty pale pink nail polish on one of my favorite residents, talking about the news events with another resident who always had her silver strands plaited in a braid and walked delicately with her cane, and I even loved one of the most fiery and crabby red-headed residents who stared outside of the window waiting for her son who never really visited her.
About three months into the job, though, I was let go. The reason was that there were cutbacks. I was not wanted. I was not needed. Rather than me choosing to leave on my own, I was told to leave. I felt and was rejected and in tears to bid farewell to my favorite residents. I was convinced and my own worst enemy that I just did not do good enough with my very first job. I hate that I care so much when others could not care less about me.
I was told from those older than me that I was young and resilient and it is different when you are older and when you are not wanted AND there really are no job prospects because companies and organizations are looking for younger and even cheaper labor. I was told that when you are young, you are giving much more passes in the work world than when you are older, you are just passed by like yesterday’s news and the work world gets harder on you. To a certain degree, all my older and wiser peoples were right. I moved on to next jobs. I bounced back quicker than I can imagine compared to now. Months after my next job, I found a job advertisement for the same job at the same location that I worked at the nursing home. To me, it meant that maybe there weren’t cutbacks and it was just me that I was not really wanted for that role and that if people do not want you then they will find a way to get rid of you or make your life miserable if you try really hard to stay strong, stick around, and hold on.
To see that job advertisement, it was a bit of a reopened wound that brought back a flood of memories of my very first job, but very important lessons came about and have stuck with me since. Us complex-minded humans are very much about reverse psychology. When we are not wanted then we want it more. When we are wanted then we do not want it anymore. To have that choice or free will to look someone or something upfront and confront and say: “Yes, I’m choosing to leave now,” is drastically different than being told, “Yes, you have to leave now.” The feelings of not being good enough, less than, rejection, unwanted, unneeded, second best, backburner, rebound, an option rather than a priority come crashing down on us and bring us down when you are told to leave over having the choice to leave. Then, there is that knowing (alas, ignorance is bliss) deep down inside when you are not wanted or needed, but choosing to stay and hold on versus letting go and leaving because you just do not want anyone or anything getting the best out of you and bringing out the worst. Over the years, it has become very clear to me when I am not wanted and, if I have the choice, leave first where I am not wanted or needed. Why stick around with those who do not want you to stick around? Why second guess when it is clear that I am second best? Perhaps this all comes with confidence, worth, and self-esteem that is the ongoing human struggle.
When were you rejected? When did you reject someone else? When did you try to stick around and hold on when you knew you were not wanted? Or did you leave before being told to leave?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,