The Hubby decided tonight that I need a secret identity. I have been having a bit of a conflict of self recently where I’m trying to figure out how to reconcile the different sides of me into one cohesive one. I have concluded that my work/profession is the problem. And, I have also realized that it hasn’t always been the case, but it has been for the past 4 years.
Let me explain a bit better. I have been at the same company for almost 14 years. While on the surface, that is a long time at one place, I must mention that every few years when I start getting itchy feet, I get a new opportunity dropped in my lap. And, it is usually something that I couldn’t get experience doing elsewhere. So, I stick with it for a 18-24 months to build up the resume, then a new thing drops in my lap. Throw into the mix a couple of economic downturns where IT jobs become scarce, and staying has been a good deal.
Since I came up through the ranks, I went from being peers with my coworkers to being their boss. Friends who I went out for a beer with, become someone to have limits with. There was one peer who also moved up the ranks with me, and we remained friends professionally and personally. We remained friends until he got hit in the face with a soccer ball during a soccer game we both were playing in. He had a pretty good concussion and started having issues afterwards. Then, while on his motorcycle, he hit lose gravel, went over, and fucked up his ankle to the point he had 5 screws and a metal plate installed. He began having issues with depression and anxiety after that. Since I knew him so well, I forced him to go to his doctor when he was starting to become suicidal. And, I got his friends involved as well because I knew he had guns in the house – and didn’t want to hear news that he had taken his own life.
After he was on meds and in counseling, things got really weird between us. I should mention at this point that he was single. And, my suspicions at this time were that he had a crush on me. While he never would admit it himself, his counselor did ask him why we weren’t dating which threw him into a tail spin. He realized, I think, that he had never mentioned the fact I was married with kids. And, because of another incident which I won’t recount now but which is also relevant to this post, I was rather touchy about people getting the wrong idea about men I was friends with. He twisted it that the counselor didn’t think that men and women could be friends.
Then a couple of his jokes went sideways. And, being the person I am, I told him they went too far. He apologized and felt bad. Then he got into his head that I was going to never talk to him again. He started texting me one night and wouldn’t stop. I was dealing with a crisis at home, so kept telling him to leave me alone – we could talk later. I finally got mad, called a friend of his and asked that he go deal with him – that he had made this up and I didn’t have time for this shit. When he wouldn’t stop, I thought Garbanzo was going to go over there and kick his ass which, if you know Garbanzo, means he was extremely pissed which to be honest was something I had not seen before. By the next morning, I had over 40 text messages from this guy, 5 emails, and two voice messages. When I couldn’t sleep at 5am, I sent him an email telling him that this is his problem. That nothing that had occurred was remotely connected to me or the incident that he was worried about. That he needed to leave me alone until he dealt with the elephant in the room, the fact he had a crush on me. He called in sick the next week or worked from home.
Things were going well until he started trying to draw me into things again. By this time, others were getting concerned with his behavior especially where I was concerned. He was talking to people about it including HR, but was twisting the story to make it look like a misunderstanding. The shit hit the fan when he started telling me that other people were against me in the group. That they were telling him things – and he was just trying to let me know so that I can be more guarded around them. I fucking flipped out at him. He expected me to thank him, I guess, and I flipped out at him (not them as he had hoped). The next day, my HR friend and I had a talk. She asked if I had evidence, and guess who had all of the text messages and emails? Yep, me. (This is also a bit of insight as to why my brother N called me about text messages on cell phones.) I had saved them initially because I wanted to show him what an idiot he was that night. Good thing I had them.
I’m sure ASM is probably wondering what the hell was up with the HR person that was dealing with this in the past. In her defense, she didn’t have the full story from either of us. Since most of the issues happened outside of work, I didn’t make a big deal until it was affecting my work. Once I started gathering the evidence for her (and she started reviewing her own notes), we both realized this was a much bigger issue.
My manager and I chatted soon after that. I had to let her know that I couldn’t work with him and why. Since we were the reason the two sides of IT worked so well together, this was a huge surprise. I was happy because I was worried I was becoming a performance problem by not working with him recently. Not the case at all thankfully.
In the end, this guy was given the choice. Either sign a corrective action plan that stated he would not bother me either professionally or personally while he was employed at the company and risk termination due to sexual harrassment if he didn’t – or leave quietly with a severance package in hand. I was happy he chose the latter.
At that time, I was thankful for the friends we both had. They all saw exactly what was going on – so they kept an eye out for me. He was a huge gun owner, and I had learned he got his guns back a month before this occurred. He knew where I lived, and I didn’t know if he would sink into depression or get angry. He had the potential to do both – but did the former thankfully. (I would normally not celebrate someone sinking into a depression, but the alternative was worse for me.)
Since that time, I don’t get close to anyone at work. I know enough to be friendly. I share enough to be friendly. I don’t do beers after work. And I now have more of a work personality that no longer meshes up as well as it did with my non-work personality.
And, as I have come to realized, spending 9-14 hours 5 days a week in this mindset makes it difficult to make peace between my work self and my non-work self. This is where my loving husband, the comic book geek, has suggested I begin thinking of it as having a secret identity. A way of giving myself permission to be who I am – a way of looking at everything not in a negative light, but in a positive one. A way to reconcile things. I may have to try this out.
Oh, and you want to hear what happened to the guy? After almost losing his house because he wouldn’t go out and find a job, he met a girl on the internet. She is from the Philippines. He went to visit her, proposed two days later, and flew her back to the states after the wedding. None of his friends believe she wants him, just the green card. Too bad really, but goes to show that if you don’t deal with your problems, life will just keep going in circles.