May 12, 2015

Lone Wolf Workplace Syndrome

(Source: BET.Com ) 


I've worked my current job for about 10 years now. No... 10 years exactly. I have been a pretty autonomous worker. And trying to balance school, work and home life is challenging.

I cannot say that I was/am particularly close to anyone at work. Well... I was. I had a girlfriend named Lydia and when my job sorta consolidated into her department, she embraced me with  open arms. She was 10 years older than I was, had two kids, but it felt as though she was a peer and my older sister. We'd have lunch often. She gave me tons of advice. She let me vent to her and she would vent to me. And when I started dating my husband, she was rooting for me.

Lydia passed away about 2.5 years ago from breast cancer. And I miss her at work everyday. Sometimes I think I hear her laughing but I know she isn't here. She was my ally. She was the person I bounced ideas off of. She was my rock at work.. This loss has been magnified now that my mother is gone too. I would call my mother on my lunch breaks and we'd talk and catch up. Sometimes my mother and I talked 3-4 times a day. Lydia and I were the same way at work and apart from work.

But they are both gone. And I am isolated here. There are two other black women at work. One has two children  (and is a bit on the "alternative"/hippie/grunge side) and the other is a bit older. While they are both kind, we just do not have much in common (at least I do not think). The rest of my coworkers are white women or gay white males. I certainly do not have much in common with them.  The other two black women who used to worked here were far older and both retired about a month ago. One dubbed herself my "work mother" and we would share things. She even came to my wedding and mother's funeral.

Most days I have lunch in my office alone. Or I will go out with co-workers who work in different divisions of my job. But internally... I am alone. I keep my door closed, my music or YouTube playlist playing, and keep my head down and work until the clock strikes 4. It's isolating. No one understands. So I just keep to myself. People are sorta nosy and intrusive. I am pretty private. They go to lunches without me. They order food without me. They have loud and obnoxious conversations right outside my door as if I am invisible.  Some even hang out after hours....

I wonder if this is the same feeling that most black women (married/single/kids or no kids/gay or straight or etc) feel.  There is no one in my age group to relate to my experiences. I feel isolated. Not quite like an impostor... but definitely like an outsider. The idea of fraternizing with my coworkers bothers me. especially if alcohol is involved. I've been on a couple of work trips and remained conscious of the fact that I shouldn't drink too much. I shouldn't order this or that. I need to "present" myself a certain way outside of work.

I feel stuck. I feel alone. I feel like there isn't a network of support system in my office. Sure... OUTSIDE my office. But not inside my office. I often feel tense and brace myself for the microaggression.  I brace myself for the coldness and the lack of empathy. Even after I came back from grieving my mother, the first thing out of their mouths was "So such and such....work related". Fuck off.   I do speak and I do not shut myself off totally. But nothing connects. It is as if I am alien.

As black women of a certain age... how do we balance this? How do we break out of this?  Am I alone in this??

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