Empathy

A human emotion that’s apparently very hard for some people.

I have four bosses. There are two I absolutely admire. I will keep names private, but I enjoy working with them, even on stressful days. They are never less than radiant – constantly full of sunshine – and what I’ve noticed lately is, no matter how stressed they are, they never stop being kind and empathetic towards those of us beneath them. Despite they have more power and authority over us, they still talk to us and listen to us. It’s to the point I will only come in extra if it’s one of them who calls me and I’m able to say yes.

There was recently one night where I was frustrated and not feeling good at one. One of these two I admire was the closing manager. She had a headache the entire night, yet she noticed I was aggravated.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

Me: (lying) “Oh, I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

Me: “It’s nothing, really.”

“Well, if you want to talk, let me know.”

Somehow, my night got a lot better after that. I have spoken to her before when I needed help and she’s never failed to solve it. In one case, she undid another manager’s giant mess. I have no idea what keeps these two managers able to put themselves in our shoes, but I hope they never lose it. The level of empathy they have and their ability to never lose it under any amount of stress are things I aspire to possess someday. Were I ever to leave my job, voluntarily or not, I would come back every so often solely to help them out if I thought it made even a small difference in the night for them. I’m not kidding. That’s how amazing they are as managers. Few people can do what they do.

Speaking of few people, the other two of those four bosses? I would’ve left a long time ago if the empathetic two I spoke of weren’t there. The other two have no emotion that doesn’t regard business. I guess that happens over time. I’d get more help from talking to a brick wall than talking to either of them. They only listen to what they want to listen to, and they decide from their own bias and personal ideas who’s right and who’s wrong, regardless of who truly is. One in particular enjoys exaggerating, unable to differentiate between “toss” and “slide”, and loves to blackmail and to make threats. Heck, one of my co-workers (who is older than him!) outright considers him an idiot, and I think stopping at “idiot” is generous. Both of them love to make assumptions, I suppose because taking an extra few seconds (sometimes literally only an extra second) to know what really happened is too strenuous. Heaven forbid anything serious happen at work because they could only be counted on to make the matter worse. I no longer hold respect for either of them (yes, I genuinely did think highly of them at one point, not that it matters), and the bridge has been burned to the ground and into ashes.

Granted, I feel slightly more tolerant toward one because he seems more naïve and lacking in memory than having any real malice. He did, for example, permit me to leave a shift early with no question for why I’m asking, though it’s likely he’s forgotten by now. His naiveté can be painful, to say the least, but I’ll give him half credit for never threatening me. That, sadly, doesn’t make him any better than his assistant, should he be needed for something the empathetic managers can’t do. I prefer not to talk either of them anymore because it’s fruitless. An “open-door policy” is only useful if it actually helps. I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been incidents where they wrongfully penalized someone and never apologized because, well, we’re just drones to make the store money. Who cares what they do to us? In fact, in my case, there has been at least one such incident – a different manager pushed me to mental/emotional breakdown, enough I couldn’t process my thoughts and wanted to hit my head on a railing, and I had to leave for my own well-being – but they already decided I was the monster in that situation, so anything I said fell on deaf ears. I would’ve accepted the penalty for leaving without permission, but for heaven’s sake, just listen!

Interestingly, the two managers who haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be at our level have had breakdowns. One recently told me she went in the back and cried after she had deal with a hellish customer because she was so stressed out and tired. The other admitted to having similar moments and she used to see a therapist to help her stress. In a way, it makes me hate that they can relate. They are too kind, too good, to be given hell like that. At the same time, maybe it’s part of what makes them empathetic. They deal with it, they know we deal with it, they know we break down and lose our stability, and it’s unfortunately a normality of the job, despite their positions being far different from those of us on the floor and register (especially the register; there’s a reason I was desperate to work on the floor). I suppose the two managers lacking in empathy have been managers for so long, they don’t remember what that feels like and they can no longer. I’m not saying I want everyone to be breaking down – of course not – but to still be considered valid. If the empathetic managers can still remember we’re human, why can’t the other two?

All of the above said, the one thing that officially made my last shred of respect for the latter two managers crash and burn is finding out they’re cowardly. They can yell, threaten, and take sides to their hearts’ content, but they could not tell me to my face they thought my performance with a certain aspect of work was low. I had to find out through my own questioning and, still, not much was said about it. They just kept moving me elsewhere, I suppose under the assumption I’d be too stupid to realize something was suspicious. Assuming I’d be slow to figure it out would make sense, but not that I never would. Weird. I’d think people with such a callous outlook toward anyone beneath management would be more than to tell someone they suck. I take more offense to thinking I can’t see through a trick.

Pressure May Vary

More often than not, I feel like things that surprise me really shouldn’t. In my defense, I have good reason for expecting the worst.

It turns out instead of taking the exam as soon as we can, our teacher recommends we not take it until we finish our last class unless we feel confident we can take it right now. Yes, instead of shouting “believe in yourself” over and over, a real teacher told us not to rush and wait until we feel we’re ready for it. We don’t have to read the entire textbook. He suggests we do because it can only help, but it won’t be a tragedy if we skip over something we already have a good grasp on, like half a chapter about how to create, move, and rename files. I don’t need a detailed how-to guide on something I’ve been doing since my age was in the single digits.

In short, a lot of the pressure I was felt was self-induced. Granted, like my cynicism, there’s reason for that, but it seems like I continually struggle to remember I don’t have to learn the same way everyone else does. I can study in the way the works best for me and go at my own pace. Even MLP had an (surprisingly good) episode about that. I don’t try to be different, but I think trying to be the same is part of what causes me these problems to begin with.

I’ve begun playing around with some practice tests. The site I used allows the user to customize the test instead of take it with every question about every topic thrown together. To my ridiculous surprise, I did well when I tested against things I read about and I can now study what I’m struggling with that wasn’t yet covered in my classes so far, or wasn’t covered much. I also managed to answer 20 to 25 questions in 7 minutes without knowing the answer to all of them. Maybe 90 questions in 90 minutes isn’t so intimidating.

I’ll eat my words later, but for now, it’s nice to feel less pressured about everything.

I Failed

At life.

One of the goals of my school is preparing students to take a certain exam. It’s not a school exam! It’s actually a… government one? I’m unsure how to describe it without giving away the name, but it’s essentially proof someone is certified to work in the field we’re training for and is recognized nationally.

I have recently decided I am not taking it.

I have studied, and I’ve found it does no good. I can be asked a question right after I have finished reading a whole chapter and be unable to recall what the question even pertains to, let alone answer it correctly. There are practice exams for the real one. I tried one. I didn’t know the answer to any of the questions, despite reading enough material that would’ve covered it. I didn’t bother going through the whole practice test. I closed it after question 7.

We do get a certificate from the school. I think I’m going to take that and go, and try to do the best I can with that. I am not academic material. I think I figured that out a long time ago, but I assumed that’s because I hated school to begin with. I genuinely like this school and I do study, and I am still terrible. There is zero chance of me passing the real exam, and since it’s only free the first time around (school provides a voucher), I don’t exactly have unlimited chances to pass. I’d rather not take it at all, and no, I am not going to “wing it” in the hopes the planets will align and grant me a passing score. I like fairytales. I am not dumb enough to believe in them.

Supposedly, you’re not supposed to memorize material you study. That concept makes zero sense to me. Why would you study it if you didn’t want to remember it? The point of studying is to be able to retain enough information to pass whatever tests you need to pass.

That exam is also timed. Ninety minutes to answer ninety questions. Even if I had a chance of passing, the time limit would kill me.

This isn’t Disney. “Positive thinking” and “believe in yourself” does not work. I don’t think even Disney has ever been that shallow. Of course, if those things did work, “hard work” would be non-existent since everyone would be successful with no more than merely thinking of it, meaning no one would have to work for anything. Don’t people complain my generation only wants things handed to them anyway? “Think positive” seems to prove them right.

My vent is over. And so are my chances.

Never Try New Things

Really, that’s the lesson I take from this whole experience.

I talked about this in one of my previous posts, but to summarize: I took a full-time position as a sales floor associate, failed miserably, did not improve in the slightest, and as I learned yesterday, I will be returning to part-time hours on the 11th of February.

Although, one of my bosses stated it as not being able to handle the responsibility rather than failing. I fail to see what difference exists there. I’m pretty sure incapability of handling a responsibility ultimately amounts to failing that responsibility.

No, it does not feel good to know the only thing I’m good is what’s the easiest job there is at my workplace. This is like praising someone for being able to pass kindergarten while everyone else passes twelfth grade. I’m good at ringing, talking, and being punctual. Yay. I’m good at what a five-year-old can do.

One of the reasons I relate so much to Princess Luna. She knows what it’s like to be second-best. And in my case, not even that.

In the end, the whole experience turned out to be worthless. I ended up doing nothing except making a fool of myself (apparently, certain co-workers enjoy talking about me behind my back) and this is one of the times I strongly resent being an introvert. Were I an extroverted person, I wouldn’t have distaste for being a cashier and could possess the energy needed to avoid having the soul sucked out of me by dealing with several people for several hours straight.

The bright side, if it can be called that, is I am being permitted to remain on the floor and simply act as a back-up cashier, but it doesn’t change I really shouldn’t have tried something different to begin with. I wasted everyone’s time, including my own, and proved I can’t handle anything beyond standing in one place and operating a price gun. I did not expect to succeed anyway, but I also didn’t expect to not even show a hint of improvement and fall utterly flat on my face. I’m used to being slow. I’m not used to never getting past the starting line.

Ironically, another boss of mine, despite also agreeing I was horrendous at my soon-to-be-revoked position, believes if the opportunity arises, I should try again. Up until recently, this particular boss and I did not get along at all, so to come from his mouth, that’s hugely shocking. It’s not a suggestion I plan to take to heart, however. I am never asking for anything again. Everyone else can take the bigger jobs. I’ll stay at the bottom, the only place I can’t fail. Truthfully, I don’t think it’ll be long before I’m bested at even that, assuming I haven’t been already and I’m failing to be aware of it.

Too bad she can’t help with co-workers.

“The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side”

Or, alternatively: “Is true happiness really possible?”

Today’s post topic, and existential crisis, is brought to you by ponies! Specifically, the princesses of the day and night.

Yes, I am completely serious. The idea for this post was sparked by a discussion about pretty cartoon horses. I’m unsure of what to think of that too.

I recently ordered a book titled The Journal of the Two Sisters, which gives some much needed background to my favorite ponies of the show. The very first entry states the two sisters dreamed of being princesses since they were fillies/children, so becoming princesses in their adulthood was like a dream come true to them (for anyone unfamiliar with the series, “princess” is an earned title, not one attained through birthright). However, their present lives as princesses, to put it bluntly, sucks.

Of course, that’s not made blatant because at the end of the day, this is a series intended for girls below the age of 7. But both princesses, at worst, have some heavy mental struggles, one more so than the other. At best, they only need a really good therapist. The older sister is hinted to have depression, but fake happiness for the sake of her subjects. She will do things that may result in heavy consequences for the sake of being genuinely happy temporarily. In other words, she’d rather be happy now and deal with the consequences later. The younger sister, partially due to a millennium of solitary confinement, has mental trauma so badly, she resorted to psychologically tormenting herself and attempted to ruin a surprise celebration being planned in her honor because she believed she was unworthy of being celebrated. She’s only able to see her downfalls in herself and the mistakes she’s made. The younger sister’s problems are more evident, but I am able to relate to both of them because I do and feel the same.

As ordinary children, they wanted to be princesses. As princesses, they long for a normal life. And there’s no aspect of life I know of that doesn’t cause a similar internal crisis.

As children, many of us want to be adults. As adults, many of us long to return to childhood. The only reason I don’t want to return to childhood is mine was an awful one overall. But even then, I can list things I miss and long to have back. Yet, if I did return to childhood, even a more pleasant one, I’d likely long for adulthood all over again.

When I worked as a cashier, I wanted to work on the floor because the frequent interaction with people was, to be blunt for a moment, soul-sucking, and I got very easily agitated and hyper from being forced to remain in one place for too long. While I’d still prefer floor work overall, I can’t lie and say I don’t have some complaints. In addition to that I failed my probation (and being truthful to myself, I should never have tried in the first place), I spend almost every day panicking over the work that isn’t finished and how I can’t do six things at once. I don’t know how to fix everything I’m supposed to fix, and being someone who enjoys organizing, I’m extremely frustrated when I can’t organize. In short, the work of the floor is endless, and yet, there are times I cannot figure out what to do, how to do it, or if I even did it correctly. And in eight hours, I can’t do it all. To say it feels crushing is an understatement, and I’ve brought my own self-judgment and self-awareness into heavy question because I thought I was getting better, only to learn I wasn’t. It’s not the first time I’ve made that mistake, and I can’t stop wondering if I’m kind of egomaniac who has yet to realize it, or I’m just a sucker for not learning my lesson about being naive and getting in over my head. The only thing I’ve really learned is to never try anything new, or you’re going down. It’s a lesson I’ve learned more than once, but I plan on letting it stick this time. I can’t imagine it’ll be forgettable.

And yet, if (or when) I return to my original position as a cashier, I’ll be longing to put up with all that frustration again in place of my problems with being a cashier. To be good at what you hate and bad at what you like is truly one of life’s cruel ironies.

And there are many more I can name, from both experience and observation, but this post would get longer than I’d prefer it to. The message here overall is, as my title states, “the grass is always greener on the other side”. But if that’s the case, it leaves me wondering if being happy in life is really possible. Yes, I know everything has its downsides, but if the “inside” is always worse than the “outside” – if we’ll always long for the opposite, only to see we should’ve been content where we are, despite we won’t be content if we return – how is real happiness possible? We’re always going to want something else that seems better, only to discover we were dreadfully wrong, but it’s no better, or may even be worse, than what we had before. I almost question if a life of happiness itself is fictional, like the characters who sparked this topic. Of course, it’s not a new idea I had. I’ve felt this way for a long time. The fictional setting merely brought it out tonight. Perhaps that’s why “happily ever after” is so famous as a story closer in fairytales.

Of course, it’s easy to say I’m overthinking, but why shouldn’t I think about this? I’ve yet to discover anything good come from “letting life happen”, as it’s said, and while I know not everything can be planned, I’ll never be comfortable with the idea life entirely is uncontrollable. After all, we wouldn’t have free will if that were the case. If true happiness is fake, I can stop pursuing a goal that’s non-existent. And if it is real, I suppose I can keep trying. In the case of the latter, trying to achieve it will either end in joy or end in sorrow at the end of my life, whenever that shall be. I’ll know when that times comes, not that I want it to any time soon (or ever, but death is inevitable).