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Nothing To Lose
I stormed out of the office and headed for the patio area in front of my office building. It was October 2003, and everybody knew what happened. Ever since our division consolidated in February 2002, there had been more "closed door" conversations than ever, and when they involved me, I usually came out angry. This time I was madder than ever. I was sick of the office politics, sick of the cliques, sick of people sneaking around the rules - and you can only take all of that being sick so long before you explode. After complaining to my supervisor for the umpteenth time about the state of affairs, we both cracked. I told her I was disappointed at the lack of morals and integrity, and she told me that I needed to just shut up and get professional help for depression if that's what it took to quit complaining. Here is the ironic part: I have a degree in psychology.
I stared down the tree-lined street wondering how it came to this. When I was hired 1998, things went well. I worked for a wonderful person that trained me well and had faith in my ability to learn and grow. After a year and a half, I was promoted to another job that required me to move to a different office. This too went fairly well, until we consolidated three years later. Then everything changed. It went from a small, easy-going office to a large formal setting where cliques were common and conformity was prized above all else. A tense atmosphere where politics ruled the roost and pressure to make the "right" people happy replaced the laid-back demeanor of our office. If you didn't conform to the system, you were shunned.
It didn't take me (and everybody else) long to find out something vital about my character in the time that followed: I'm a non-conformist. Although I tried blending in and making people happy, I eventually grew frustrated with putting on an act. I was raised in a strong Christian home where faith and integrity are the highest values, and the new politics were in direct conflict with everything I believed. It finally spoke up, only to be ridiculed for my ethics and labeled a radical that needs to be put back in my place. Then they would turn around and tell me not to take it personally, and that if I thought they didn't like me, I was paranoid. The nerve of them to question my mental state after all of that flip-flopping! I was the only consistent person in the office whose actions matched their words! For a strong individual like me, the entire time was downward spiral into hell.
As I stood outside trying to calm myself, I realized what the true problem was. I had placed my fate in their hands. For years, I had worked hard for these people, hoping they would eventually reward me with promotions. Now I could see that my faith had been misplaced. Moving up through this organization is more in who you know and how much they like you than your credentials. I clearly realized that my career with these people was over. I wouldn't play the game, and because of that they were going to stop at nothing to try to drive me out, or at least drive me crazy. I was a fool to place my future in the hands of people whose only interest was in how I could keep the work flowing and improve the bottom line.
Since I had no friends at work, I turned to writing to work through the frustration caused by the clash between my values and work environment. It has been a lifelong hobby of mine, but since my husband and I bought a computer used it to work through personal issues of faith. I eventually found enough courage to submit a few of my short stories for publication, and had been fortunate to win a writing contest and get several other stories published on the Internet and in small publications throughout 2003. I also spent three years writing a manuscript for an inspirational self-help book, and it was my dream to get it published. I actually did submit it to some publishers in 2002, only to get rejected. Actually, 30 publishers rejected it, many on the premises that I was an unknown writer. I decided to focus on getting short stories published so I could build my credentials.
I knew my supervisor's insult to my mental state was meant to make me doubt myself, but it did the opposite. All of the harsh treatment I endured from these people made my own reality crystal clear: My career had stalled, while my writing had been slowly building up. I knew deep in my heart that it was time to get that manuscript off my hard drive and into print, despite my fear of failure. It was time to take my future back and follow my heart to true progress. In a sense, I had everything to gain and nothing to lose. That day, I felt my chances of making some unknown publisher happy were much greater than making any of those miserable people in that building happy!
I walked back in the building with a renewed sense of purpose. I'm sure that many people expected me to quit, but I didn't because jobs were scarce, and I was devoting my time and energy into getting my manuscript ready to submit. My colleagues' reaction to my few writing successes was cool at best, and since they wouldn't speak to me I didn't tell them about my new quest. I simply did what I had to do, kept to myself, and didn't talk to anybody unless it was strictly business.
Editing my manuscript was a challenge. Since I work full-time, I had to work on it at night or on weekends, and this isn't easy when you come home tired from a full day of work. I was pretty stressed out, and after my final blowout with my supervisor; my body succumbed to all of the pressure. I got sick, and didn't fully recover for three months. Once I got rid of one thing, I would be well for about a week before I was down with something else. Sinus infections, viruses, various relapses of these ailments, and finally a kidney infection had me struggling through every day. I propped myself up in bed with my notebooks, worked in my pajamas late at night, and spent entire weekends in front of the computer. In January 2004, I was ready to send my dream into the big, bad world again.
Although it had been rejected before, I felt more confident about submitting it this time. I rewrote the entire manuscript, and fully believed it had the potential to speak to people and help them find the faith and courage to improve their lives. Despite the fact that I was regarded as the "office freak," I knew there were others just like me that needed encouragement, and believed a publisher somewhere out there would find inspiration and potential in it.
This was a hard time for me personally. I am blessed to have a wonderful husband and family, and working on my manuscript did bring me a sense of joy and purpose. In fact, writing has always made me feel happy and peaceful. It also helped me cope with my work situation. Although I worked in an office with 60 people, I was isolated. The only time people talked to me was to ask a question or give orders, and I never talked to anybody unless I had to. This was a lonely time, and I did suffer from doubts about standing my ground.
My decision proved to be right in February 2004, when an E-mail confirmed that taking my life back was the right thing to do. I got an offer from a publisher on my manuscript. It seemed too good to be true, but in fact, I had a lawyer look over the book contract and confirm that it was legal and legitimate. I joyfully signed it, made copies for my files, and practically skipped to the post office to mail out my passport to the future.A funny thing happened the day I mailed the contract. When I returned from the post office, my supervisor informed me that our division was consolidating with the main office and moving in late June. For the first time in two years, I smiled in that building. They had no way of knowing that my entire life turned around in two hours. I mailed out a signed contract to make a lifelong dream come true, and now I was going to have an opportunity to work with new people!
Getting a book ready for publication is a lot of work, but I was happy to fulfill my obligations. What is interesting is how that success gave me the confidence to take control of other things in my life. When talks about the work move people began, I spoke with the Accounting Division and convinced them to let me move in with them. I finally changed my work hours to an earlier shift so I could work the same hours as my husband. I cut my waist-long hair to my shoulders, which is the shortest it's been since middle school. I found the confidence to be myself and made some great new friends at work after the move, one of which taught me how to cross-stitch. I overcame my fear of needles and gave blood, worked with my husband to create a web site, and braved the kitchen to make Christmas-Eve dinner, complete with my grandmother's bread dressing recipe that I made by myself for the first time.
Through this situation, I learned you can make your life better if you have the confidence to pursue what makes you happy, in matters both great and small. Faith is the most powerful force in the universe, and with it you can accomplish great things. You have everything you need inside of you to be the person you were meant to be, and nobody can take that away from you. I am so thankful I decided to take my life back. It's been slow progress, but well worth it. My book, Battleground Earth - Living by Faith in a Pagan World, is now in print and available all over the world through Internet outlets, and can be ordered at any bookstore. I work with a wonderful new group of people that are faithful, respectful, supportative, and accept me for the unique individual that I am. I'm confident in my decisions and feel I have much to share with the world by being the person I was meant to be. In fact, this is the happiest I have been since I got married. I can finally have joy and happiness, because at last I feel fulfilled in my life. In my own mind, I feel redeemed and rejuvenated.
In the end, I found my true self. And to think, it's all because somebody questioned my sanity!
Sherri Fulmer Moorer is a freelance Christian/Inspirational writer from Columbia, SC. Her writing focuses on applying faith to everyday living situations, and is based on her own personal experiences and the experiences of those around her. Her goal is to show people that the battles they face in life are shared by others, and how the Lord can use their experiences to build faith. She is the author of Battleground Earth - Living by Faith in a Pagan World (PublishAmerica 2004), which is a book about spiritual warfare and discovering faith in day-to-day living. For additional information, please visit the Battleground Earth web page at http://hometown.aol.com/bgearth/index.html
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