There are some things you should know about me. First, know that I do not always behave in a “socially acceptable” way. This is because, to me, the socially acceptable way is just flat damn stupid, and designed to protect people from the truth.
I should have left the job I once had back in October of 2006. But I didn’t. Because I felt it was my responsibility to stay, and do the best I could to support the program I had been working on. For I did not wish to cause any difficulty for those that worked on the program.
I paid for that mistake. I paid dearly for that mistake. I paid by being barred from the workplace. I paid by being declared a disturbance in the workplace. I paid by being told that a unanimous vote was taken that said I was to have no contact of any kind with anyone that I worked with. I paid with 13 weeks of medical leave in November, December and January of 2010 and 2011. I paid by being forced to undergo a battery of psychological tests to determine if I was able to return to work. I paid by having to undergo a security clearance review to determine if I was a risk to the security of my country. I paid by having all the friends I had made in 13 years of work for a customer shut me out of their existence. Permanently.
I paid for being different. For doing things a different way. For behaving differently than every last person in the workplace. For not behaving identically to every last person in the workplace. I paid for being creative. For pouring my creativity into a nightmare job for 13 years. For pushing a program forward against the wishes of everyone. For not letting things be the same on the program as they were on all the other programs throughout the customer’s facility.
I paid for not recognizing the social “rules” of that place. For not understanding why everyone signed the birthday cards that looped around, even if they didn’t know who the cards were for. For not attending social events, like lunches, or cake and ice-cream parties, when I couldn’t understand what they were for.
I paid for actually caring about other people, and trying to help them in any way I could.
If I’d have left that job in 2006, like I should have, it’s possible I would have never had to endure the punishment I endured in the job I used to have.
But, having said all of that, I now say this.
If I had not made that mistake, and endured that place of work that I came to know as “The Land of Grey”, in which everyone behaved identically, and nothing was real, and no one cared for anyone, and everyone played stupid games, with winks, and nods to each other, pretending that everything was OK, and that the way things were in that place was the way things were supposed to be in the world.
I would have never found this new life that I have now. I would have never found the diversity of voices in life that I have found. I would not have met the people I have met. I would not have come to understand that what I did when I had the guts to actually care for some of the people I worked with, and tried to help those people in any way I could, even though it meant I would be hurt, was the true thing to do. The right thing to do. The HUMAN thing to do.
I learned that I did not let fear of loosing my job stop me from doing what I believed. I learned that I did not let fear of being hurt stop me from doing what I believed. I learned that I did not let fear of being punished by the powers of the workplace stop me from doing what I believed. I learned that the structures of the workplace, and the corporate world, can only bring financial pain to me and my family. They can’t control me. They can’t tell me how to live. They can’t tell me what to believe. They can’t kill me.
I learned that pain is just another part of life. And I should not be afraid of it. Just like I should not be afraid of what I believe. Like I should not be afraid to live as I believe.
I once wrote a list of names of people that were gone. It was a list of the names of the people that ejected me from their lives. That threw me out of their workplace. That severed all communication and contact with me. That made it absolutely clear by their actions, and their behavior, that I had a choice. I could be identical to them. Or I could be ignored by them.
My answer, in the end, was to list their names. And declare that they were gone.
I find that as time passes, I feel more and more alive. More and more free. I feel that the world I live in is more and more alive. That it is filled with diversity. With hearts and souls that are different. That are still alive. And that care for so very many things. That the people I am finding now, in this new life, still believe in themselves. And in their friends, and the people that they know.
This new world is NOT a land of grey. It is a land of vibrant colors. A land filled with different people that believe different things. A land that is filled with tolerance for those differences. That does not pretend that there is only one way to be. One way to live. A land where people actually care about other people.
And among them are people that sometimes hurt. And when they hurt, I hope they know that I will do what I can. Because I know what it is to hurt. And that sometimes, all someone needs is a friendly voice. One that says, “It’s OK to hurt. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to be human.”
In July of 2010, I found a song. By Leaves’ Eyes. That stuck in my head. It’s still there. And I still hear it’s words echoing through my life. The song was “Elegy”. And the words that echo, and always will, are:
“Silent tears of a woman
Make a warrior cry.
Heaven I beg you
Hopes from fears”
When the heart of a friend aches. When a friend’s soul cries tears. I have learned to not be afraid. I’ve learned that I can help. That I can find a way to share a smile with them. That I can find a way to let them know they are not alone. That they are never alone.
That’s why the words of a new song that I recently found recently echo so deeply within me. A song by Indica. Titled “In Passing”.
“I’ll say this once:
Light up the night
When it hurts inside
Read all the signs
It’s okay to feel down
And just remember
That nothing’s made to last
I know you’re sad
That too will pass
That too will pass
And as I’ve begun this new life I have been granted by life itself, I find that I am not angry with the people I used to know. Instead, I find that my heart speaks to me of them. That my soul cries tears for them. For they do not know the way they are. The fears that they live with. They do not understand at all the way that they are. The silent desperation that they all live with. The fear of being hurt. The fear of losing their job. The fear that their families could be hurt. The fear that they would have to change. The fear that they would be hurt if they cared for any of the people around them.
I find that I pray for them. Even after all that I’ve been through. And all the things that have happened. That I can’t help but believe they did to me. I find I am not angry with them. I find, instead, that I am sad for them. And sorry for them. For they have lost touch with their own hearts and souls. And they no longer know what they do, or how they live. That they simply cannot see the way they are.
To the people I once knew, I say these words. I pray for you.
To the people I know now, I say these words. I pray for you. And I am here, if you are hurt, or alone. And need to know that someone around you cares.