Once a few months ago I had this insane experience where I actually saw myself. It was bizarre. I was sobbing, but in a good way. It was right after a long week of my first week of training.
That week my supervisor had us do a bit of training on emotional intelligence. We were split into groups and had to make little presentations about our section to the rest of the training group. I don't remember what my group's topic was; But I decided that I had to share my experience. Because emotional intelligence was why I left engineering.
I have a Bachelor's degree in civil engineering. I chose the field because... well I like math and science. I graduated from an amazing engineering school and spent two years trying to find a job in my field. The job search process was grueling, soul killing, and all around not fun.
But I finally got it. I landed my perfect job.
I was crazy excited to start this job. I loved the work I did, working on wastewater and water treatment facilities in small cities and towns across Texas. I find it all really awesome and cool. I enjoyed my co-workers and the environment I was in. I decked my cubicle out in all the nerd swag that I could. I loved the little city I lived in. I was there two years. My boyfriend and I were working on buying a house in the area because we were planning on living there for as long as we could.
My therapist later told me I "accidentally" found happiness, which I had never known before but it makes sense. I finally got to where I wanted to be in life. I was able to sustain myself, not depending on anyone else for anything. I was my own person, I could do whatever I wanted. I was at that job for two years.
I knew the firm was having a hard time.
There were lay offs. I talked to my manager about it, I had another possible job offer in the area, should I take it? How solid was my position here? I thought I could trust that interaction. I ended up telling the other firm that I didn't want to continue with interviews, because I loved where I was right now.
Within a month of that I came into work and was let go. I'm not usually someone that breaks down in front of anyone. But I lost my shit. I couldn't talk, I couldn't move, I didn't know how to do anything. I don't remember getting home that day. I don't remember anything. My happy world that I accidentally stumbled into was falling apart. We can't get that house, I need to find another job. I tried the job that was interested in me before, but they already had new candidates. They let me do the next interview, but it didn't go well – I turned them down when they were interested, why would they be interested in someone that rejected them before? I looked for other jobs in the field. I couldn't find anything in the area.
I was going to have to move. We were going to have to move. Me and my boyfriend. He worked from home so it was okay. We could live anywhere. We more than likely needed to move to the Dallas area in Texas. I didn't want to. I wanted to stay here. This is the place I want to be my home. I love it here. Why can't I just stay here? This is the only place that's ever felt like home...
I didn't find a job in my area... and we did have to move to the Dallas area. The job offer I got was in a part of civil engineering I wasn't interested in. But I have to work. I need to make money. I took the position. My boyfriend had also ended up losing his job within a few weeks of me losing mine. I felt like I had to take whatever was offered to me. So I did. I took the job. The boring, mind numbing job in commercial development.
You know whats really boring? Parking lots. That's not what I went to school to do. I wanted to be in water and wastewater treatment. But I felt rejected. I didn't last long at that job. I managed 6 months – almost. I left for more than just the lack of job satisfaction... that's what I told my training group. I needed to give some background here to explain why this training was emotionally exhausting for me.
After I left engineering I didn't work for almost two years because I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Not what I thought I needed to do. I was trying to figure out how to be happy. How to recover from the one place I felt was home kicking me out. I was hiding though. I was hiding from the world. I was a failure. I can't be the engineer I want to be. I found excuses to leave the field behind me. But I also did find out that my passion is not in things that you get paid well for... at least not how I want to do them. So I'm comfortable with my decision to not continue in engineering, I still have other paths open to me. Some paths that I can create for myself are going to be more satisfying to me.
My last experience at the engineering firm triggered anxiety hard. I've never had panic attacks so frequently. I didn't know what was going on, I'm so used to depression being the majority that when the anxiety started presenting I didn't have any way to cope with it. The boss at work also just made it worse. When he was having a bad day he would yell, stomp, and just generally not be someone you wanted to be around. When he stomped, you felt it through the whole office because we were in an old 80's era building.
I got up in training and told everyone that and more. Some about the Linkin Park group I started after Chester Bennington, the co-lead singer passed. I also shared my interest in NAMI and their programs to promote mental health awareness. I shared that money isn't more important to me than my mental health and that it took a lot for me to realize that and I'm still trying to find my way.
I have talked to my supervisor a few times now and expressed my insane gratitude for her picking that training for us. Because that changed my view on this job. This job that I took because I thought I had to. My, now, husband had just lost his job. We were again both unemployed. This time we did buy a house. So we had a mortgage. I needed to find a job. I took the first one that was offered. It wasn't in engineering. It was a temp job. I figured that was better than nothing.
Onward to me meeting myself...
That Friday after my first week of training was the one year since Chester passed. He died by suicide July 20th, 2017... and that changed my life. To cope with my grieving, I founded a local Dallas/Fort Worth Linkin Park fan group on Facebook.
I created it so that local fans would have each other to mourn with.
So for the one year since his passing. I had set up a memorial. I was insanely exhausted because it was my first week at training (I was ready to hate the job. Then training just flipped everything and I ended up like... Shit I might like this. At least I love the environment and the people).
I ended up making multiple speeches throughout the night. Most of the people who came were new. People who found out about the event through Twitter and have since joined our Facebook group. Strangers. People who didn't know me, or anything about me other than my love for Linkin Park. I met and talked to them all. They were all so amazing and appreciative. All very openly grateful for having this memorial. Which I was leading... It started hitting me that I was a leader.
Wednesday of the following week was the first meeting for a new group called Cope DFW which a friend of mine invited me to. The crazy thing was that one of the new people that showed up to the Chester memorial had also mentioned it to me and that he knew the organizer.
I had already RSVP'd to it at that point. I went to that. And got up in front of 10 strangers and told them a snippet of my story. I hate public speaking. But I did it. It was insane.
That weekend it all started hitting me... So many people that week told me thank you and that they loved hearing from me. That it helped them and they appreciated it. For maybe an hour, while I was sitting on the couch hiding under a blanket, I looked at myself the same way they did... And I can't even describe it because my depression is yelling at me right now saying that's narcissistic.
I was texting someone through this. I felt like I was losing my mind and they told me I was finally meeting myself for the first time. Finally seeing who I am. It wasn't long before I just reverted back to self loathing and all that. But for that hour I saw myself as a leader, an ally to those with mental health, someone that is open to talking to anyone about things a lot of people shy away from. How am I that person?
I am glad I am that person. Hi Reeka, it's nice to meet you.