The other night, I was having a much-needed glass of wine — I switched early to iced tea; I’m a bit scared of having more than a glass or two right now, lest I start gushing tears in an inappropriate setting — with the in-laws.
One of my lovely family members was recounting a story about her aging mother. Once upon a time at a graduation event, Granny had just commented on her ex-son-in-law’s lack of hair. Loudly. He was several rows away, but they could tell that he had definitely heard her. Her granddaughter turned and told her to keep it down. Exasperated, the old woman retorted, “don’t shush me!”
I have never met this old lady, but I fucking lover her. The only thing I love more than old ladies who swear is old ladies who speak their minds and demand to be heard. Maybe hurling insults isn’t the best example of this. But still. Say your words, ladies.
Several years ago, I was too timid (read: anxiety-ridden) to ask my old boss for a raise. I was too scared of a lot of things. For me, talking to any authoritative figure about anything was as terrifying as telling your dad you just dented his beloved sports car.
In my defence, that damn car was really hard to park.
It took a lot of fucking courage to get to the point where I did ask him for that raise. I researched my position online, as well as salary reports to ensure the dollar figure I wanted wasn’t outrageous. I asked friends with my job how much they made. And I didn’t just back up my argument: I groomed my mind, too. I watched some TED Talks because I am a millennial. I re-read Lean In, and flagged helpful chapters, which I read yet again the morning I had the conversation. I even went into the ladies’ room to prep: I did a power pose with a stupid grin slapped on my face while I counted to 60.
I’d love to report that all of my gimmicks worked. But they did not. I was counter-offered a typical 2% cost-of-living raise. I died on the spot.
Just kidding. The thing is, I’d done a really good job of tricking myself into being ambitious and goal-driven. For the first time in my professional life, I’d been assertive, and requested what I wanted.
Despite what my anxious self told me, I did not melt on the spot and the world did not stop turning when my boss turned down my request. A crowd of peanut-eating gawkers did not appear and start cackling at me. My boss just said no. That was all that actually happened.
Now, defeat hurt. It hurt a lot, and it was hard to deal with. I won’t sugar-coat that fact. But I did recognize that I’d done the hardest part: asking. And it didn’t kill me. So I did what the average individual without soul-crushing anxiety would do: I applied for a new job elsewhere. Anxiety screamed at me not to, but I did it anyway.
Imagine how thrilled I was when I got my asking wage at Shitty Assholes Inc. (I mean, little did I know how things would turn out) and saw a real future for myself on the horizon. I was so freaking pumped. I had done the hard thing and asked for my worth, and it had actually worked. They were like, “Mm’kay. When can you start?”
Once I started at Assholes Inc., I didn’t stop negotiating. I decided ahead of time that I wanted a raise after a few months, and checked that off my list. I made myself follow through in approaching my boss when I felt under-utilized, so that I’d shed administrative tasks and further my career with them. I marched into his office when it was bonus time.
Over and over again, I was successful. It was weird. I was disappointed in a way; I would have much preferred to have been handed all of these things on a silver platter. It would have been nice to coast through life on my stunningly good looks. It was like when you start dieting and exercising and actually lose weight. Part of you is like “oh. So yer saying I can’t sit on my ass and get skinny?”
But alas; I learned that you must actually climb corporate ladders in order to get what you deserve. Sitting around waiting, whether it’s because you’re lazy and think the world owes you everything, or because you have anxiety and climbing does not come naturally to you, is probably not gonna pan out the way you want it to. You will miss out on everything.
So I did the hard, uncomfortable thing*. I didn’t let anyone shush me.
If I want even a tiny chance at getting back to where I was three months ago, I need to not shush myself. I need think critically and act accordingly. I need to be my own cheerleader. I need to keep doing the things to get back to where I used to be: the worthy, capable, efficient, and dare I say happy employee who run the world like Beyoncé.
I can appreciate that many readers could think “hey idiot! Don’t keep taking your own advice. It got you literally nowhere: (A) you didn’t get that raise from Boss #1 and (B) you got fired by Boss #2. TAKING YOUR ADVICE = NO JOB. Obviously anxiety is the clear thinker, and you are delusional. Stay in bed forever.”
I agree with your logic, dear reader. Yes, I am almost certainly an idiot. I once scratched off the entire surface of an It’s My Solo Cup because I thought I’d win prize money. I am sitting here blogging because I have not worked in two months, and the only reason I am not a street person is because Boyfriend thinks I’m pretty. I love my bed more than anything and your advice is very persuasive on that basis alone.
But even today, notwithstanding the fact that someone snuck up behind me, inserted an egg-beater into my brain, and went to town with the crank, there is residual “I did that hard thing that one time!” floating around in there, intact. I wasn’t shushed then, and I won’t be shushed now.
It is a fleeting thought. And writing this post is my attempt at catching it with a net.
Because as you so astutely pointed out, I don’t have a job. And I need to go find one.
So don’t shush me.