Friday, February 25, 2011


So, over the last 6-7 months I have gone through a Career Identity Crisis. It has not been pretty, but it has a happy ending, or middle, or whatever.

My last job traumatized me. I don't even think I'm being dramatic. Seriously, for some reason, it was BAD for me. I only lasted 8 months there, and it would have been a lot less if I didn't have a coworker that I loved and didn't want to leave. I'm still trying to understand why it traumatized me so much. But it probably doesn't really matter. For some reason it did.

My CIC has consisted of three parts: 1. The badness. 2. The breakthrough 3. the what-the-heck-am-I-doing-with-my-life.

1. The Badness

Example 1 of the BADNESS: Go to work one day to run the Jail Diversion Program. Tell intimidating-lady-that-runs-the-office-and-always-gets-her-way psychiatrist and team that Bob was not approved to be in the Jail Div program. Psychiatrist (who is like unto God in the mental health world) says, "So you are going to let Bob go to prison for 15 years?"

Wise Tessa would have said: "He is not appropriate for the program, and he is putting himself in prison for 15 years due to his crimes that HE committed."

What Tessa actually said: "That's right." *try not to cry, no big deal, just hold your ground*

Psychiatrist said: *staring. angry look.* "I am going to have to leave before I say something I regret. I am so angry right now." *Walks out of room*

I proceed to have a break-down in front of team, and the next 2 weeks are full of awkward encounters and avoidance of psychiatrist.

Example 2 of the BADNESS: Go to work one day and head to the jail to do some assessments for the program. I am talking to a booking officer so he can bring me someone I need to assess. All of a sudden, I hear really loud yelling such as "You b#$%#"... , and, okay, even trying to clean it up would still make it a pg-13 blog. I turn around to realize that Dude is yelling at me. Then I recognize him as Dude we revoked from Jail Diversion program and turned down appeals he made through lawyer to get back in the program. Dude continued to yell at me loudly for thirty minutes throughout the whole assessment.

Now, I am not stupid. I know that he was just mad because he wanted to get out of jail, and he messed up his chance. He was just taking it out on me. I had made the right decision, and here he was proving it. However, I do NOT do well being called horrible names and being yelled at for 30 minutes, no matter how much I know it doesn't matter. The officers let me out a side door, so I didn't have to walk right by him again. They were so nice to me it made it a little better, but it was HORRIBLE. And it still gets to me. I know his release date, and I think thoughts like, "What if I see him at Wal-Mart and he's still that mad at me, but he's not in a cell." I'm sure nothing would happen, but it kind of shook me up.

Example 3 of the BADNESS: I go to a Friday morning meeting that apparently was scheduled during the same time as my manager's meeting that I was apparently supposed to know about but I didn't at all. The staff (okay, one in particular, we will call her Bully, with her ever-faithful follower who gave Bully all the power) proceed to tell me a long list of what they thought I was doing wrong. Now, I do a lot of things wrong, and heaven knows I did in this job! But I was very falsely accused and bullied in my perspective and was completely defenseless- nothing but my word to back me up. Dreaded going to work every day.

During all the badness, I told myself, this isn't a big deal, just keep going, you need this experience, you are just over sensitive, this is the real world, just keep doing your job as well as you can and you'll be fine. But the badness was causing a lot of anxiety, crying, dread, dark cloud-ness.


2. The Breakthrough

My poor husband (fiance) Paul had been wanting me to quit this job since month 2, and I kept putting him off. How dumb would that be to quit without giving it at least a year? I had definitely toyed with the idea, but I was determined to stick with it.

I was on the phone with my friend Julia telling her about my job (warning there's going to be a swear word... She is one of my 3 mormon friends that swear, and I actually really appreciate it sometimes) and she said, "Tessa, why the hell are you still working there??" And I said, "I don't know." And for some reason, that was the moment.

3. The What-the-heck-am-I-doing-with-my-life

So, I quit the job about a month after that conversation.

Weird- I have LOVED all my social work jobs with eating disorders, ER crisis work, men with autism etc. But I have NO desire to do anything social work-y right now. I hope to come back to it at some point (I think?).

I found a job that I started last week as a secretary at the local Community College. Can I tell you how much I love it? I LOVE it. I process job applications, I file, I answer phones, etc. I don't have to decide if someone's going to serve jail time, I don't make decisions that keep me up at night, I don't have anyone that hates me. No one has yelled at me yet. I am SO HAPPY and just thinking about my new job makes me smile. Ahhhh.... life is bliss.

So, yeah, what the heck right? I just spent two years and some decent money on this master's degree. But I am happy. My coworkers are professional and NORMAL (okay, I know no one's normal but you know what I mean) and I don't have to convince myself every day that I'm just over-sensitive and that things are okay when they aren't. And this is just right for me right now.

Congratulations if you read or even skimmed through my whole CIC process. I'm going to catch some peaceful Zzzz's now. Love to all- Tessa


  1. Sounds like a rough experience, good for you for finding something that makes you happy though. Having a job you hate is stressful and not fun at all.

    also, I love reading your blog :)

  2. How did you possibly survive there for that long?! Insane!
    I am so happy you found a new job and even more happy that you like it.
    Guess what?! We are going to be driving right through cheyenne around the second week of august!!!

  3. I'm so mad at those people who were so awful to you! I'm really mad about it now! They're dumb. Or they were at least being really dumb for 8 months. I'm so glad you are out. I think being a secretary is awesome. good thing I only have a German degree, because being a secretary is now the only thing I am qualified to do.

  4. Wow Tessa! Good for you for finding something that doesn't destroy you every day. I like the "CIC" term. :-) I can't imagine putting up with the former job!

  5. Tessa,
    I love you and I applaud you for your bravery. If I wasn't in so much debt or if I was a little braver I would do exactly what you have done. You're great!

  6. Oh my goodness! That sounds perfectly awful! I am so proud of you for leaving it behind! I know how hard it is to work in a toxic environment! I'm so sorry you had to endure that! Enjoy your new job and the nice people there!!

  7. Oh sweet Tessa-lou, I wish we talked more! This sounds so similar to my 1st internship in Vegas. I was working at an outpatient group center for felons who were doing in-house arrest for DUI's & drug use and/or needing anger management. All my CFC skills fell on deaf ears and I was SO intimidated. I'm pretty sure one of them tried to follow me home one night...and I had a panic attack. Yeah, I'll own it. Anyway, I'm glad that you have a happy job but my point is this. Find the population that you like to work with, were your skills are put to the best use and work with them. People who tell you that a good social worker can 'work anywhere' are full of crap. A good social worker works where they can do the most good. Find your people and help them out when you are ready. As for me, I loved eating disorder work and now I love working with expectant parents in an unplanned pregnancy. Mostly I've just realized that my niche is women between ages 14-30 and while I'm open to learning other skills, I'm damn good at working with who I do. Love and miss you friend! Sorry this is so long...;)

  8. Tessa, I wish I could do the exact same thing if it wasn't for the government regulation....I would have applied for some other jobs other than social work jobs these days. Wahaha....You are such a great example! I did love the social work jobs that I had. But now, I feel like I just want something that doesn't take so much emotions and energy out of me. You are wonderful!

    Love, Tiff M.

  9. I'm so glad you found a new job that doesn't torment you--Do you want me to punch jerky psychiatrist lady for you? I'd be more than happy to... :)