I’m pretty careful to avoid treating my RTW trip as an escape. Its seeds had been planted long before I even started the position I’ve just left behind. When I decided to bite the bullet and really make things happen, my situation even started to look up. Taking this adventure has always been more, and would always have happened, no matter my life circumstances.
But damn if it isn’t extra satisfying now.
I’ve alluded a few times to the rocky road my now former company has had over the two-plus years I worked there. It actually became quite fitting that my departure date was on the 4th of July.
Sometimes it seemed like every day brought a new soap opera’s worth of drama with it as personal vendettas inside the organization came to light and as a group of community leaders banded together to undermine our arts council. We – by which I mean the practical revolving door of co-workers I overlapped with – often had to ask ourselves which was worse: someone inside the tent pissing out or someone outside the tent pissing in? And then of course, we’d have to deal with both.
But perhaps the best summary of what a hot mess our tiny nonprofit became is this: in those two-plus years, I was left as the only employee in office three separate times, usually because the Board of Directors hastily forced the head of staff to resign, without any plan for transition.
So when this happened again just one month before I left it all behind, I was understandably perturbed. But I found the worst part wasn’t having to manage things on my own until my last remaining coworker returned from vacation. It was the way board members tried – and in some cases, simply pretended – to empathize with me.
“Gosh, Danielle. I’m just so sorry about this… I don’t know… Can I bring you lunch?”
After the third or fourth offering of this half-hearted platitude, I realized: Piedmont Council for the Arts was my abusive boyfriend.
Far too many women know the story:
You’re in a relationship with a guy who’s kind of a loser, but you see so much potential in him and you love him anyway. Then, one day, you get in an argument and he hits you. You’re stunned to the point you can’t even respond properly. You know that should be the last straw.
But he’s so sorry. And you’ve put so much effort into this relationship. You don’t feel like you have anywhere else to go. So you stick with it. It is never going to happen ever again.
And then, of course, it does happen again. This time, there’s no hesitation. There’s no worrying over his feelings, and there’s certainly no sticking with it. You’re done and you’re moving out at the end of the month.
He flips his lid, swearing up and down how much you mean to him in a last ditch effort to cling to the comfort zone of your relationship.
“Baby, no, you’re the world to me. I can’t lose you.”
And in the panic and the stumbling, he offers you a beautiful necklace. As if that somehow excused beating you. In spite of all your protestations, he remains completely oblivious to the fact that you don’t want him to buy you jewelry. You want him to get his shit together and be a decent partner.
That is how I felt for the last month. Like the sorely mistreated girlfriend with one foot out the door, fending off a misguided attempt at reconciliation.
I didn’t want anyone to take me out to lunch, or offer a condescending “Thanks for hanging in there.” I wanted to be a valuable part of a team doing real work for the arts. And I kept getting the brunt of day-to-day operations placed on my shoulders, and mine alone.
Well, if I have to be on my own, I’ll do it on my terms.
Independence Day, bitches.