May 8th, 2012
Last week was a fucking doozy.
I don’t know if I ever got into the whole story here of my first pregnancy. I was in corporate America (advertising) at the time, and from literally the MINUTE I told my single-White-female boss that I was expecting a baby, I became her target.
It seemed like every year, she would zoom in on ONE person, and go about making that person’s life a living hell until they either quit or she found some reason to fire them. Prior to 2003, I wasn’t her favorite person in the world – I tried to stay off her radar altogether – but she pretty much ignored me and let me do my job, which I was doing damn well, I might add. That didn’t change when I got pregnant, but her treatment of me did.
I am not going to go into the gory details now of all the things that happened, the incidents, the comments, all of the various reasons why on some days, I came home in tears. It was an awful experience, one that pretty much cemented my decision to stay home after Punksin was born. I contemplated going back to work in the 3 months after she was born, but I just couldn’t stomach the thought of leaving my incredibly beautiful baby to go back to utter misery and disrespect. Thank God, I didn’t have to.
I didn’t leave on good terms with aforementioned boss. I called my immediate supervisor, explained in a 45-minute conversation exactly WHY I would not be returning, and wished him well. Her, I never called. Corporate etiquette dictates that I should have, but I was done with fucking corporate etiquette. After she’d belittled me, given away some of my accounts and their resulting commissions despite all the work I’d put into them, and a whole host of other inappropriate and probably lawsuit-worthy actions, I really didn’t feel the need to say goodbye. Word went around the office that she was furious at me and was planning to call me at home. I waited with eagerness for THAT to happen.
I think she knew better.
It took a loooong time for me to get over my final days at that place. I would dream about her, my subconscious continually coming up with new scenarios in which I was back at my old job. These were usually not good dreams, and their very frequency told me that I had a lot of work to do to get her and the things she had done out of my system. For a long time afterwards, I was THISCLOSE to hating her. Eventually, though, I was able to let go, perhaps in part because I realized that I was just a convenient target for someone who was actually incredibly unhappy. I reminded myself that she’d targeted several people before me, and that the grapevine I stayed connected to for a time let me know that after my departure there were others who suffered similarly at her hands. Remembering her behavior in the office towards the staff on a whole – icy demeanor, rarely smiling, cutting remarks, ignoring people in hallways – I realized that she was really just a supremely unhappy person. That was borne out by the facts that she had few close friends, that in all the time I’d known her she had no significant others or even good DATES, and that she clearly just had serious problems relating to people. There were some who could stomach her brand of friendship, but they were few and far between. She was not an easy person to get to know, or to get close to.
And it was a shame, because she was brilliant. I realized that, had I been less fearful of incurring her wrath, I could have learned a lot from her. But I wanted as little to do with her as possible and tried to keep her out of my business dealings, only calling her in on those accounts for which it became absolutely clear that I needed my Big Guns. Strategically speaking, she was very smart. She had a way with words, and it was no surprise to me to learn that she’d gone to Yale. What she needed, though, was charm school.
About 2 years after I left, she left as well, supposedly her own decision but from what I’d heard, not so much. I heard she did some traveling in Colombia, followed by attempts back up here to get back into advertising. Unfortunately, her reputation may have preceded her – there were few who worked under her who had positive things to say, especially if they were off the record – and she was not finding work.
That latter part I only discovered recently when I got the shocking news last week that she had committed suicide.
I was stunned – and yet, not. The level of unhappiness she had to reach to get to that point didn’t seem even remotely impossible; even in her busy working days I think she was miserable with life. And yet…and yet. I thought she was unhappy, and yet I thought she was…untouchable? That she was somehow expert in fooling herself into happiness with a huge paycheck and nice apartment on the Upper East Side?
Maybe in those earlier days she was. Maybe it was harder to hide behind frequent business trips and client dinners and hard work and micromanaging.
But maybe it wasn’t, because if it had been so well hidden, well, then we, her staff, would not all have been so completely aware of how miserable she was. She didn’t seem to revel in making our lives insufferable. She didn’t derive happiness from it. She was merely sharing her own pain, doling out misery because that was all she herself knew.
It was not only because so much time had passed since my stint there that I was able to feel sorrow at her passing. It was because, regardless of whatever she had done, I would never have wished her THAT level of unhappiness. Hearing that she had taken her life pained me because it showed that she was hurting inside, anguished and despairing. Ironically, in taking her life she showed a level of humanity that she was loathe to share when she was alive. Her manner of death imbued her with emotion and life, and it was so terribly sad to think that it had taken that one irrevocable act to do that.
I’ve prayed for her. I don’t believe that suicide actually erases sorrow as much as it prolongs it, which is a good part of why I haven’t crossed that line myself in the past. But I pray for her anyway, in the hope that it will be some balm to her soul, some ease on her journey. It’s still shocking to think of her not being here, and of her being gone by her own hand. I never would have thought that such a strong person would have been hurting so much inside…and yet…