Am I My Greatest Obstacle?

Sunia Gibbs Art - Nothing is Static

For reasons too complicated to explain here, I held down two “part-time” jobs this year. One on Long Island and one in Manhattan, all the while living in the Bronx. If you are already thinking I am crazy, you are right.

It was a year riddled with obstacles, long commutes, crazy hours (thus the “part-time” status), and chronic stress. Thankfully, this part-time arrangement is coming to an end in just a week and I have been promoted to full time at my job in Manhattan.

There are days when I feel this year was a total failure because I didn’t have the time or energy to completely devote myself to either job. It often felt like only half of me showed up for work each day. But there are also days when I feel this year was full of successes and victories simply because I was able to manage my time and do a great job in both places, despite the obstacles.

But I think the greatest obstacle this year that has caused the greatest heartbreak was breakdown in communication with a close work partner. He and I were supposed to be a team; supposed to work closely together; confide in each other; trust each other. But sadly, none of that ever happened.

All because of a miscommunication, our relationship quickly deteriorated. We began our relationship trusting and respecting each other, but the trust and respect soon disappeared. We had to work with each other all week long, but couldn’t stand to be in each other’s presence. My attempts to clear up the misunderstanding were met with “I’m too busy right now. When I am not busy, maybe we can talk.” And he never stopped being busy.

Now, you might think that this is ridiculous. And it is. Completely. But there are people in the world—we’ve all worked with them—who simply can’t work things out and move on. Resentments build to such a size that they become insurmountable. But as in any relationship, both people need to be willing to do the hard work of reconciliation.

I am not someone who enjoys confrontation. I am also easily intimidated by other people who have strong personalities (my partner). On top of that, I was afraid to speak up for myself because I did not have any seniority—I was brand new and my partner was a seasoned worker at this place. I was afraid of retaliation and felt completely trapped.

Nothing has improved. No conversation has occurred. It is still painful and stressful to be at work, especially in his presence. And in four days, I will probably never see him again. So I wonder. What is the real failure here? What was the real obstacle? Could the real failure be that I never found my voice to stand up for myself? Could the real obstacle be fear? Fear of what life would look like if I stood up for myself? Fear of rejection? Fear of being cut off?

I know that wherever I go and whatever job I do, I will almost certainly encounter someone like my partner. What will I do next time? Will I allow the same obstacles to create an untenable and stressful work environment? Or will I allow the obstacles in front of me take me to a new level, a new height, a new sense of self? Will I be my greatest obstacle?

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