Work it out

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sometime in 2009, my mom had a really bad day. She quit her job after working more than a decade at the same company, and her supposed close friend weaseled her way into my mom’s position. This all happened in one day, but it had been building up for quite some time.

For months, Mom had been pushed around by her coworkers. She isn’t the kind of person who usually gets walked over, so I felt especially confused by the situation. I could tell how much of a toll the work environment was taking on her. She didn’t want to talk about work anymore, and she has always exuded passion for her work, even the mundane parts of it. Though I worried for her, there wasn’t much I could do. I wasn’t an adult. I assumed Mom would figure it out, because she is a problem solver.

The solution to this problem, it turned out, was to start over somewhere else. I remember coming home from school that day and finding her car in its parking spot. Mom never came home early from work. I thought she must have been sick. When I went inside, she didn’t look sick. She sat on the couch, watching TV and looking a little withdrawn, but certainly not ill.

“I have to tell you something,” she said.

I didn’t like that very much. The tone of her voice told me everything I needed to know about whatever she had to tell me. Something bad had happened. She explained matter-of-factly that she had quit her job, saying she expected to find other work in the near future. In the meantime, she said, she planned to relax. I could understand that. After watching her struggle in a toxic work environment for what felt like years, I was relieved to see Mom finally take a break.

If you know the women in my family, it comes as no surprise that Mom began job searching almost immediately. She snagged a job running the office for a local company and went to work, but that job didn’t last too long. It wasn’t the right fit for her, for many reasons. When she told me she wouldn’t be working there anymore, she assured me she’d find work soon. And she did.

Just a few months after that, she started working at a local ServPro branch. ServPro is a company specializing in fire and water restoration. Mom didn’t know much at all about either of those things, but she knew how to run an office and she was open to learn more about the company. Within a year, she had taken more classes than I can count to become certified in the various fields. “If you had told me 10 years ago I’d know this much about black mold,” she recently joked, “I would have said you were crazy.”

I don’t think that’s crazy at all. Like my nana and the strong women before her, Mom has always been a hard worker. She excels at learning new things and applying that knowledge to her work. I knew this when I saw her receive several promotions in the span of 15 years at the same company, but it really became evident when she was forced to find a new path. She didn’t wait to find work, even though she said she’d take some time off to relax. She was proactive and determined and optimistic…the perfect example to me and anybody else who struggles to make it through.

Every now and then, I have a hard day at work. That’s when I think of my mom and what she would do if she were in my situation. I know she’d keep working harder.

So that’s what I do.

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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.