My first post-college big girl job was great. Glamourous, fun, paid well. It was a sexy job to talk about, but three years ago today I walked away from it.
Why? If people ask, I usually give a delightfully vague, “my boss was a jerk.” Or, in a more professional setting (like when I was asked during interviews), it was, “it wasn’t a good corporate culture fit.” Sometimes I even blamed the fact that it was a small, struggling company that was always handing out salary cuts, which was true, but not the real reason.
I left because for a year and a half of the two and a half years I was there, my boss – “the jerk” – was sexually harassing me. Well, it felt like sexual harassment AND it felt like an affair. There were so many layers to it and none of them was black or white. I wasn’t innocent, but it was inappropriate. I was young (just a babe at 22), completely green in the business world and he was my boss and the president of the company, in fact.
It started with him taking me to lunch then playful emails then flirting, sexual flirting and the looks then the touching. It stopped there, we never had sex, but the looking and touching was enough to make me feel awful, but powerless with nowhere to go.
I learned a lot from that job. I learned that using looks and my sexuality is the way to get ahead. I believed for a long time that I got the job because he had a crush on me when I was an intern and that all subsequent jobs will be given to me for similar reasons. I still don’t completely UNbelieve that. I learned that a tight ass keeps the boss happy and you want to keep the boss happy. I learned that flirting is the most important work skill to have.
Finally, after a year and a half of being upset with myself about it, of sitting in my car for 10 minutes before going into the office and facing eight hours with this man who I was allowing to trample my spirit daily, I learned something better.
I learned that I’m stronger than I thought. That if I want something to change, I can change it. That I can choose the type of person I am. As cheesy as it is, I drew a lot of strength from Rascal Flatts’ Stand and Carrie Underwood’s Wasted.
I thought every day would be the day I quit and finally they announced salary cuts (again). I saw that open door and ran through it. It gave me a good cover story with them, friends and family and future employers (although, it still didn’t make very much sense that I turned down a job and some kind of salary for absolutely nothing). I knew the real reason and my boss did too.
I spent the summer unemployed, building a relationship with a new interest, reading Twilight (for shame), running, hanging out by the pool, writing, painting my nails (honestly, that’s when I picked up my nail polish habit and I don’t think my tips have been uncolored for more than a day since).
I spent the last three years becoming the kind of person who I want to be. The kind of person who works hard, stands up for herself and what is right.
I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I stayed, well, if the situation was different and I had stayed. High-powered marketing exec at just 26 years old? Maybe, but I’m happy for all the lessons I’ve learned in the last three years and although I wouldn’t have picked this to be part of the story of how I got here, I’m happy with my life as it is now.