I recently gave notice at the job I have held for the last eleven months. I place special emphasis on the word “job” because the actual day-to-day work in no way resembles the type of work that I would call a career and certainly not a calling. I would like to talk about this job because even though I feel I have suffered through eleven months of droning misery, I suddenly find myself savoring every moment with my coworkers, who, in a matter of weeks, will suddenly be out of my life for what is likely to be forever. It is as though every overburdening task and each inconsideration has been swiped away. I search my soul; I find nothing but the good memories: the laughter, the accomplishments, the camaraderie.
This leaves me in an awkward position. From the moment when I told my supervisor about my departure and was shocked by his sincere excitement for me, to the moment when my other supervisor called me in to her office to tell me what an asset I have been and proceeded to shower me with applause…I have been resisting the urge to just throw up my hands and say, “You win! I’ll stay! You guys are so great, how could I possibly leave?” I fight to remind myself, “This is not normal.” These may be the people, but these are not the conditions I have been working with for eleven months. So what’s happening here? Why have I suddenly forgotten all the drudgery up to this point?
I suspect it is due to a multitude of factors: most especially gratitude, appreciation, love, loyalty, and forgiveness, to name a few. I find I am suddenly overwhelmed with these positive emotions, and now, eleven months of unhappiness has been made happy in numerous ways. Just as Barbara Fredrickson predicted, my senses have been broadened beyond the prosaic and often frustrating responsibilities of daily office life to the realization that I have developed complex and rewarding relationships with these people. We have memories, good and bad, but now all blended together and bittersweet. Just a day ago, I was cursing the moments to my last day, and now I am savoring them.
There may be some lessons here. First, I do not want to focus on these moments as being solely personal; I am trying to be mindful to consider them as a scientist as well. How can we extract the essence of this experience and harness it into work-life on a more regular basis? Is there really any way to acknowledge workers without falling into the trap of the hedonic treadmill? How can we keep the thrill of feeling appreciated new and exciting without over- or under-using this tool? Is it even wise to use appreciation as a “tool?” And second, no matter how well versed we are in positive emotion we are sometimes caught off guard when it happens to us in real life. I fully intend to spend the next four weeks absorbing the minute details about this place that I have long found so dreary. Already, my cubicle with the dim lighting somehow seems “homey,” the constant phone calls from disgruntled subjects are opportunities to talk with some of my favorite people, and the formerly insurmountable stack of work piled on my desk seems my departing accomplishment waiting to happen.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226.
Thank you at work courtesy of Joseph Nicolia