Work place Withdrawal Symptoms (WpWS)

by Anita Menon

It has been precisely 72 hours that I ceased being an employee with the firm that I was working with for the last two years. When I sit and write this post, I take a moment to reflect. I want to gather words together in a heap and write them down here. I want to gather adjectives steadily slipping away from my memory’s sieve. How do I feel about having given two years of my life to a firm?  People leave organizations everyday. Its no big deal really. Then why is it affecting me so much, especially when it was my own choice to leave. Few days back I wrote on my Facebook wall, asking about a word for ‘feeling more attached than you thought you were’. Well, the truth of the matter is, there is no such  ‘one’ word that can describe that feeling. It is because this feeling hits  you from nowhere, like a guerrilla attack – striking you when you are vulnerable and weak.

Leaving work has been by choice each time. The first time I took a break, was when I got pregnant and couldn’t bear to be away from my husband – we were away for work in different locations. Initially, I thought it would only be a year of sabbatical but that one year turned to two and two to three.  I missed being useful, being productive and pushing myself to think about solutions.

I pegged my usefulness to being a part of a workforce.  

This time I took a break because I was done working for someone else. In my head, I always knew I had to do something of my own and I couldn’t keep working for someone  or an organization for the rest of my life. It wasn’t an impulse decision. It was a decision I came through to with a lot of deliberation with family and friends. I felt I could use my capability and skills in more productive and useful ways than I gave myself credit for.

I have taken this plunge and I am not going to look back.

Or so I thought. 

But here I sit and  am writing this post because this is the only way I can put this churning in my heart to rest. I feel tremendous, inescapable  withdrawal symptoms from having left my work. I always enjoyed my work but I wouldn’t say the same about my work place. When I ask myself if I want to go back to the same work place, the answer is a big, unequivocal NO. But do I want to do the same work again, then it is a roaring YES.  Yet, there is one other thing that I miss. I miss the “feeling of belonging to a community”

What do organizations lend us when we pledge to work with them for whatever amount of time?

They give us an identity, a sense of pride for being a part of a community and sense of belonging. We as human beings want to belong to someone or somewhere, hence the obsession of belonging to a place, of being a certain person’s spouse or daughter, the importance of having a second name and letting others know where we studied in our formative years and so on. This strong sense of identity also comes from working with an organization. That is what I miss and lament. I also miss the hope and the promise that I felt on the first day at work. The renewed vigour I felt for the second innings in my career. On that day, I thought it was going to be a ‘happily ever after’. Happily ever after would perhaps equal to 5, 7, or even 10 years with the firm. But it was not to be unfortunately.

I feel my heart laments the loss of that promise of a future. A future different from what I may have now.

I ridicule myself and try to pull myself out of this langour that has stretched for more than 72 hours. I know well that it is my mind playing tricks so that I fall into the ‘regret trap’ and keep feeling sorry for myself. I have to pull myself out of it and assure myself that I did the right thing. Also, that I do not need anyone’s approval. I have to convince  myself I left the game at my peak and that’s important and now it was completely up to me to paint the canvas of my life and career with whatever colour I chose.

How can I describe the last two years of my working life?

It has been difficult to pick out adjectives only because at this stage it is the simplest thing to do. But I want to be fair, since it is self assessment that I am doing. The last two years of my life have been a struggle, painful beyond expression, an utter state of confusion, ridiculously complicated and a medley of some highest highs and many lowly lows.  Confidence shattered, confidence restored, bubbling resentment and a zen-like state. In short it has allowed me to experience the extremes of my own self and has been the toughest test of my character. After explaining this to myself I feel better and then a tiniest bit like a rebel. I feel a new promise germinate inside me like a sapling reaching out for the sun and the air. It tells me to take my life lessons like a good student and move on.

And move on, I will.

But before I take up the next big thing in my life, I want to relax, unwind, spend some time with my family and friends. I have a few things to do before I embark on a new journey. I have a friend to help deliver her baby, meet another friend whom I haven’t seen in three years, finish my half finished books, write a sequel to my fantasy fiction, practice my French with my 4 year old and learn how to drive. Lest I forget, I want to unlearn and learn how to enjoy my own self. It is going to be difficult as long as self -doubts like these which make me write this meandering post keep lingering. But writing has always provided me perspective and a channel to understand myself better. Perhaps the healing process has already begun since I started typing this post.

Now by the time I end it, it makes me want to believe, I am enough. I don’t need to belong and I only need to be. 

Hope I can put it into practice, else I will have to write another post. Sigh!