Better Days / by Vanessa Fiola

Day 2

**The next 28 days I'll be posting 500 words a day here as part of a creative writing challenge. Join the FB group.  Often I phone it in.**

Today I hate most things. I’m sorry in advance, and if you want something that makes you feel better about the world than I will, click here.

Last night I worked until 1am (but also read a bunch of 500 Words essays) and then I was up at 6:30 to continue the death march. Without going (too) deeply into blah blah blah, I absentmindedly missed a deadline yesterday, and then compounded it by asking for an extension that I knew didn’t make sense to keep. If I’m being honest, I knew it last week, too, and not calling it then is probably the bigger error, but I thought I could spin gold. Regardless, I frantically toiled until the answer became too loud to ignore. And then I made one of my colleagues tell the client because I am generally a coward and also he offered.

When I interview people, a question I frequently ask is, “Tell me a piece of constructive feedback you’ve received on more than one performance appraisal.” I’m trying to weed out the kinds of answers that Type A people swear by like, “Oh, I work too hard.” Yes, you and literally every other consultant ever. I want to hear that you’re always late or something else which suggests you’re not afraid of a stranger wondering if you pay your bills.

For my first few years in consulting, my boss repeatedly told me I was defensive. WHICH IS THE WORST FUCKING FEEDBACK YOU CAN GET because good luck arguing it. Also, have you ever tried changing a trait you’ve had all of your life? It’s really, really hard. I basically ended up tricking myself. My trick is this: when I hear feedback that stings, I ask myself, “What if that were true?” Somehow posing that question allows me to accept the information without needing to immediately react, and then I can get to the root of where my sadness dwells, or why I’m feeling victimized. I don’t often get that feedback anymore, but I mean, people could just be tired of telling me.

Anyway, after this morning’s debacle, I walked around with my heart heavy. I snapped at someone unnecessarily and sat in meetings attempting focus. I sighed. A lot. I caught myself humming through a clenched jaw, and when I looked within I noticed shame. I wanted my embarrassment to not just dissolve, but to fall away as if it belonged to someone else. I wanted someone to tell me it wasn’t my fault. 

That didn’t happen and isn’t going to happen and honestly, probably shouldn’t happen. Tonight, the emotion has mostly subsided. There is only a small speck where once there was a boulder. Of course. Because that’s the beauty of time and also learning to live with the answer to, “What if that were true.”