Thank You, Next

Sometimes gratitude is complicated.

In my last installment I linked to a Thanksgiving post from last year. As I was re-reading last-year’s post, I got choked up toward the bottom, where I expressed gratitude to the publication I then still worked at, for my “dream job.”

It was poignant to re-read not only because I’m still grieving the end of that job, and missing the incredible team I worked with, but also because I now know that three weeks after I wrote that post, everything at that publication would begin to come crashing down, setting off six months of hell. Oh, how blissfully ignorant I was last late November of a terrible set of plans that were probably already in the works!

Although there were some serious issues, and so many of us lacked benefits and protections we deserved, in many more ways than not, it truly was a dream job. It enriched my life in countless ways, and I will be forever grateful to my bosses — for bringing me on, for keeping me on as long as possible, and for treating me well — as well as their, er, overlord would allow them to — for as long as they could.

🦃 🦃 🦃

After I left very publicly, expressly noting how grateful I was to my bosses, the overlord asked to speak with me. It was a difficult conversation on many levels; immediately afterward I regretted agreeing to it, but five months on, I’m glad I did. I got to see Oz behind the curtain. It revealed so much to me, and has helped me make sense of what we were up against, as disappointing and frustrating as it still remains.

One of the more uncomfortable exchanges in that conversation occurred when he took issue with my publicly expressing gratitude to my immediate bosses, but not to him. “Are you not thankful for me?” he asked. I was taken aback by his directness, and also how insulted he seemed to feel. I paused for a moment, then explained that I absolutely was grateful to him.

It’s true. Without him, I would not have had that job, and all that came with it — then, and even now. I really am grateful to him. But I’m also still mad. It’s, as they say, complicated.

Reflecting on all that this week made me think of so many people I’ve encountered along my career path who have provided me with great opportunities, but also made other choices that were harmful to me and/or my co-workers, or to others out in the world. Not to mention people in my personal life who helped me, but also hurt me.

It also led me to consider how lately, at least on social media, we tend think in such black and white terms about whether people are “good” or “bad.” People are so much more complex than that. Everyone brings with them their own motivations and considerations that will naturally conflict with those of others. As an inveterate people-pleaser, I become frustrated in situations where there are two or more people with conflicting desires whom I wish to serve, and even more so when my own desires and needs vary from those of others. But it’s inevitable.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this, other than to say that maybe I’m learning to expect that when good opportunities come my way, they will likely be bound up with some bad shit, which will reveal itself either immediately or somewhere down the pike — especially in the ever-deteriorating publishing and media landscape.

And also to say that the world is a really dark, scary place right now, and sometimes, to get through these hard times, I try to focus on ways people have been generous to me, even if they have made other choices that might have detracted from the good they did.

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