Sunday, April 01, 2012

Eleven years ago

It's hard to believe that it's been eleven years, as of today, since I got downsized from my 15-year career in IT. It doesn't seem it's been as long as that.

I'll always wonder if the reflexes I developed during the years of being bullied (which translates to most of hell-imentary school and all of HS) were a factor. In those years, I learned the reflex of hiding my achievements. Since the good grades and the high-percentile standardized test results were the purported reason that the bullies were targeting my every move, I made a point of not trying to stand out in obvious ways. When I got test results back, if the grade was high, I put it away immediately. If we were reviewing the test in class, I'd put something on top of the grade so no one would see it. God forbid that anyone should SEE that I was doing well.

Camouflage is a tactic that's often used in nature to keep the predators at bay, or at least, keep them guessing. So it was a natural reflex. However, not only did that strategy NOT work to keep the bullies off my back at school, it turned out to be a bad game plan in the working world. I didn't, and to a large extent, STILL don't, feel at ease excelling in obvious ways. In my first workplace, when I was working literally three different jobs (programmer, tester, and customer support), not one person knew how hard I worked until after I left. My boss thought he'd be able to fold my duties into his own, rather than hire another programmer. But when I had to call my ex-workplace back about something a couple weeks later, the receptionist let on that my ex-boss was absolutely tearing his hair out at the amount of added work suddenly dumped onto his plate. He'd had no idea just how much I was doing. Camouflage... camouflage... if you're really good at something, God forbid you should let anyone know.

And you know, I'll wonder for the rest of my life if that camouflage reflex was a part of what made me expendable when the downsizing axe dropped. Personally, I think the biggest issue was that they were required to reduce payroll by X%, so they found people whose salaries added up to the target number and wished us all luck in the next phase of our lives. But still, a part of me will always wonder: if I'd been willing to visibly excel, instead of just doing good work quietly and never missing even one deadline in a decade and a half, would that have made a difference? I guess we'll never know.

But if anyone wonders why I'm so adamantly in support of anti-bullying measures... it's not just the bullied kids who have psychotic meltdowns or turn to drugs and alcohol who are affected badly over the long term. It's also the ones who never come out of their shell for the entire rest of their lives who are impacted negatively. I'm one of the lucky ones. I *realized* what was going on, and am working (present tense, STILL working, decades later) to undo that negative impact. I can't change past events, but I can make a deliberate effort to ensure that present and future events don't continue to repeat any unwanted patterns. What about the people who don't even realize there IS a pattern going on? They could spend their entire lives hiding their best talents and abilities from everyone, even themselves. THAT'S the cost of bullying.

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