An introvert with generalized anxiety disorder is probably not the ideal candidate for a job that demands an ever-increasing amount of attention, but I never seemed to have trouble with speaking in front of people about work related things. I’m a pretty solid public speaker, and I knew my material well. The painful part was usually what so many other people find easier: small talk. Conversations with strangers during coffee breaks are the things of nightmares. Being an officer meant a lot of schmoozing and a lot of visibility; as if it wasn’t enough to work for The Salvation Army, I had to wear the hideously outdated uniform in hopes that it would draw more attention.
In my new job, the uniform consists of a black polo shirt and some form of neutral pants. It lets people know I work there, but doesn’t make me look like a lunatic. I am identifiably invisible. Which suits me, for the most part, but… Sometimes, I kind of miss the positive impression that I had a few months ago, simply by being in another professional role.
No one ever thinks much of the woman at the gas station. No one assumes – or even supposes – that I have a bachelor’s degree and am working towards a masters. I doubt it crosses anyone’s mind that I once played a part in huge, life-changing transformations for some people. They don’t look at me and see someone who has spent days at hospital bedsides, or frozen herself while outside in the dead of winter, feeding hungry people, or blown away doubters by raising tens of thousands above and beyond the Christmas goal. No one associates me and my job with compassion, kindness, love, or responsibility anymore.
I never did any of those things so that I would be recognized for them; I did them because it was the only way I knew how to be.
No one sees anything like that now, because almost no one sees me at all – I am invisible. They see a being in a polo shirt mopping the floor, or running their fleet card, but not me. Honestly, sometimes I’m really glad for it, because I hate working there and I can’t wait to have a job that actually makes use of my education and capacity. I find myself reminding myself as I push the salt spreader around outside that this is not really me, that it is a temporary fix.
Tonight, a customer kind of snapped at me when I carded him. I’m used to it; people really think nothing of talking to retail workers like they’re subhuman. After a few seconds, though, the guy looked up and apologized. He said he’d had a horrible day with customers and he hadn’t meant to be snippy with me. He was wearing his own polo shirt with a pest control logo on it. I thanked him and wished him a better weekend. While fleeting, for those few seconds, it seemed like for the first time all night, I wasn’t quite as invisible to the person on the other side of the counter. He at least remembered that I’m human and that I wouldn’t like to be spoken to that way.
I don’t know what to do with how I feel about this. Is it prideful to say I’m better than this job? Is it selfish to say that I miss the recognition, even though that was never my motivation?
This job is exactly the job I said was my reason for making it through college: because I never wanted to be here again. When I think about it, I get so angry I could string together profanities better than any sailor has ever dared. I get angry at the people who made my life as an officer so miserable that I resigned. I get angry at all the bad officers who get to skate by on piss poor work because of the usually unnoticed good work done by the good ones. I get angry at myself for thinking this job is, in some ways, beneath me. I get angry at the people who applied for the same, better jobs I applied for and got them. I get angry about being invisible.
I don’t regret leaving. As miserable as being invisible is, it’s a Mardi Gras parade compared to my daily life three months ago. It’s just hard to go from an identity that is generally esteemed (whether or not it’s deserved) to one that is invisible at best (even though I know what I’m capable of).
Like seemingly everything lately, I don’t know what to do with this, other than to keep going. To get through this shade of hell and onto something better. Because almost anything is better than being invisible.