I don’t remember how I finished the rest of that first month, but I had somehow managed to learn complete processes and could do them on my own. So, I was thankful for that.
As time went on I tried to be friends with Zoe and Melanie. Melanie and I had kind of hit it off and she’d invite me to come eat with them in the mornings along with this other girl from R&D. I remember wanting us to all get along so badly. I don’t know why I tried to force it so much though.
Melanie was easier to get along with than Zoe. She had even explained to me not to worry about Zoe and that she was hard to get along with more often than not. She’s like that with everyone. She had told me. That made me feel better. Maybe I had someone I could start to tell my concerns to. She started talking to me about her biker boyfriend and how he was like the king of his gang. She invited me to do a tough mudder with her. But when me and Zoe were in a bad spot, she was nowhere to be seen.
Zoe would teach me things and I tried showing her how competent I was. She seemed relieved, but never quite approving. She always had her attitude flowing.
I started to notice that if I talked too much or felt too good about myself at moments that they would shoot each other unapproving glances.
Zoe had a growing animosity towards me and I wasn’t sure why. I became increasingly anxious to ask her any questions. She would always be annoyed. I would start to expect to go to break with them in the mornings. But some mornings they would go without me. It was only on days where Melanie invited me that I would go. Or I’d be in a room with both and they would say, let’s go.
A seldom mistake by me meant pure panic. I knew how capable she was at making me feel inadequate. I dreaded making mistakes. But cell counts were meant to be exact, procedures were meant to be followed. This was my bread and butter but still, mistakes could arise occasionally. I was new to the job, with not much guidance but excelling nonetheless.
I got four separate raises in my first year there. Mark, our boss, would pull me into a separate conference room and tell me how great I was doing and give me a raise. And I think Zoe might have despised me for it. I think she also felt good about herself when she could make me feel so bad.
My friends kept telling me she was jealous of me as time went on. I didn’t really believe them though because she made me feel like I was never living up to her standards. What was I missing? What more could I do? I lamented endlessly. How could I be better so that she would accept me? Things got worse. I would try to say hello to her in the mornings and still try to maintain a positive attitude. She would storm in and then storm off again saying nothing. She had shown me how to QC our cell counter which was to be done every morning. I would do it almost every morning. Hoping me staying on top of things would make her acquiesce. Some mornings I would get there and she would have done it already.
I started dreading the Monday morning meetings we would have as a group. She was nice to anyone she had to be nice to. She would always be cracking jokes to our boss saying, “Oh Mark” prodding at him making him smile uncomfortably.
She didn’t like how I became friendly with Melanie. Especially when Zoe had done something to piss Melanie off too. Zoe could be bitchy to everybody even though I was her prime candidate. Melanie would start coming to me to bitch about Zoe, and how she made her feel bad about one thing or another. She knew how much Zoe could get to me, so she would frequently tell me to not take it personally when she knew I was upset. I started to tell her more of the things Zoe would do or say to me. I thought I had found a friend in Melanie.
But Melanie and Zoe were besties when they weren’t fighting. And Zoe would always show me more aggression after Melanie and she were back on good terms. This obviously wasn’t good for me. Now I felt like I had no choice. Either be by myself with all these emotions at work or try to win Melanie over, knowing I was a better choice of friend for her. But I don’t know why I was ever trying to control the situation so much. Listen to me, I knew I was a better choice of a friend for her. Says who? I knew her better than she knew herself? But I knew how horrible Zoe was, but then again so did Melanie. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be friends with her.
I would busy myself a lot so that I wouldn’t feel anything. It’s the only thing I could do to get away from the gnawing emotions inside of me. I had no one to talk to most of the time. I would complain to Jay when I got home, but I think that it got a little tiresome after a while for him. And I was completely obsessed with how confused I was about it. It couldn’t have been that I wasn’t doing a good enough job at my job, what else could it have been?
We had moved to a little town that had a bar and a bunch of close friends of Jay lived around so we would go to the bar almost every weekend, and end up at our apartment after it closed down. I got hammered with no concern about how drunk I was getting ever. That was the point, get drunk. Repeat. I’d go out in all my new clothes I had bought with my new money to feel acceptable at work.
There was one week where Zoe was in a conference all week which was held right in the building, but she couldn’t do anything in the lab. So, I handled a couple of things in the lab for her. She had a fermentation to do the following week. I hadn’t learned fermentations yet. They were the most complicated as complicated things went there. But I could at least get the supplies ready for her.
She told me what kind of fermentation she was going to be doing via email, so I searched it on our database to find the SOP. I found it and started looking at the materials and checking through what we had already and what we would need. Fine no problem, I thought.
But the SOP was confusing, it was saying there were two separate ways to do this fermentation which was based on the batch size. If you did it one way with a bigger batch size you’d need a certain component that we didn’t have and if you made the smaller batch size, you didn’t need it. I had a feeling from what I had heard that it was the smaller batch size. I so desperately didn’t want to ask her for her help, but I had to. I had to be sure. So, I emailed her.
It had been the right SOP for sure, I thought. Come to find out it wasn’t. The first sentence of her reply was along the lines of what are you talking about, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I tried to explain how the SOP said the thing about the batch sizes. She continued asking me what I was talking about. Finally, she deduced I had the wrong SOP. Then she pointed out how the SOP had been attached to the original email she had sent. She also made some comment questioning my reliability.
Shit, how could I have been so stupid! Berating myself mentally. I always check for that kind of stuff. She could have told me that she had attached something. Rolled through my mind. Oh well. I replied and said I had it now and thanked her, but I didn’t mention that I had searched the wrong SOP. I feared being bitched out by her. She had a habit of making sure to tell me whenever I had made a mistake in the past and making me feel adequately bad about it before she was satisfied.
She beeped me right back.
But where were you getting that other stuff from? Prodding.
I had already told her I was all set and thanked her. Why did she need to know?
I didn’t respond for a while. I was already stressed out. I had to have these orders to Melanie by around 2 o’clock and I had been researching the wrong SOP for quite some time. I needed to get moving. Annoyed I ignored her message.
So, she sent another.
[Nicole did you not get my message where did you see that you needed that component from?]
I replied, reluctantly, and said that I had got it from an incorrect SOP I had found when I searched for the fermentation. I had been certain it was the right one because it had said that same type of bacteria she was doing with bacterial fermentation in the title. There weren’t any others. How could it have been the wrong one?
Her reply came. It was a page long, reaming me out for my blunder. The room where all the supplies are kept is small, tucked away from the rest of the lab where no one was too likely to come in. I started crying. What was I doing so badly? How could I possibly try any harder? Smart, hard working. I work my ass off. I’m not one of those girls who is on her phone at work all of time or talking to people and doing god knows what else. I’m an introvert. I mind my business for the most part and get my work done. I only wanted to be accepted by her.
I had saved the email. I wish I had it now so that I could look at it. It was so bad. I wish I could remember all of it now. You can use your imagination. Anything that makes your heart drop. I emailed Melanie. I told her I wasn’t sure if I was going to have the list in time for her or not and asked her if she could come help me. I was still new at this point too. She came down. She could tell something was up, and she confessed that Zoe had been emailing her too and got the forwarded version of the email that she had sent me. Subject line: Too Harsh?
Melanie was angry at Zoe. She told me about the subject line of the forwarded email then started to make me feel better by saying that if you need to ask someone if it’s too harsh then it is. She also said how it wasn’t her job to discipline me. That gave me some confidence, but I still felt small. I then proceeded to have an anxiety attack in front of Melanie. Or at least the beginnings of one before I calmed myself down. I told her that I wasn’t even crying from the email, but it was more from anxiety.
I told her what I had, pulled out all the components in front of her and she said, see you got this.
Noah, another guy that worked in the research side of our same lab (we were operations-production, production, production!) came into the little room. Melanie filled him in on what had happened, in a way that didn’t fully explain it, but he interpreted the gist.
Noah was asking who had done all this shitty stuff.
“Just think… the one who is mean to everybody here.” Melanie said.
He rolled his eyes and said, “oh yeah, Zoe.”
He went on to say how he deals with her by making jokes of everything she says. Going on to say that if she tries to tell him what he needs to do or what he needs to do better he would say stuff back like yeah or I need to go eat lunch or yeah or I need to go take a poop. This made me laugh. It made me feel better like I was less crazy. She didn’t rule the world.
We had been talking for a while, the three of us, and the list was finished. I was about to head out of the room, thinking I wasn’t quite worthy of more of their kindness and embarrassed a tad. When Zoe walks in brusquely. I could tell instantly that she had been getting worried. Melanie hadn’t responded to her emails either. She kept telling me how she wasn’t going to respond. Zoe had probably gone looking for Melanie in the computer clusters on her lunch break, she probably saw that Melanie was nowhere to be found and neither was I and started panicking. She then walked into the main lab and saw no one again and finally found us all in the little media room off the lab. She feigned that she had had a quick lunch break and she wanted to show us all pictures of her niece. Look. She showed Melanie and Noah, commanding them to gather around. She looked at me.
What you don’t want to see my pictures? Attitude filling her voice.
Avoiding conflict and feeling insecure, I looked for a second. I can’t believe I didn’t walk out of the room, but I didn’t have the courage. But the nerve she had! I told her how they were cute and walked out of the room. And that felt daring. But I wasn’t going to spend more time in there than I needed to. Not with her, and not after the verbal abuse I had endured a moment ago.
I still have some fear in my heart that makes me believe that I simply wasn’t good enough. But I never would have been. There I was a girl, that was fully capable at learning quickly and that was nice to people. What did that leave for Zoe? Well, she was fully capable at her job too, as good as I was, but she was nasty. Sure, she was excellent at faking nice to the people when she had to. But most of the time it was, watch out because Zoe would have a way to make you feel like dirt.
Everyone knew it, but myself intimately so. She must have thought she lucked out when I came to work there. Finally, someone that she could make feel bad about themselves that wouldn’t even do anything about it. I was someone who back then solely depended on what other people conceived of me to get by. I was such an easy target for her to feel better about herself. If I felt bad, then she could finally feel good. It worked. I was fresh out of my first job where I had friends. Where I was happy every single day. I believed I deserved this. Why wouldn’t anyone like me? I used to believe. I was so naïve.