Melanie came up to me after our weekly meeting one Monday, complaining about how she was fed up with Zoe. She whined angrily about Zoe’s audacity and abusive nature. A hundred computers buzzed in the background as Melanie flailed her arms about. I nervously looked around the vast cubicle space and quietly agreed with her. I loved it when Melanie confided in me. It made me feel less crazy about my own anger towards Zoe. I told her how on top of Zoe and everything that I just didn’t think I could do the job anymore. I confided that it was all just too stressful for me and that it was really starting to get to me.
I was really hungover on that particular day and after Melanie was done complaining about Zoe, I told her a little bit about the bad night I had had the night before. As usual after a night of heavy drinking, I was very much on edge. Back then, I wasn’t aware what a negative effect alcohol had on my body and more so, on my mental state.
Melanie had listened for a second and then suggested that we go on a walk during lunch or something. I had appreciated that. It was like I finally had a friend at work.
Each minute that went by that morning I got more and more stressed. My mind couldn’t stop thinking about the fight I had had the night before. I also reeled about the upcoming agony I was in for with Zoe. I was supposed to train with her on a fermentation later that day. I couldn’t reach for a positive thought about anything to save my life. I was living in the past and the future and desperately avoiding the fear in the now.
After I was done with my first production of the day in the dark lab in the back of our section, I went into the main lab where Melanie and another girl were hanging out and talking.
They were working on something, some kind of prep for one of Ashley’s productions by the look of it when I heard Melanie say dispirited, “Yeah, it’s just one of those days I guess.” I assumed she had been joining me into the conversation, so I said “yeah, just one of those days,” agreeing dispirited.
Then her tone changed and she became more bold and aggressive, “It’s like my boyfriend,” she said. “I mean everyone has problems,” emphasizing the word everyone, “And when people have problems I just want to yell loudly in their faces, what I say to him, “NOBODY CARES!!!” She finished and she walked swiftly out of the room with a slight stomp.
What in the world was that? I questioned in my mind, worried that somehow it had to do with me. After about 20 seconds I got that sinking feeling where I knew exactly what she was talking about. I attributed it to our early morning discussion where she was bitching about Zoe and I had told her about my bad night and how I didn’t think I could do this job anymore.
In an alcohol depressed and anxious state I knew I needed to leave the building. I had made it up in my mind that I couldn’t stay there a minute longer. I was scatter-brained, panicky and the word insecure could probably cover about a quarter of what I was feeling. It was obvious everyone in this lab hated me. I was in flight or fight mode and I couldn’t bear the thought of spending a whole afternoon with an unapproving Zoe while worrying about Melanie’s true feelings for me. How could I keep showing my face at this job day in and day out and try to remain positive when I felt mocked and hated for being myself. I felt defeated more than words could describe.
I racked my brain trying to think of why Melanie had acted like she cared about me and then, all of a sudden, became so cold to me. Afterall, I always listened to her personal problems. I was always there for her. Then, I barely brushed the surface of my personal stuff and I got, “NOBODY CARES”?
Why did nobody care about me?
I left the room to go back into the lab where I had been working in to finish cleaning up. She was walking in the opposite direction towards me in the hallway. Maybe it hadn’t been about me, I tried to persuade myself. I quickly glanced up to check her demeanor.
She was clearly still in stomping mode and gave me an easy resting bitch face.
I gave her a dirty look. I couldn’t help it. Even though it probably wasn’t even a dirty look, merely not an overly friendly smile like I usually gave her.
I finished cleaning up and was silently fuming but also very shaky. I walked down to where my boss was having a meeting. It felt like I needed a drink or several, some hair of the dog to wean myself off of the binge from the night before.
I told Mark that I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to give my notice, I just wanted to be done. He was immediately scattered and tried to see if there was anything he could do. I told him no, packed up my desk, and on I went. I unloaded the the old whale poster, pencil holder and other small belongings into my passenger seat.
It hurt. Especially in front of Ashley. I had always really liked Ashley but was always too nervous in front of her to be my honest self. Melanie had apparently been telling her how I was whining about my problems to her which felt mortifying and uncharacteristic of who I really was.
I was so naive at that point in my life. I thought that people were trustworthy and what they showed me to my face was actually how they felt about me. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Even though what I went through with Zoe and Melanie hurt most days and especially so on the last day it taught me to be resilient. Quitting was the first step in me doing something for myself no matter how bad it could be for my career in biology.