You may have been keeping up with the adventures of Issa, Molly, and friends on the third season of Insecure (and it you haven't this is your official spoiler alert).
What I've come to realize is that with each episode, I identify with a new character (the beauty of Insecure writers' room genius). Sometimes I'm Issa, frustrated and disgusted at my non-profit day job. Sometimes I'm Daniel, feeling defeated and creatively unappreciated. But in episode 3 entitled "Backwards-Like", Molly opened her mouth and surprisingly, she was me.
You're probably aware that Molly is off to a new firm with other lawyers that are a little more her complexion. Although just a few months ago, we witnessed a Molly that felt underpaid and unappreciated at her mostly white firm, we now see a Molly who realizes that with change comes being forced out of your comfort zone as she notices subtle differences in structure and organization and finds herself repeating, "At my last firm…" and asking, "Why do black-owned businesses always have to be on the struggle?"
First off Molly, I once worked at a place where we had to bring our own cutlery to work despite having a full kitchen and I must say her new law firm is looking pretty well-stocked on spoons among other things. Whether you're a lawyer or a lunch lady, any professional can relate to the stress and uneasiness that can come with navigating a new workspace, particularly as a woman of color.
There's the initial, "How many of us are there?" game you play for the first week as you determine the ratio of black people to white people. If the seven of you are clearly outnumbered by 36 or so of your melanin-challenged colleagues, you scout out what other marginalized groups you can include just in case ish goes down in the break room a day after the Botham Jean investigation hits the headlines. In those first few weeks, you try to gain a better understanding of the office culture: Do people usually eat at their desks, or can folks be seen regularly eating their Greek salads as a work family? Does the CEO treat the staff to happy hour every now and then, or do they sit in a glass tower choosing to communicate solely through email?
Still, despite the slow process of making sense of office politics, there's probably the slightest bit of excitement that every new person experiences, particularly if their last employment situation was toxic or pales in comparison to the new dream job they believe they've just landed. But here's the advice I give to myself and my peers when it comes to climbing the career ladder:
Every job has its share of BS, it's just what type of BS you want to deal with and how much of it.
In "Backwards-Like," we witness Molly excitedly dancing in her corner office, taking in the view from her panoramic proverbial corner office, surrounded by faces that reflect her own literal color and culture. But little by little, she learns that the comfort of not having to code switch at her new firm comes with some minor inconveniences.
Her office doubles as storage for her files (with no offsite option like her last firm). The new firm also uses a courier service several times a day to get documents signed instead of going digital and she has to log her billable hours by hand. What in the hot dog stand hell does this black firm have going on exactly? Of course, she responds to all of the inconveniences with, "At my last firm…" But the girls quickly remind her that she has to choose a struggle: Being paid less than your Caucasian counterparts but having the convenience to sign documents online vs. Being surrounded by people with whom the respect is mutual even if it means you have to store some filing bins beneath your desk.
I'm not exactly cashing in the coins as an attorney, but as I progress through the world of public health nonprofits in Philadelphia, I've recently found myself sounding a lot like Molly in the position I've been in as sexual health specialist for the past two years. It hasn't been the most glamorous job. I've been getting paid significantly less than I was in my previous position as a Communications and Outreach Coordinator. With the transition from working in a small staff of 15 to a larger staff of about 50, I was hopeful that there would be some considerable upgrades from my last employer. An actual HR department and not just a controller who worked one day a week seemingly phoning in with actual details about my benefits package. In the past year or so, I was reminded by my own sound advice: Same old s**t, just a different day in a bigger office with more personalities to juggle.
I had to catch myself before I began romanticizing a position that I fell out of love with at least a whole year before I was laid off. As much as I like to romanticize the past and compare all of the shortcomings of my current position to the past, the point is that my new employer is signing my paycheck. Does it mean I'll have to settle for a place that isn't for me for the rest of my life? No, but reminiscing about the glory days at a place that could no longer afford to pay me (and that as I understand has completely eliminated the position since then) wasn't exactly helping me grow into a better professional. I started to think about my career like I thought about my romantic relationships.
All the whining and comparing was doing me the disservice of gaining what I was able to from my current situation.
I wasn't able to take in anything positive from my current employer because I was too stuck in the past. And much like relationships, moving backwards in your career is rarely beneficial. You have to accept that things ended for a reason and keep moving forward. I also realized just because the past had its share of disappointments, didn't mean unfavorable situations would be eliminated from the future. What I did have to learn was to make the best of the positions I was placed in.
Hopefully, Molly will find her groove at her new gig, but that doesn't mean there won't be days when she's feeling like, "F**k this job." What I've recognized in all of this is that as fulfilling and gratifying as our 9-5's can be, they don't define us. And luckily for Molly, there's Coachella getaways with the girls, bourgeois ass baby showers to attend, and the occasional shot of Dro between the thighs that say as much about her life (if not more than) her resume.
Whether it's love or career, you can look back and appreciate the past without romanticizing it, because at some point they only thing it should have to offer is a good photo for #ThrowbackThursday.