My Secret by Aggretsuko
What’s the difference between a bad job and a high-stress job? One of them’s a compound word! Cue the cymbal crash, the raucous laughter, an offer letter to open at the Laugh Factory next Thursday night…
Okay, really. Have you ever worked a job that felt right for you, but it was simultaneously extremely stressful? It’s a hard place to be in. You might be extremely passionate about the career field — healthcare, music, construction, marketing, education, the list goes on — but the actual constraints of your specific position make it hard to enjoy your day-to-day workload.
This can happen for a thousand different reasons. Sometimes the company you work for is woefully understaffed. Other times you receive a promotion or change departments only to find that your old position was more manageable. And still other times your boss is breathing down your neck and making note of your every last mistake.
That last situation is exactly what’s happening to our latest Character Coaching client, Retsuko. Retsuko works as an accountant at a firm that constantly gets under her skin. Her boss is too much, and the job itself is really hard. In order to cope with the stressors of modern living, Retsuko has turned to some unconventional recreational activities.
Still, she could use a little advice. How can she effectively deal with her job and maintain a decent social life while simultaneously keeping her sanity? Let’s read her latest journal entries on the subject and see if we can help her find a path forward.
Retsuko’s first journal entry: my secret
“Dear Jonathanz, I just finished school and I finally got my first job! It’s so exciting! As a junior accountant, I get to make sure companies have balanced financial statements and get their taxes in properly. I am a very hard worker, but I have an amazing team of people who I am becoming friends with like Fenneko and Haida. I am so proud of my… oh, who am I kidding. The job is so hard, and I hate my boss, Mr. Ton. He is so mean to me and my friends and makes us work until very late. Komiya is also always around making sure that we are following directions. If I ever make a mistake, which has been happening more and more lately, I get yelled at and called names. It doesn’t make me feel good. I don’t know how I am going to keep this going. I have never told this to anyone before… so please don’t tell anyone, but… every day after work I take a detour from the subway and go to this special karaoke room where I let out ALL OF MY EMOTIONS into a microphone. I know I can be good at my job if I just keep trying, but I am not sure how long I can keep this going.”
First impressions: out with the office, in with the music
Oh, wow! What a fun and different pastime. I don’t know too many people who sign up for karaoke and scream their heads off to themselves in order to let off steam, but now that it’s out there, I’m more than willing to try it…
As we take a closer look at Retsuko’s challenges, there’s a lot of different ways to construe her issues. Perhaps her greatest issue at work is her boss, Mr. Ton. Or maybe it’s Komiya, who seems to have their nose in everybody’s business. Both of them seem to berate and belittle Retsuko for her mistakes, which isn’t a very healthy work environment.
At the same time, there are other things about this journal entry to consider — things besides Retsuko’s relationship with her work. For instance, while she’s found a way to cope with her problems, she doesn’t seem to want to share that part of her life with anyone else. I’d like to know why that is, and whether or not her relationship with her friends is strong enough to talk to them about something like that.
Moreover, I want to know what “triggers” Retsuko’s need to go and sing her head off. Is there some kind of boiling point she gets to that makes her decide it’s time to let of some steam and scream? If so, who pushes her to that point? Knowing the answer to that might help us pinpoint Retsuko’s major issue at work.
Finally, I’d be curious to know what Retsuko thought of her career path before starting at her current position. What made her want to be an accountant back in college? Did her dream job look like the job she had today?
We’ve got a lot of questions and very few answers, so I think it’s time to check back in with Retsuko and see what she has to say about all of our musings.
- What do you look for in your feelings to decide if enough is enough?
- If you could go back to college when you were dreaming about the awesome job that you would one day get, what did it look like?
Next: finding the right role model
“Dear Jonathanz, Just thinking about deciding if enough is enough… is enough. I am so done with Mr. Ton and the way he treats my friends. There are these 2 powerhouse business women at my work who know how to handle it better, Director Gori and Washimi. They don’t take any attitude from anyone and I want to be like them in a few years. When I think about the dream job, I guess I don’t know. I love my music, but does anyone want to listen to some cat screaming? I don’t know and that makes things even scarier! But if I were screaming with a band, people would come from all over the world to hear us play. They would know the words and feel the emotions.”
I’m glad we followed up on Retsuko’s previous entry. Now we’re getting a clearer picture of her office environment — we’re learning not only about the bad factors in her day-to-day life, but also some of the positive things that make up her day.
As coaches, this is important for a couple reasons (cue my pedestal, where I get up and talk about the pedagogical implications of proper life coaching…). First, we never want to assume that someone’s first journal entry offers a complete picture of their current mental state. If we do that, then we’re bound to start giving advice that doesn’t actually represent our clients’ actual lives.
Secondly, it’s just as important to expand the picture of someone’s life by inquiring about what’s working for them in addition to what isn’t working. Doing so can help people make better decisions about what they love and want more of, instead of simply focusing on what they don’t want, and putting all of their energy into those negative outcomes.
Alright. Meta-coaching moment over. Now, let’s dig back into Retsuko’s second journal entry. What I’m noticing right away is that she’s got a lot of hopes and desires of who she wants to be, but hasn’t quite taken the plunge yet.
To some people that might sound like timidness, but I see that as wonderful! That means that even if Retsuko hasn’t made the choice to change just yet, she knows what she wants, and that’s one of the most powerful tools available when it comes to reinventing your life in a way that feels authentic and meaningful.
On another note, Retsuko’s situation is pretty similar to a lot of our own struggles. I’m sure some of you out there can definitely empathize with having a job you don’t necessarily love, but a hobby that you adore. Eventually, it starts to beg the question: why continue working at something you don’t love if there’s something out there that you do love?
Alright. We’ve mused appropriately here. Now it’s time for some questions.
- What is it in Director Gori and Washimi that you see and want to be?
- Are there people you would want to make a band with? Have you ever shown your vocals to anyone?
- Is there a position you could hold that’s music-related that still draws on your accounting skills?
The check-in: letting the secret out
I guess it’s their confidence! They just walk around so sure about their decisions and like they know what to do. They are the coolest! No. I have never shown anybody my screaming before because I don’t think anybody would want to hear it. Is that something I should try? I guess it would be cool for my Haida and Fenneko to know what I do outside of my horrible job. It would also make me feel better not to hold a secret in. I think I’ll give it a try! Thanks Jonathanz.”
Way to go, Retsuko! I can already tell from this journal entry that she’s a little more confident and self-assured than she was when we started. More than that, I never once told her to quit her job or start a band — as a coach, I’d rather use our exchanges as a starting point that Retsuko can use to come to her own conclusions about what would make her life fulfilling.
As it turns out, it seems like right now, the best thing she can do is show her friends her big secret. Letting new people into a very private part of her life is a vulnerable thing to do, but it’s also an opportunity for Retsuko to feel like her most authentic self in front of those she trusts. That’s a big moment for her, and I’m glad she’s experiencing it now.
In fact, I feel like this might be the first step Retsuko takes toward having the same kind of confidence she sees in her role models, Director Gori and Washimi. It won’t happen overnight, but who knows… maybe Gori and Washimi had their own “secrets” that they had to let out in order to be the people they are today!
Of course, while this journal entry is promising, it’s important to remember that we’re all works in progress. Nobody is completely happy or healed after a few exchanges. If Retsuko continued to work with me, we’d dive deeper into everything happening in her work, and how she can live a life that feels like the one she set out to live when she was getting her degree all those years ago.
Maybe you’re in that same spot. If you have a job that’s less than ideal, or a hobby that you’d love to share with others, I’m here to listen! Drop me a line and let’s see what’s possible.