I got my performance review at work last week.
I "meet expectations".
I don't like to merely "meet expectations". I prefer to be dazzling, amazing, mind-blowing, and perfect.
Gentle reader, I am none of those things. Not even on my best day.
Last year? I was even less of those things than usual.
My manager, who is one of the kindest souls I've ever encountered, gave me a review that was, in light of 2022, quite positive. Kind. He pointed out the big wins I had. He praised me for always volunteering for all the projects, how I am always willing to test out all the things. He said I was inspiring and strong. My team couldn't believe how resilient I was. There were days that he didn't know how I was functioning, but there I was. Functioning.
Sometimes functioning is okay.
I didn't tell him that I sometimes wasn't actually functioning. That I would cry until it was time to be an employee, get on camera, hold myself together and be an employee, and then turn off my camera and stare at the wall because I was so exhausted from trying to be a normal human being when my heart was literally broken into a billion pieces. When I felt completely alone and so scared. When my depression took me to the darkest, scariest places.
I left that part unsaid. I leave a lot of things unsaid these days.
My two areas of improvement from my review were:
1) Gain more self-confidence
2) Give more constructive feedback to colleagues
I joined the feedback team at work because I am really bad at feedback and I enjoy challenging myself with things I'm really bad at. The first step at being good at something is sucking at it, right? So I figured since my year was Hell on Earth anyway, why not? Just pack it all in and experience all the pain at once. Damn the torpedoes and whatnot.
Turns out I am GREAT at receiving feedback. Fantastic at it. I appreciate it,accept it, grow from it. All that shiz. I am really, really great at that part but the part I am really, really bad at is saying to a co-worker, "Hey Fred, remember how we had three dry-runs of this meeting and I wrote a really detailed demo plan and I was supposed to have forty-five minutes to demo and you were supposed to have literally three minutes at the beginning to do introductions and then on the day of the demo you whipped out a set of seventy-five powerpoint slides that you sure the Hell didn't tell me about beforehand and then you talked for thirty-five minutes about your career that you had before you even started working here and literally no one cared Fred, and only left me with ten minutes to do a demo that I very carefully choreographed down to forty-five? That's a BIG PROBLEM. FRED."
So I have to work on that. Clearly I know what to say, but just saying it? Hard.
The other part, the self-confidence part? It's harder.
See, I was getting better at the self-confidence thing.
Or maybe I was.
Or maybe I thought I was.
Maybe I was just doing all the things even though they are really scary to me.
Probably the last one.
There have always been things that I have known to be true. Things that I believed with every fiber of my being.
2022 demolished some of those things and with it? Some of my confidence.
I remember at the beginning of 2022, before my brothers death, I was talking to a coworker about him and I told her, "He was my first best friend and over the last year and a half, he's become my best friend again."
There was no one else on this planet, there IS no one else on this planet, that I could talk to the way I talked to him. We shared our childhood. We had a million memories. We were so much alike, in so many ways. Our brains worked the same way- the creative and funny way. He was easy. Our sons are best friends. Even though he was complicated and messy in so many ways, he was my friend. He was brother, but mostly he was my friend. He was funny and snarky and said all the things I wasn't brave enough to say.
I was absolutely gutted when he took his own life.
I was absolutely stunned too, because I didn't see it coming.
I don't know how that can't shake someone's confidence.
The morning of 2/16/22, before I knew what happened, was the best morning I'd had in so long. I felt so good. I am finally in a position where I love my job. I LOVE my job. I love working. I had started teaching Zumba classes. I was working with a coach to get strong and lift heavy weights and I was really happy with my physical appearance and how strong and capable I was becoming.I have a happy marriage. I have great kids. I have the best dog in the world. Everything was peaches and cream and I was just so damn happy and suddenly everything was completely wrong and it's never been fully right again.
I didn't see it coming.
He was my best friend and I loved him so much and I needed his friendship so much and I.did.not.see.it.coming.
I felt like everything I ever knew to be true was a lie and I still struggle with what's real.
I have a good husband, who gently reminds me that what we have is real, and not going away. I have my sweet children, who are actually grown adults now, and we can talk openly about anything and everything. What I have with them is real and true and they have always been my reason for wanting to do more and be better. I have my brothers son, who is all the best parts of his dad, and his presence in my life is more of a blessing than I could ever tell him. Just having him here, laughing and talking, is the best. He is a talented musician and he weaves his loss and pain (and sometimes his dad's voice) into his music. I listen to it all the time. I have other nieces and nephews who trust me with their secrets and I am honored at the small ways we are all breaking cycles and forging new paths. I have a good therapist, she's helping me navigate things. She is incredibly patient and I am thankful, so thankful, for her.
I remind myself of all of these things. I say it all to myself over and over.
I tell myself sometimes that I didn't know because he just didn't want me to know. I don't ever delude myself into thinking I could have changed anything. As much as I loved him, as much as we all did, it was not enough. It was never going to be.
I just miss him. I miss how things used to be. I miss that feeling I had the morning of 2/16 before everything fell apart.
I believe I can get back there someday, but I know it will always be different.
I laughed so many times this week, when I told stories about Chris. I saw him in my dreams, as I often do, and it was positive and good. HE was positive and good and funny and whole. Those dreams are beautiful. They make me miss him more, yes, but they also let me see him for a little while, and that is a gift.
I cried a few times this week, when I told stories about Chris. I got choked up when I talked about how he had become my best friend, how he was the only person I could talk to. He tried to help me and he truly loved me, and that was a gift.
The vulnerability that came from this great loss is a gift too.
I imagine next year my performance review will look a little better. I hope so anyway.
I don't cry every day anymore.
Not every day.
I imagine it takes self-confidence to hit publish every time. To lay all of this bare. To write these words that hurt and know I don't have that friend, my brother, behind me. Telling me to live my truth, even if no one else liked it.
So here it is.
Messy, and hurting, and healing, and functioning.
Day by day by day.