Chapter 3: Shattered
I’ve shared the fact that I’ve had my contract non-renewed even though I was up for tenure and promotion. I’ve shared thoughts on healing after non-renewal. Now I’d like to share a particular few hours in that former office on a particular day a couple of months before that final year was over.
In the previous few weeks, I had been obsessed with thoughts of glass breaking. I wanted to throw a wine glass into a fireplace. I didn’t. I wanted to break a dish in the kitchen. I didn’t. Most of the day I heard the sound of repeated shattering in my head, and felt my arm frequently throwing something against something else.
On this particular late afternoon, I was alone in the wing of offices. Or at least I thought I was alone, I don’t really know. I was again thinking about glass breaking. When I realized how quiet everything was in the wing, I had dreams of tossing my office chair out the window. I could see the metal frame smashing the window. I could hear the loud cracking of the splintered glass. I kept replaying the scene again and again.
And then my logical mind kicked in. My soon-not-to-be-mine chair. Through my soon-not-to-be-mine window. Guess who would be charged with an ugly repair bill?
I turned away from the window so I wouldn’t see the glass. Then I saw the picture frame. The university-owned picture with a glass front. I could accidentally make that picture fall. I could see the frame tilting just enough to get tossed off the hook. I could hear the satisfying smash of the glass sheet against the shelves below it. I could see the many tiny pieces of glittering glass, like rain scattered over the office.
And then I thought of Dolores. The lady who cleaned the office. The woman who said hello every time she emptied the wastebasket. The woman who canned her own vegetables in summer to last her through winter. The woman who lived in a trailer. I wouldn’t get a bill this time. But I knew who’d have to pay. Dolores would have to pay. Because she’d be asked to take care of the many, many small pieces of broken glass.
And then I got the x!@#zg! out of that office before I really did anything.
Don’t think I’ve wanted to break anything since.
I realize now that I felt shattered. I felt angry and wanted to smash someone back. If you feel this way too, know that it will pass and you’ll find a new path forward. That may sound trite. It was Antione de Saint-Exupery who said’ “What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.”
Take Away Message: Stay away from whatever will result in you unintentionally hurting yourself with the anger you feel about your situation. Take a step forward no matter how small the step.