I threw away my Panic Box today.
I have never felt terribly secure at my new place of employment. Not that I felt unequal to the tasks assigned me; rather I feared the working conditions might prove unbearable, and I would be unable to carry on under such. After what seemed likely to become a revolving door of managers, the one that stayed has wrecked havoc on my soul with her truly epic ineptitude and appallingly non-existent management abilities.
For most of the past year I have kept a cardboard file box under my desk. In this box I have kept most of the personal items I have seen fit to bring with me to work: coffee mug, spoon, the adjustable stamp kit my parents gave me when I was eight years old. A single framed photo of my son and my father sat at the back of my desk, while my treasured Tolkien calendar hung on the wall of my cube. Nothing else adorned my cubicle, nothing else made the space my own. My idea was that in a few moments time I could throw into the box whatever I would want to take with me when I walked out, never to return, an event I expected to happen very soon. I did not know how long I could endure the situation, but I was sure that any day it would finally be just too much. And when that day came, I did not want to be slowed down by excess possessions, or risk leaving behind anything I would miss. I just wanted to grab my box and walk into the cold world, jobless but free.
But I have endured longer than I ever could have imagined possible back in those darkest day of the summer and fall of last year. I have weathered what I hope is the worst of what this particular manager can do, and I have come out of the storm still shining. And I have finally reached escape velocity, career-wise. This month I took a new position with the systems support group at the same facility. This is new ground for me, but it offers far more opportunity for career advancement, which is important to me now that I have people I love dependent on me for their survival. I am nearly incredulous at the difference in atmosphere between my new work environment and my old one. Both my new manager and my new colleagues are truly people I enjoy coming to work with each day. And even after a few days I knew that my life at work had taken a complete turn for the better.
So I have moved into my new cube in a way that I never, in a year and a half, moved into my old cube. A picture of my wife and son hang at eye level in front of me. An assortment of amusing and/or inspiring quotations are pinned up all around me, the same quotes that I hung on my door back in college. My coffee things are in a bottom drawer of my new desk. And today I placed the now-empty Panic Box on the pile of boxes in the loading dock, since I won’t be needing it any more. I can settle in now, panic-free, and start to feel good about going to work again. This is a day I long feared would never come, and I am very glad it has.