Today took a left turn quite quickly. In the end I’m glad it worked out the way it did, but man was it emotionally draining and incredibly difficult.
Every Monday, I have a check-in meeting with my manager at work. It’s a quick chat, usually, to discuss projects, get help with things and have the one-on-one time that employees have with their supervisors. It’s a helpful meeting for me, often a place to vent, get advice and deal with the typical crap that one endures at their job.
Today was a bit different meeting (in more ways than one!) as it was a mid(ish)-year check in on my performance plan. We got to talking, and one of the pieces of feedback for improvement was how I handle myself in large team meetings. Apparently, there are times where I seem uninterested or downright hostile.
I get it. In large part, I have a problem with chronic resting bitch face. But more importantly, I wear how I feel on my sleeve. When I’m unhappy or annoyed, it shows. When I am happy? Well, it doesn’t show. Refer to resting bitch face, previously discussed.
Our team meetings aren’t always the greatest. Oftentimes, we stray off the agenda (sometimes this is valuable, sometimes it is not) and I get very irritated. I think it is important to respect people’s time. At the same time, I see now how my attitude isn’t respectful or constructive either. I do feel as if there is a bit of a double standard, as other people also show their frustration and it seems to be a joke. It’s tough to take criticism, but we all have areas we can improve upon.
Anyways, in talking about that with my manager, she asked if I found that suggestion/criticism as a surprise. It’s not – but something inside me said I needed to stand up for myself in some part. I was going to let it slide, but at the end of the meeting, after discussing other things, I came back to it.
“You know, I’ve had a very difficult year,” I said. “And while I’m getting help, there’s still a lot of work to do.”
My manager looked at me, very warmly. I felt like I was in a very safe spot, which hasn’t always been how I felt lately.
"I felt a bit like I had pushed a boulder down a hill and it was rolling towards something pretty scary — I was about to let someone else in to the circle of knowing about my HIV."
“Last year, I was diagnosed with something chronic and pretty serious. It’s manageable, but it hasn’t been easy recovering from that. It’s been a pretty big psychological shock.” I said. I was shaking a bit, I felt a bit like I had pushed a boulder down a hill and it was rolling towards something pretty scary — I was about to let someone else in to the circle of knowing about my HIV.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I hemmed and hawed about whether to elaborate. I figured I had gone this far, and I felt a strong sense of trust.
“Well, I had an unfaithful partner,” I said with a long pause. “And as a result, I have HIV.”
I felt a massive weight lift off my shoulders, but also felt like I had just dropped a bomb in her small office.
We talked a bit more about the condition, she spoke of how she had read some Dan Savage columns, and doesn’t see me as a different person than I was before I disclosed. I needed to hear those words. She knew a lot about HIV – how it’s manageable, how once you’re on treatment, you’re on the right track. To be blunt, she knew her shit. I wasn’t expecting to be understood so quickly.
I went to work today expecting a normal performance review. Instead, I shared a very personal part of me with someone else and I am glad I did. I feel respected. I feel understood and that isn’t something I’ve always felt lately. I wasn’t expecting to tear up at work, but that happened too (and to be honest, I hate showing vulnerability so that pissed me off a little bit, but that’s beside the point).
Today was an important lesson for me: disclosure is scary, but it doesn’t change things. I’m glad to have such an understanding, open and supportive manager. It motivates and encourages me to keep moving forward.
This article first appeared on Josh’s own blog The Plus Side of Life here.