Sunday, April 29, 2007


Easter Sunday, I was sitting in church, listening to the minister discuss the day's reading. It was the story of the two Marys who went to the tomb of Jesus to attend to his body, and found instead an angel of the Lord, who told them of the resurrection. My thoughts wandered to images of Jesus's mortal body and the physical and emotional torment he endured before dying on the cross, images mostly brought to life from the watching of "The Passion of the Christ", a movie I almost wish I had never seen, except that it awoke in me strains of a greater spiritual nature and compassion for Christ. I was thinking also about the teasing of the Roman soldiers, as they pushed the crown of thorns deeper on Jesus's forehead, mocking him about being "the King of the Jews", and asking him where his God was now. For me, the resurrection was more meaningful in terms of redemption than in Jesus returning to earth, though this might be a subtle difference that comes down to the same idea. It is important to me that after all Jesus suffered at the hands of the soldiers, in the end, he was redeemed. In the end, his God did come and swoop him up, or transform him, or both (although I am very curious about the actual process). He did get was due him, which was the eternal spot at God's right hand, the lasting hereafter, the ability for his death to atone for the sins of those who came after and who believed. Justice was served. And perhaps that is the reason I fall for redemption, because I want to believe in justice. I want to believe in the ability of man to transform, to be lifted up and changed in an ephermal way. I want the underdog to win, to rise up and succeed under oppression. Redemption is the great eqaulizer, the bringer of justice in an unjust world, and without it I believe the eventual state of man would be true hopelessness.

With the help of that Easter sermon, and a lingering boost from a Friday night festivities with my previous co-workers, I saw the way redemption had played out in my own life recently. I had experienced in my professional life some serious disappointments that made me humble. My friends from college saw me as ambitious and driven, and I vowed to never give up on my dreams, but I had become the token underdog and lost some confidence due to having worked some jobs that were beneath my education level and percieved worth. While it was true that some of these experiences changed me in ways that made me stronger, more aware, and more versatile, they had also robbed me of some of my youthful zeal and ambition.

Since moving to the Houston area about five years ago, I had worked at two veterinary practices with similar situations. In both positions, I came into a practice that was much busier than anything I had worked at before, and which required a higher skill level and efficiency. In the first practice, there had been a girl who considered herself the "lead", and resented anyone who matched her talents. She made my first year very uncomfortable, for I do not like confrontations and tensions in the work place and want to just be able to do my job and get along with the team. She had it out for me for reasons I can only speculate on. She continually caused problems with the rest of the staff, but the doctor was reluctant to fire her because she was just so good at what she did, and she used her force of intimidation to keep me down, although I had more education and experience than she did. After that first year, though, the doctor and I had reached a level of comfortability together that gave him the sense of security that he needed to fire her and rely on me to take over her role as the "lead". For the next few years, I continued to rise in authority, responsibilty, and pay level, above another girl who had been there longer and beyond which they were able to compensate me for. When I left that practice, the same doctor who had been reluctant to pay me the initial wage I asked, and gave me his reasons for offering a lower wage, was calling me with the same moony sadness that I had heard in the voice of my old college boyfriend when I dumped him and he was asking me not to, offering to pay me whatever wage would be enough to cover the additional costs of childcare that I had given as my reasons for leaving.

That was some redemption there, seeing how my growth potential had changed the perception of my value, and how I was worth more than what they originally had me pegged for. However, it is the most recent experience that really drove a point home to me. I went from that practice to an Animal ER that prided itself on offering superior service and talents. I worked with a team of incredibly gifted, talented, devoted animal nurses and doctors. These people were amazing, and I know the employer, who had been a friend of mine, had a reputation for paying well, but my initial offer was only fifty cents more an hour than the job I had left. It worked out to be worth more, because I did not have to pay child care costs for my newborn baby, and could be home with him during the weekdays. Initially, anyways, I felt it was a fair offer, because my skill level was not nearly as high as some of the other girls I worked with. They for the most part did not share my education level, but they had been doing this job for so long and worked so hard to be the best at it that in terms of skill level, I truly was worth less than them. Some used this to their advantage, and made deliberate attempts to make me feel worthless. In those early days, there were days I went home crying, and often I wanted to give up. I felt like I was in water above my head and swimming with sharks, and it was difficult to gather the courage to get back up and try again to rise to the level of that playing field.

There was a manager there, Erin, who made most of the pay decisions and who, it was believed, had a good sense of people. I think she was close on, but missed the mark, missed out on the subtleties of human nature. One thing she told me during my 90 day review drove this point home to me. She told me that my former doctor had come to her in help of finding someone to fill my shoes at the practice I had left, and she had let him look through some applications and gave him her perceptions of the potential prospects. She asked him what qualities I possessed that he was looking for in someone to fill my role, and he gave her adjectives such as "bold", "a leader", "strong", "forceful", "aggressive" - the qualities I can bring out in comfortable surroundings. She told me that did not jive with her impression of me, which was "meek and submissive", and basically told me I needed to get some chutzpah and communication skills (ironic memory here of a college lover who told me "what sets you apart is your ability to communicate"), and only gave me a small raise. She gave another girl who came in behind me a much bigger raise (because she had threatened to quit because the sharks were tearing her apart emotionally), but also told her she had "a problem with authority", when in actuality she was a creative thinker who came up with unique solutions for long term problems and had the "chutzpah" to make the changes she saw where needed.

It came to pass that Erin left the practice to work for a head hunter service, and then my employer slowly went mad with paranoia. During the time of crisis at the ER, during the increasing insanity level of our boss, the sharks jumped ship immediately. Our staff went from fifteen to six within a couple of weeks, and during this time, those who were left were looking for a leader and cohesion. I stepped up to the plate, and walked into the role I had filled before, managing this time a nervous wreck of a staff. In the end, I left the practice one of the two most cherised employees, one of the two my crazy boss pleaded with to stay with her, and when I and the other girl walked out, the doors of the clinic closed behind us, leaving the doctor crying in the dark, demanding that someone listen to her, help her fight the demons only she could see.

During the time I was looking for another job, I had gotten an offer that put me in the higher wage bracket for veterinary technicians. The initial offer was comparable to what I think some of the higher ranking sharks had been making. Crazy as it seems, I turned that job down because I was looking for something that would allow me to follow my dream of working in animal behavior management. The story goes that I kept praying for God to send me the perfect job, and then these people would call me back with a higher offer, and I would turn them down, and then I would pray again, and then they would call me back the next day. In the end, they came back to me four times, and the final offer was higher than I had ever heard of a technician making, with free medical benefits and a sign on bonus. Basically, I ended up accepting an offer that was six dollars more an hour than I had been making the previous year, an unheard of jump for this type of job, and with the total package included, had acquired a 33% raise in salary. It turns out, as well, that this job is a lot less physically demanding than most technician positions, offers great perks, and best of all, allows me to spend most of my time in behavior management of the animals, and offers incredible growth potential for me professionally.

So on a Friday night before Easter, I had gone out to meet some of the former EC staff memebers for dinner and drinks. I sat next to Erin, who asked me about my job. When I told her about the final offer, her jaw dropped in astonishment. She, this veterinary headhunter, could not believe how much I was making. None of the other girls who had left the EC had ended up with jobs as good as mine, or that paid as well. "Have you ever thought about why they wanted you so bad?", she asked. She told me she knew at least five other techs who had applied for that job, "so it is not like they were desperate or anything. So why did they want you so bad?" When we talked further, she decided it must have been my college degree and my experience in behavior.

I, however, think it is something more. I think it was redemption.