Hitting the Glass Ceiling

I apologize for the radio silence this past week. I had some shiznit to work out and I didn’t want to be all negative on here and bum you all out. That is not fair to you all. I have been wallowing in self-pity. In my head, I have been hiding out in bed with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and staying in my sweat pants…too bad I couldn’t really do this. In reality, nothing has changed, I have been going through the normal motions: go to work, come home, do chores, etc. I didn’t feel like sharing it with you all right away because I felt like such a dirt bag for even feeling this way. I consider myself pretty gosh dern lucky when it comes to my career, so I felt guilty feeling sorry for myself in the least bit when I know I am more fortunate than many of my friends. Okay here’s the dilly and then I will tell you my revelation.
Dilly: The week before last I had my annual review. My boss said he is super impressed by all my hard work and gave me a “exceeds expectations” rating, Awesome! He said that in conjunction with the standard annual raise, I would get an additional raise for passing my exam (YES! this is what I have been working my tushy off for!), but he didn’t have the numbers yet. So I patiently waited, going to bed each night fantasizing how much better and easier our life would get very very soon. He had said the words “significant” when referring to the raise, so I was trying to keep myself grounded. I knew it wouldn’t be millions of dollars, but I had ideas of my own as to what it might be. Well last Tuesday he had the number, it was a percentage, so not an actual dollar amount, and at first I was like “Awesome….wait how much would that be?…”. As soon as I started crunching numbers in my head the shine began to fade. I didn’t say anything to him, but as soon as I left I whipped out the calculator and figured out what exactly the difference would be. My jaw literally hit the floor, rolled out the door, and went on vacation from being in so much shock. They had to be kidding me? Really. After all that work? After giving up my life, ignoring my husband, my friends, my hobbies, everything. After all that? Seriously I wasn’t expecting them to hand me the keys to my own office or anything, but this is a pretty big deal in the world of architecture. Becoming licensed qualifies you to open your own firm, allows you to start stamping your own designs, you are suddenly legally liable for everything you do. My heart sank. Turns out instead of studying for a year straight and kicking my own butt multiple times, I should have gotten a second job, I would have been better off. I tried to pick my head up off the floor and tell myself ‘hey, mopey girl, look around, you are getting a raise when so many people you know are having their hours cut back, be grateful’. But then there was the part of me that wondered if it was negotiable and if I didn’t ask then I would always wonder if I could have asked for more. I built myself up to go in again. I was armed with the numbers I had run and I was ready to ask if this number was negotiable…..of course I was nauseated and felt like I had to pee the entire time I was working myself up to it. I hate that feeling.
But I went in there, told my boss what I had discovered. When I told him the number he was like ‘wait how much is it?’. He was kind of shocked himself. FYI, this number doesn’t come from him, this comes from the bigger boss in the office and that is a result of negotiations with the corporate headquarters. So I knew he wasn’t to blame. He told me he would investigate whether it was negotiable and then I asked him I understood if they couldn’t do more. And if they can’t do more then can he outline exactly what I can do to get up to the next level. He was pretty responsive to this, although basically what he said is the next “level” is to become a project manager and of course I don’t get to decide when that happens. That is based on the needs of the company. If they need more PMs then I get to take the training and move up. He said ‘probably not this year….maybe next year’. Damn it!
Now let me just admit that I happen to know what a coworker of mine makes. What’s worse is I didn’t find out by him telling me. It wasn’t my fault people okay! I am innocent. So I was working on the expense report of a particular project and I was tallying up what we’d spent so far, what was left, and comparing that to what we had left to do. I was trying to determine the multiplier….basically the number they bill our work out for, because I knew what I got paid. So once I figured out what the multiplier was I could easily see accidentally saw what not only my coworker gets paid, but also my boss. I have never said anything about it to anyone….until now that is. I just sort of filed it away as to what my potential might be. I knew when I passed my exams I wasn’t going to get that much of a raise, but I figured the gap between me and him would shrink a little. He has about 5 more years experience than I do, so obviously I knew I wasn’t going to be that close to his. But I still hoped to break through to a certain point.
So after talking with my boss and discovering since then that nothing can be done, I have started to realize I have hit my glass ceiling. And the thing I think is limiting me….my age. I have been an unstoppable force for the last 9 years. Pushing myself as hard as I possibly can to get to where I want to go. I have run into my fair share of road blocks, like we all do, but I have never met my actual limit. There was always something I could do to keep going…until now that is. Now I am stuck. I am at the mercy of the industrial machine. I have to wait patiently for all the gears and mechanisms to line up before I can scoot up to the next spot. It is so frustrating to be stuck. To have nothing left to do to improve my situation. What’s worse is I thought this was my break. I thought after everything this was the key to setting us free. I am tired of struggling so hard and worse, I am tired of feeling resentful of those around me who haven’t worked as hard as I have, but are doing so much better.
Revelation: I am still lucky. In the end, after all that sweat and more tears than I care to admit, I am still lucky for everything that I have. I certainly worked for it all, but I am fortunate all the same. And the lesson I learned from it: (which is most likely more valuable than any raise or credential)From now on, I will be sure to figure out before hand the reward of such endeavors because I’ll admit it, it was my fault for assuming that this was my break. It was my fault for getting so stressed out about these exams and taking it out on my hubs, not spending time with my friends, giving up my hobbies. All of that was my fault. And if I could do it all again…would I do it the same? Well here is the rub….I think I would. Despite the lack of result, in the end getting it all done in a year was probably still a really good decision. Now it is done before we started a family (though that wasn’t necessarily my plan….thanks ovaries!) and it isn’t hanging over my head. And you know what? If I had known the reward….err lack there of…before I started, I might not have been in such a hurry to get it done. It is a Catch 22 for sure. But, the good news is I can go on with my life knowing that I have done absolutely everything I can to provide for myself and my family and now all I can do is wait for my next opportunity.
So that is why I waited to write about this. I didn’t want to get on here in all my bitterness to tell  you how horrible my week had been, how disappointed I am, etc. etc. Because in the end,…well I am still disappointed…but I am grateful all the same. I may have reached my glass ceiling, but I know it is probably just one of those skylights that are on a timer. In a couple of years it will open and then I can float up to the next glass ceiling.

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One thought on “Hitting the Glass Ceiling

  1. Natalie – please don't feel like you have to censor what you write on here or we'll judge you. It's understandable to be frustrated that things aren't working out the way you had planned! I'm glad you're feeling a little better now about everything, though, and realize that in the future – you WILL see that jump in your $$ like you deserve!

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