My resignation went into effect last week, September 15th. Since it was my first job in almost 20 years, I would say that I did well. Despite me having to resign, I was a good project manager and proved to myself that I still had/have the ability to work. Just not at a job that was as physical as that one. For most people, the job is not that difficult. I was on my feet for 10 or so hours per day, lifting things, doing a lot of walking. But I am not most people.
The Toll it Took
I was outside for most of my days. In the Phoenix sun, it was freaking hot. For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that I sweat a lot when I do anything physical. It doesn’t matter if it’s for 5 minutes, or several hours. The sweat just pours out of my body from places I didn’t know could sweat. Even my toe knuckle hair was sweating. I would be drenched for most of the day. It was just gross and I hated feeling that way. It felt like I had jumped into a pool fully dressed. My shirt would stick to my body, I drank massive amounts of water the entire day. I started off working the night shift, but even during the night I would sweat like crazy. When I got back to the hotel, I was still wet so I had to hang my clothes up to dry. It was ridiculous. There are 3 medications that I take and a side effect of all 3 is sweating a lot. Thank you medications.
Sweating wasn’t the only toll. The physical toll was brutal. My sore muscles from walking around so much would have gone away with time as I got used to being on my feet for 8 to 12 hours. Most of the people I worked with said that the soreness goes away eventually. The part no one really knew about was the toll it took on my head and my brain. As simple as it sounds, walking for a long time isn’t very good for my head. People don’t normally understand this aspect of a TBI, walking makes my brain bounce around inside my skull with each step I take.
I tried to adjust how I walk by taking smoother steps instead of the jarring steps we normally take. Running and jogging create an even greater jarring effect on my head. There’s no medication that can take of that. The job also required me to move pallets of boxes or steel parts around the store and outside for the night shift. Most of the pallets were very heavy. I would either push or pull the pallets with a pallet jack to wherever it needed to go. Depending on the size and weight of the load, I would either push or pull it to its destination to try and make it easier for me. The forklift wasn’t allowed inside the store, which sucked.
In order to keep the loads on the pallets from falling off, we wrapped them with saran wrap. The best way to do this is to hold the roll of saran wrap in both hands, walk in a circle around the pallet, starting at the bottom and working your way up to the top of the pallet, and wrapping it between 10 to 20 times. That’s 10 to 20 circles around the pallet. Anyone who has done a ‘keg stand’ knows what I’m talking about. Since dizziness is a constant worry for me, walking around in circles 10 to 20 times is not in the cards for me. This is where being a supervisor came in handy, I asked one of my co-workers to wrap it for me. I did try a couple times, but when I got massively dizzy and nauseous and almost threw up, I knew that was a task I couldn’t do.
As with most construction/remodeling, there is a lot of trash. With trash, also comes recycling. Trash isn’t just trash anymore, it has to be separated. Plastic, cardboard, metal, and just regular old trash. Each form of trash had its own obstacles for me. Reaching up over my head, like reaching to grab something off a high shelf, taking something apart where I have to reach, even putting things into a giant dumpster that’s taller than me, is usually instant nausea and dizziness. Just reaching over my head once is ok, it still effects me, but it’s a faster recovery. I’m tall so I usually have to help short people get something off a tall shelf whenever I go to a store. Not a problem. Doing it for extended periods of time is no good.
When I could, I would use a forklift to throw heavy things away, like metal into the metal dumpster. Those were always a lot taller than me. If I couldn’t use the forklift, I would have to throw it into the dumpster manually. To make it easier, I would throw the metal from farther away and throw less material so it was lighter and I could chuck it farther and higher. The forklift was much easier. Reaching was probably the worst part for me. To make things easier, I used a ladder when I could too.
Do I think I failed at this job? In a way I do. I don’t like failing or not being able to do something and finish it. But it does happen to me. That’s how I learn my limitations. It was a good job and I was good at it, even after not working for 20 years. It wasn’t a failure if I look at it from that perspective. I started off as a manager and wasn’t promoted through another position. Some people asked how I got the job and if I hadn’t worked in retail prior to this job. I didn’t really have a good answer for that question. The last time I did a retail job was in the early 1990s. Construction/remodeling jobs have a lot of moving parts, and I was good at organizing those moving parts. It is still kind of crushing to know that I ‘can’t’ do something.
The End of it
My girlfriend and I would talk every day about the job. We both came to the same conclusion, this job wasn’t for me. It’s easy to say that, but to walk into the office and talk to my manager about it was the hard part. The job took the life out of me. I was exhausted every day, I didn’t feel good at all, and with each passing day it was getting worse. After 2 weeks, I got the courage to talk to my boss and I gave a weeks notice. Things were getting worse for me, but I couldn’t just quit without any notice. I still put in a full day’s work on my last day.
I left work that day and drove straight home. It was a big sense of relief and I don’t regret my decision at all. My shirt was soaked with sweat and I was sore. The 2 hour drive home was actually relaxing. The air conditioning in my car was on full blast and by the time I got home, my shirt was somewhat dryer and I had cooled off. I unpacked my stuff and took the what was probably the best shower of my life. The sweat was gone, I felt clean, I washed that job away, and I can spend more time with my family again. I slept for 10 hours that night.