The morning after my Christmas Eve creeper spectacle I woke up thinking about my last boss, a ceramic artist I worked with months ago that still owes me back pay. After thinking about it awhile, I wasn’t surprised that the moment of lacking defenses I had the night before would bring to mind another unresolved situation in which I was not adequately taking the respect and space in the world for myself that I deserved.
I had given this man six months to pay me for three and a half weeks worth of work. Luckily, he was able to pay me for two of those weeks recently. I was still giving him a few hours of my time while I waited for work with the temp agency and after he paid me $1000 of what he owed me, he instantly began treating me like his employee again. He even said,” At this point, you can consider yourself employed full time.” But that was without the likelihood of prompt payment for my work, if I were to see it at all.
After a couple days of anxiety and depression, I was able to construct a message to him asking for the rest of my money and that if I were to work for him in the future that would need to happen first. I expressed how sad and disrespected I felt and just being able to do that actually made me feel much better.
It didn’t end well. He responded with a number of excuses and that he said at the beginning, “I might not be able to pay you.” Unfortunately, right now he can’t pay and he expects to not see me much anymore and wished me well. Clearly, the man is accustomed to burning bridges and doesn’t appear to recognize himself as accountable.
Though the outcome wasn’t favorable, I was firmly empowered by at least putting my feelings out there and the world, in fact, did not implode. I haven’t decided yet what if at all my next move will be to retrieve my money. It’s difficult to sympathize with a person who doesn’t respect you enough to understand your situation. He has several friends asking for repayment; he’s behind months on his studio rent and he just wrecked his car. I get it and I don’t envy his situation. But at the same time, he lumps me in with his other friends looking for their money. There is a big difference however.
I didn’t lend him money; I worked for it. We had an arrangement that I give him my time and energy and every week he pays me. This is far different than asking a friend to borrow money. I gave up a stable job to work with him. Even though I knew I would be working 60 hours or more a week for next to nothing, I most definitely wouldn’t do that without some monetary compensation and means of survival. That is the understood scenario of employment.
I admit I took a risk with him and I was generous about giving him time to pay me back because I really liked the work. And he still pushed his boundaries with me. I get that he’s bad with money. Last year, instead of paying me, he spent his money to take his girlfriend to Burning Man. I’m glad he had a wonderful time but he didn’t seem to consider that I would be living in complete poverty while he was off enjoying himself. I pride myself on being able to sustain life on very little but that is a choice I make; it’s disrespectful on his part to count on my ability to survive while he’s frolicking in the desert.
I probably won’t see that money. There is little I can do about it at this point. And I’m okay with that. How we interact with the world comes back to us, we will both see consequences for our actions and I’m looking at mine now. I’ve learned from many of my interactions that I need to be more firm about protecting myself and allowing myself to take up my rightful place in the world next to everyone else. No more hiding or unworthiness. Being humble is a virtue until it is so extreme that you’ve become a doormat, bending to the will and expectations of others and collecting only dirt.