Send questions about the office, money, careers and work-life balance to email@example.com. Include your name and location, or a request to remain anonymous. Letters may be edited.
Mute Those Wedding Bells
I work for a nonprofit and live check to check. My colleagues and I have a shared lunchroom and lunch break. One of my colleagues is getting married and has spent many lunches discussing her extravagant wedding plans. My husband and I rode our bikes to a courthouse to tie the knot, so listening to the challenges of organizing a wedding that costs at least $100,000 is quite shocking. I find the entire wedding industry to be ridiculous, and this level of privilege is unfamiliar to me. I try to tune out as much as I can.
My colleagues plan to host a lunch and purchase a wedding gift for her. My budget is extremely tight and I bring my lunch to work every day because I don’t have any extra money. I do not want to purchase lunch or donate to the gift. I donate to most causes (colleagues who lose family members or are having a new baby). However, I just can’t see myself purchasing a gift for someone who presents as entitled. I’ve decided to ignore the email and avoid work that day. How should I handle this situation?
It sounds as if you’re harboring some resentment here, and given your circumstances, I understand. It’s frustrating to live paycheck to paycheck while having to listen to someone blithely discussing the economics of her impending nuptials as if everyone can afford an extravagant wedding. Your colleague is probably sharing about her wedding because she’s excited. She’s also being a bit gauche and inconsiderate because you’re her co-workers, not necessarily her close friends with whom she might more appropriately discuss such things.
You clearly don’t like this person, so don’t contribute to her wedding gift or lunch and don’t give that choice a second thought. Social pressure is always at work when the workplace passes around the proverbial collection plate, but you can either abstain silently or explain that you can’t afford any additional expenses right now. There is no shame at all in declining to contribute to something like this.
Overcoming Internalized Ableism
I’ve been sick with various chronic conditions my whole life. For most of my career I’ve been a workaholic, frequently working multiple jobs and well over 40 hours a week to make ends meet. For the past couple of years, I’ve had a full-time position I love and that I’ve been really good at, with a nonprofit whose mission I truly believe in.
However, my chronic pain and fatigue have been worsening. In January, I was struggling to focus and make it through the workday. I asked my boss to switch to a new, more exciting project. However, I crashed and burned anyway and had to take three weeks of medical leave. I returned to work, but after only a couple weeks full time I was struggling again, so I asked to reduce my hours to 32 a week to try and prevent another crash. In the meantime, my original project has remained untouched.
In recent meetings, my boss has been highlighting my current projects and singing my praises to supervisors and colleagues. Instead of feeling happy or proud, I find myself thinking, “You’re just saying that to convince everyone — including yourself — that I’m still worth it.” I know that’s my anxiety and internalized ableism talking, but I can’t get that voice out of my head. How do I convince myself that I am, in fact, still a worthwhile employee?
— Georgia, Austin
Please stop undermining yourself! It can be difficult to overcome the internalized negativity we harbor toward ourselves, particularly in an ableist world. It’s easy to buy into the idea that if you’re human, if you can’t work yourself into the ground without consequence, you are failing. This is simply not true. To live in a body means that sometimes, that body will struggle in one way or another. It is not a reflection on your inherent worth or your professional merits.