A Sick Man, A Spiteful Man, An Unattractive Man
What Will Satisfy the Cravings?
12 years ago, I was working for the cleaning company spending most of the day cleaning houses for rich people. There was a group of 3-5 of us that would go to the houses that were scheduled on an either weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis. This is one of the first times I was able to see firsthand how the "other side" actually lived up close and personal instead of solely through media. To say it was a culture shock was a complete understatement; as someone who grew up rural and poor, this was nothing like I had ever known. One particular house, a 3 floored century old house in the historic district was one of the largest and most elegant houses that we cleaned. The third floor had high 12 foot ceilings and consisted of just the master bedroom and bathroom. My entire house could fit inside the top floor. The bathroom had a giant stone walk in shower and sauna that could swallow my bedroom. The second floor had an office, a guest bedroom/bathroom and another bedroom/bathroom that was occupied by a young man my age. He got to destroy his bedroom and it was cleaned up by a man the same age as him. That's the privileges of having rich parents, so it goes. The first floor had a massive lounge area with a bar and pool table, there was also a small movie theater room hidden behind a secret door.
On an afternoon in June 2011, this was the first house that I cleaned after returning from the job interview where my lifelong goal of being a police officer was crushed (see post: Your Dream Will not be Realized). The last thing I wanted after that interview was to go into that house and reunite with the other cleaners since just hours before, I was assuming I would be quitting and beginning my career in law enforcement. The only emotion I could feel was despair. I thought that interview was my ticket out of poverty. It was my next step up to eventual success, the American Dream. Heavy hot air evaporated the tears off of my face. One of my coworkers walked out of the front door and was smoking a cigarette. I couldn't stay sitting by the truck anymore. I had to go inside. The other cleaners tasks me to go on the second floor to clean the office, the owner requested that the desks were windexed off, to wipe off the oily fingerprints that inevitably form on desks with added on glass tops. I looked down on the desk when moving paperwork and coffee cups to the side and I saw that the wife was a nurse practitioner.
Today in 2023, I am sitting in the crowded conference room in the clinic for a providers meeting. The wife, the nurse practitioner sits at the table in front of me. While she gets paid triple my salary, we are both considered "advanced clinical practitioners," we are equals. Even though my pay is substantially less than hers, and I am sitting in the back corner of the room, we are equals. I should feel like I've made it, I should be fulfilled. In other words, I should be flying a fighter jet onto the aircraft carrier with the "Mission Accomplished" banner hanging on the ship awaiting my landing, but I don't feel that way. I feel just as inadequate today as I did when I was a 19 year old cleaning this woman's mansion.
A nobody making less than poverty wages now sits at the same table as the same people who only saw me as the person who cleaned their toilets. When I type my full name in Google, I am now the first result with my hospital profile followed by my directory listing for my private practice. While my pay differs from the hospital to my business, an hour long therapy session in the private practice equals close to a day's pay. Even when inflation is not taking into account, the amount is impressive. My name and picture is on the website, the hospital made a youtube video of me and posted it and are also playing it on the mix of hospital advertisements shown on the TVs in dozens of waiting rooms across the system. Even comparing to something more recent, 3 hours of work sitting in a chair and listening to people pays equally to grueling 12 hour shifts breaking up fights, passing out dinner trays, and getting cussed out by angry psych patients during my grad school days.
Of course the financial aspect could be a cause of my disappointment. Thanks to greed and living in Republican Hell, no matter my achievements, I still cant afford to buy a house. Yes, I save more money in a month now than what I brought in 10 years ago but that doesn't translate into shit when house prices have tripled in the same time. Regardless, the inadequacy goes deeper. I look into the eyes of myself in the youtube video and I see stiffness and fear. Who am I to be trusted to help people through their most difficult times in life? Even though I have spent hours studying and reading therapy books in my specialty, I freeze up and forget everything. Half of the time I say no more than a few sentences for the hour and just sitting in my chair in silence occasionally asking questions and making small redirections. Imposter syndrome is real. Is my authority and credibility based more off my skillset, or the fact that I wear tweed suits and have Tiffany lamps in the office and appear as if I know what the hell the is going on. Who would even trust a 30 something who doesn't have his shit together?
I feel like a fraud, like I am the same person who cleaned my now coworker's house, or the same person that was half drunk sweeping floors in the same hospital in 2013. When will I feel okay?