I've had an interesting thing going on for a few days now - I've started thinking a lot about the situation that I was in about 5 years ago before I moved back to the UK. I traveled for a while and ended up living in Canada for a year and a half. The first 9 months were glorious - I desperately wanted to stay and thought about living there permanently. The place where I worked was in a bit of turmoil and there was some confusion about my role there, and eventually some confusion over my intentions. The people were nice ordinary people, but a culture of fear and paranoia started to develop and (though I didn't think about it at the time) little moments of bullying started by the management team. Over time the atmosphere and the moments increased - the next 9 months were some of the hardest I've been through, and partly because of that desperate desire to stay I didn't get out of the situation as quickly as I might have done. In some ways, it was important - I stayed long enough to really learn lessons, and eventually to watch that team get taken out of their positions and to see a new, healthier approach start to emerge with the new people coming in. The whole thing was so bitter sweet, there are so many good memories I have mingled with an incredible amount of fear and heartbreak.
Five years later and I'm just starting to consciously think about the impact that experience had on me. I learned a lot and the experience made me a much more honest, grounded and compassionate manager in the time since and it taught me to spot genuine humility and distinguish it from arrogance dressed up as being humble. But it also messed with my self esteem - I have flashes of thinking I'm an awful person, that I'm difficult, that I challenge people's faith, that I tear apart communities and I know that this is a direct legacy of the things that were said to me then. I wish I had been braver and stood up for others that were in the same position at the time, I wish I had been more insightful to see just how many others were in that position at the same time as me, and I wish so sincerely that I had the faith in my own gut instinct rather than clinging to an idyllic vision that I wanted it to be. Someone I know recently told me about an experience that they are having at work and my heart ached for her - I told her in no uncertain terms: report this to whoever will listen, find a way to stop this, notice if others are in the same boat as you, please take care of yourself and get out of this situation when you can. I wish I could have taken my own advice.
In the meantime, I guess I'll be thinking and processing and figuring out where I go from here, trying to let go of this heartache that still resides and understand what to keep of that experience and what to lay to rest. I know that work on my shadow side needs to be done, I know that things will keep coming up and peeling away. I'd quite like to cast off this shadow now please, and walk in the sun for a while.