"I Have a Boyfriend"
Sunday Funday, a total day of sleep and consoling a whining puppers. It's nearly midnight and he sounds like a foghorn in the living room, beaconing me to the door to take him for a mountain hike. Sorry, dude, but we won't go for so much as a walk until I get life matters squared away.
I'm having troubles getting insurance for the apartment I'm supposed to be moving into, since I already have primary residency in Ohio. I'm supposed to be moving tomorrow, but I also need to have proof of insurance and first payment then, as well. That might be an issue if I can't get my company to cover without twenty phone calls. The other option is to open a new insurance policy with a new company, but I like to stay in familiar territory and bundle...
I actually had a pretty philosophical topic I wanted to write about, and I was hoping to get it out on Wednesday. Instead, work ramped up, emptied my brain, and now I have another topic that's on the forefront of my mind. My team is great, work is great, and I think I've started to make some form of positive impact on my team. We all went out for breakfast together this morning after work, and I got to see them interact on a more personal level. It's interesting that my team and I are all around the same age. I'm not sure if I feel more comfortable being a supervisor of folks my age, or those who are actually far older than myself. But as great as the work environment is, it's also a melting pot of folks from not just all over the country, but all over the world. And as is with the general industry, females are the minority. So yes, I'm going to launch into open discussion on my experience as a young female in a male dominated industry, starting right off the bat.
I'm two weeks in, now. This is the first non-union shop I've ever worked in, and it's also a game changer in the industry--it's big thinking, forward progress ideology is revolutionary, and it definitely has a millennial-oriented mindset. By that, I mean everyone busts their butts in a personally driven way, but it's also very open. Open break area with soda fountains and snacks, coffee, food trucks... they push for lesser-path (direct) command, than operating by a chain of command. It has a cool, futuristic feel.
I work with highly intelligent and highly motivated people. To me, to smile and introduce myself to my coworkers, to smile and say hello to people coming in to spend the next 12-14 hours troubleshooting and working hard to keep the place running, is natural. I've just wrapped up week 2. I'm 11 days into the job, 9 days on the plant floor, and I've already had several awkward encounters with men that in hindsight, I fully understand why women in manufacturing tend to get called a "b****", hard-ass, rude, etc. Let me explain.
In this place, since it's a line start up, we work directly with the vendors and contractors. They're teaching us, and it's our responsibility to learn it quickly before they leave. Cell phones are the number one way people communicate there. My team members will call me from one side of the plant floor to the other, to let me know something is happening or to ask me a question. My first run in here happened before day three even closed, when a contractor and I exchanged numbers. Shortly after doing so, it became more and more fuzzy as to whether or not it was for work reasons, as the first message I received was an offer to go grab a beer or "explore" Reno together. To me, these offers would be amazing, as I would love to have someone to platonically explore a new place with, but at the same time, there was that little voice in the back of my head screaming not-so-quietly that I've been down that road before.
Work sent out an email shortly after I met this individual, releasing their first and last name. With the hesitancy high on my mind (and being blatantly pointed out by my significant other), I did the stereotypical female thing--I looked him up on Facebook. Mr. Contractor most definitely has a Mrs. Contractor and Junior back at home. In my mind, sure you're on a multi-week business trip, but as someone who is now verifiably several years my senior, if you really wanted to just explore Reno, why wouldn't you befriend one of the maintenance techs that you've been closely working with for the last few weeks? After this, I cooled nearly all phone contact, and after a few more futile attempts to hang out after work, the offers ceased and the friendly conversation we had on the job stopped, also.
The next incident is with another male figure I was friendly with, as he worked on the original Roadster and came to the Gigafactory to assist in our launch. All was well, we had similar interests, I was learning a ton about the robots and troubleshooting them, learning about the company culture and its evolution, and eventually we talked about snowboarding. It evolved to an invite to go boarding together, and cumulated to the guy excitedly telling me he took a day off of work to coincide with my weekend. I told him that might not work out the greatest, and he instead said we should go grab some beers. After situation one, I blatantly told him I was in a long term committed relationship; he responded saying it wasn't a problem, and we could go as just friends. A happy hamster, I agreed, and we decided to work out the details the next day since the shift was ending.
I came into work the next day and several hours in, I had yet to see him. I sent him an email asking if everything was okay, and the response was suddenly, after ensuring me the day prior that he had every intention of working straight through until he returned to Cali, his "friends twisted his arm into taking the day off and going out". Well, guess we're not making plans for the following night.
Each day, I see my team and maintenance techs on my lines searching me out to say hello, to ask how the day is, to make small talk before launching into a heavy work day. To me, it's a warm environment. That is, until a fellow Sup started pointing out that I am literally the only one they do that with. Now, is that because I'm a female? A moderately attractive one, at that? Or is it because I listen? Because I smile and have a positive attitude, and get everyone pumped and motivated for the day ahead? Is it flirting? Or is it building relationships?
I hate thinking negatively. I hate assuming that anyone that walks up has an ulterior motive. But when certain expressions are made in conjunction with someone I've just met greeting me with a warm handshake and an intense "You look really pretty, today", I'm not sure if smiling and saying thank you as I walk away is the more professional answer, or if immediately becoming serious and saying that in the workplace that it's absolutely unacceptable to say such a thing to a supervisor, regardless of whether I'm directly over you or not, is the better way to go. Mix in cultural differences, and it's an even bigger conundrum.
I've been invited to go clubbing with a single dad. As bleak as that sounds, let me explain situation number three. The invitation was given after I asked for recommendations to take both a girlfriend of mine out, and to scope out classier places for when my significant other comes home. Being native to Reno and being my same age, what started as asking a simple question turned into "I grew up here, I know all of the guys (bouncers), if you want to check them out, we can go and I'll get you in." Is it inappropriate to go explore Reno (legitimately exploring new places, as the question was asked under the context that I'm searching for places for me and a second person). But is that the case? Now, everything is becoming less upfront, and I feel more and more pressure to just stay a hermit and avoid making friends or being friendly with folks at work simply to avoid having that awkward conversation the confrontation, and apparently the ultimate case of someone flat out calling off work to avoid making plans with me. Could it be a coincidence? Absolutely. If I was single and I agreed to go snowboarding and grab a drink after, would he have ensured his Sunday was completely open to follow through on his own suggestions? I am nearly absolute in saying yes.
The closest people I'll meet working the shift I work, are with the people I work with directly. There are two ladies on my shift... exactly and only two. Both are older. One is mom-like in a way, the other is closer in age and is cool company, but is going through a rough patch in life right now and as much as I want to extend refuge with my second bedroom, is drama I'd prefer to avoid. I know this is very transparent feedback on how the last two weeks have been, and a much more personal insight into my team (perhaps too personal), but I feel like from a social standpoint my personal life is going to turn stagnant. Do I have to wait until June to finally stop doing things solo? For what, a few weeks? And how long will that last?
The more and more I find myself alone. The more and more I find myself just me and the dog. It's liberating in a way of absolute independence, but it's also very destructive in terms of team work and learning to live with someone. It's very isolating, as I absolutely hate those situations. We all make fun of those women that preface every conversation with "I have a boyfriend", but the more I find myself in these situations, situations where once the knowledge of my commitment is known, suddenly all meaningful conversation stops, it seems almost easier.
I wouldn't change my relationship situation, ever. It's not that there's interest that dies in the honesty (if they're on a hunt for a date, it'd be a one-sided conversation, anyways)--just clarifying my stance on this. But why is this such an issue? It's like every friendly conversation has to be filtered, everything viewed with a cynical lens, to get an accurate read on the men I'm talking to.
If being friendly or genuinely wanting to get to know the people better is consistently misconstrued, is that grounds to be less amiable?
I find that's unnatural for me--it's exhausting. I can't lead a team under a false image. If genuinely caring about my people, being in a place of leadership of people, places me in this situation, is that grounds to accelerate my career path away from where I'm at now? I've been open about the fact I want to transition back to the engineering side of things. I've already received business cards and offers to transfer departments (seriously, in two weeks...) but I want to master running the line before moving into a different role. I want to take full advantage of where I'm at now before moving onto something else. Are the problems that come from this, though, worth it?
Maybe it's a desire for platonic friendship that I've overridden my entire life...the thought since I was a child that I could do it all by myself, without anyone's help. The bad incidents with female friendship in grade school. The excess drama, the betrayed trust. Things that cut deeper than I realized as a kid that have molded and shaped how I approach friendships as an adult.
I've always been a odd one. I've always been a floater--floating between social circles, knowing people and creating life long memories, but rarely growing a close connection with any singular individual. It's made floating around the world easy. It's grown me into the type of person that can talk to a stranger on a bus to the airport and in less than 24 hours have a new travel partner flying with me to a foreign country. It's made me the type of person that will accept a move 2,500 miles away at the drop of a hat, and know I'll be just fine getting by in new cities and foreign lands. But the same independence that frees me to experience life from one side, leaves an unfulfilled hole on the other.
It's a two-sided battle here. Because I want to maintain an open stance on making friends, meaningful connections here, I want to stay optimistic on chance occurrences. I will call the number of the guy driving the Ohio vehicle beside me through Kansas on I-80 and have a 10 minute conversation as we cruise down the highway into Colorado. It's the openness to have dinner with a stranger in a strange city that opens me to experiences many will never have, but it also opens me to the conversations where sitting in a busy parking lot, it's explained that likely there's greater expectations in this picture than just "dinner".
Part of this is frustration. Part of this is despair. Part of this is hoping that, the same as 12-year-old Andy writing in her journal did, I'll get some deeper sight or grand epiphany on a problem. And in a way it worked, there's clearly more internal issues here than I thought. I guess this is a start...to what, I haven't a clue. But in the mean time, I've at least realized one thing: I'll keep hoping. I'll keep calling those numbers, having those chance encounters, and believing that not everything is negative, cynical, and as dark as Sin City. I'll believe that people are just warmed by a smile, the deep conversations with total strangers can be refreshing and also a one-time thing. I'll keep risking those awkward conversations because that's me. And that's the view I choose to keep.