That One Time I Cried At Work


I just found this article from the huff po, and after skimming through (and stopping after the bombastic Cindy Gallop), I realized I needed to speak up.

I’m by nature an extremely sensitive person. I feel things so deeply that even hearing a story about another person’s blatant selfishness can bring me to tears. It happens, it’s who I am and at 31 I have already accepted it. This may surprise those of you who knew me as Iron Fist Ambrose, a BELOVED college epithet of mine. Which is actually much nicer than my other one, The Bitch of Ringling, but when you’ve got a tender heart, you need to back that shit up with an iron fist. Chalk this up to Things I’ve Learned Vol. 1.

Back in 2008, when I had not really made peace with my easily-perforated heart and her much needed defense, I was working in a fairly large agency in midtown manhattan. It wasn’t a shock to be where I was, I’m as boldly proud of my New Jersey heritage as I am about the fact that I’ve got an Iron Fist. All parts of me, and not something to be ashamed of.

I was working there for about a month and innocuously checking Facebook when I saw tons and tons of my friends leaving comments to a friend who had recently gone under for some surgery: a quadruple bypass at 24. I was really close to him, and soon after commenting “What’s going on with Christian?” I received a phone call from a friend that Christian had fell into a coma midway through surgery. I’m pretty sure I burst into tears right there at my desk, because today, 6 years later, I burst into tears typing it out. I pulled myself together, went to the bathroom, and tried to not sob my face off. I doubt I succeeded.

I went to my boss, told him what had happened, and he suggested I take a walk around the block to “walk it off”. I did, it didn’t really make that much of a difference, so I took the next day off. They took Christian off life support.  I cried in private, and mourned him for 6 years.

What I didn’t know is that within that day, someone was made so uncomfortable by the fact that I burst into tears that they complained to HR and requested my seat be moved. And not only moved, but moved across the entire studio.  I wouldn’t know this for another 6 months while my “inability to be a fit within the studio” was made more and more apparent,  and it all hinged on this first complaint.

I don’t cry at reviews, See You Next Tuesday emails, or even when a beloved client refuses to pay me (which is happening right now as we speak), but I will cry at losing a dear friend. I will, and that’s totally fucking okay! To be fair, I’ll also cry at things unabashedly happy. Like this:

As difficult as it was to be judged so harshly, I make sure to live my life inline with my emotions–– not bottling them up to be unleashed at home (can you imagine if you treated all of your bodily functions that way?) I am a loving wife and friend, dedicated and philanthropic to my community, and a talented and extremely capable designer (not to mention a polymath! what what!).  I am able to be this way BECAUSE I process my emotions and not buckle under the threat of dreaded awkwardness in the emotions of others.

Dealing with emotions IS awkward, especially when they are intense, in public, and not even related to you at all, but dealing with all of THAT is so ridiculously necessary in building and maintaining relationships, and ya know being a happy, well-rounded human being that one would think it would be worth it to figure out and manage those emotions, and not just shame away from them.

I cannot and never will equate success with the ability to ignore our emotions.  Success is a human attribute–– whose metrics are extremely personal. The experience and release of emotions is a human experience, so the two are intrinsically linked. Crying over reviews, simple frustrations, or showcasing your deep knowledge in emotional immaturity is one thing. Allowing ourselves to be human in the face of other humans–– humans who experience trust and empathy–– is entirely another. I’d rather be a human, designing for and working with other humans, instead of always trying to ignore or stifle mine (or their) emotions all in the name of arbitrary and imagined dignity.

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