An Untold Story
I had every intention of writing a blog post today because I haven't blogged in a while. I had one idea in mind that I wanted to write about, but that changed at around 2PM this afternoon when I was at the gym watching the news. Another set of sexual harassment claims have come to light and this time they were aimed at Capitol Hill, the government.... our government. I felt queasy watching the different headlines fill the screen, while I am so happy and empowered to see these strong women come forward with their stories, I wish it never happened to them in the first place.
The more stories that come forward the more I am questioning my own story, one which I've only shared with my parents and my boyfriend. I am so puzzled that it actually happened I had to confirm with Sean if it was even sexual harassment. He simply replied with "100% yes it is." Before I share my own experience I want to also state that I am not writing this to be brave. My story won't compare in severity to what the women in the media are experiencing but it happened and I still think about from time to time. I question why it even happened and why didn't I do anything about it.
Back to after graduating college, I was eager to jump right into a full time position. I wanted to work as a professional, doing what I have been taught and perfected during my four years in school. I was ready and so excited to finally become an "adult." I had my eyes on Chicago for my career, compared to my small town it was the best place for opportunities in a creative field. I attended interview after interview, sent out resumes all over but always received the same response. No Experience. My motivation was wearing thin and I had loans that I would need to begin paying. I had no job, no money and lived at home with my parents.
I decided to change my mindset and focus on some local companies that would be a great "stepping stone" for experience in my career. I applied to the bigger names I knew about but heard nothing but crickets. I also applied to a position I found on indeed.com for an entry level designer working mostly in print. I heard back immediately and set up an interview for the next day. Finally... someone who might be able to give me my first full-time job.
The next day, I pulled up to the address that was given to me via email for my interview. I realized I have driven by the building daily but have never noticed it. From the outside, it didn't look terrible but it also didn't look like anyone was working inside of it. I walked inside to be greeted and told to wait in a room until (we'll just call him J) J was ready to start. He walked in wearing these awful faded jeans, snakeskin boots and a v-neck tee (ladies you can just imagine). The interview was very casual but then we somehow got on a tangent about working out. He said he'd seen me before at my gym running and said...
"you have the body like a runner,"
and then offered me the job.
Now I know you're probably thinking RED FLAG, DUH! But I was only twenty-two years old at the time, desperate to start a job and this was the first person to offer me one... so I said yes. I was more focused on the fact that I finally had an offer instead of how the interview ended. I was eager to start and super excited to finally begin designing again.
After two weeks of working I had figured out who was who and the drama of the workplace. I kept to myself, came to work early and got my work done. The work itself was pretty awful, we mostly designed small newspaper ads for low-budget clients who were just as petty to work with. I was finally given a project to design a pharmaceutical brochure because J also had a lot of side clients and small "opportunities" of start-ups all over town. Sketchy right? He approached me one day saying he'd like me to come to lunch with him and one of his clients. He also said it would be his treat to me for finishing my first two weeks of the job. I couldn't say no.
We arrive downtown at a restaurant I have never heard of and head inside to be greeted by a table of about eight men. Eight men plus J plus me... twenty-two year old, socially shy me. I don't say a single word throughout the entire lunch, mostly because I had no clue what these men were talking about other then their workout schedules. Finally lunch is ending and as we begin to pay the bill, one of the eight men turns to me and says...
"so are you just here to be a pretty face?"
and they all just laugh. I know my face turned bright red and I could feel my food (that I didn't enjoy eating) not settling as they were all looking at me laughing. I was mortified but said nothing until I was finally back at the office working. I tried to forget about it and acted like it never happened.
By week three I was already half-way through the brochure I was working on for the pharmaceutical client of J's. He walked up to my desk, leaned over my shoulder to look at the brochure and asked for me to print it out. He told me we'd be taking the brochure to our off-site meeting with the client later that afternoon. I had no idea I was to be attending this off-site meeting but felt a little excited knowing this would be my first client interaction. I asked my co-worker next to me if he would be attending as well and he said "no, it'll just be you and J." Then the nerves came.
Me and J by ourselves got into his fancy car and left for the meeting in the afternoon. He drove through an area of town that I had never been to. I said out loud that I had never seen this part of town before and he replied with,
"I am not surprised.... around here you would definitely be RAPE BAIT"
I was shocked, almost in disbelief of what was just said out loud. He was also staring directly at me. I wanted to jump out the car, scream and just leave. I felt so uncomfortable while I was trying to hold back tears or responding negatively. Before I realized it we were already pulling up to the client's building for our meeting that I just shook it off so I could refocus. The meeting ended and it was just me and J back in his car... driving.
When I got home that evening, I walked up to my parent's house and stood waiting at the front door. I couldn't bring myself to walk in knowing if they saw my face they would know something was wrong. Sure enough, I walk in and my mum knew right away something wasn't right. I broke down in tears and told her I can never go back to that job again. I told her some things but not everything because I knew how upset she would get, including my dad. That evening my dad helped me write an email letting J know I wouldn't be coming back to work there. I didn't mention anything about the above, I just said it wasn't a good fit for my career.
Later that evening my mum walked into my room saying she googled J and found this awful article about him being arrested. I was even more upset after reading it, my first full-time job and I had to go through this experience. I wish this for no-one, no woman and no man. I was so turned off by the whole thing I went into working at a restaurant for a month before applying again, until finally I received an offer from a wonderful firm which gave me three amazing years of experience.
I encourage and will keep encouraging all women and men to share their stories with the world. I am sad at myself for not sharing this sooner and not standing up for myself when I knew something was wrong. As sad it is to read and hear, this is an important time for us all to reconsider everything in our professional industries. Change is in need and this will be the start of it all. I applaud the women in the media and hope no little girl or little boy will ever receieve the same experience for their first full time job.
Thanks for reading, please follow along as I continue to write more about the freelance life, personal projects and much more. Stay tuned lovelies.
If you’d like to work with me then here is what we can do together, logo/brand design, web design, illustration, hand lettering, calligraphy, print design and wedding invitations. I am open to hearing about any project and love working with new clients so reach out!