Whenever they put you in a room, close the doors, and start by saying “I don't know what you might have heard, but I swear this isn’t a cult”, I promise you… it’s a cult.
It was made very clear that the only path to a promotion or a raise at my then-place of employment was to attend this "professional development workshop" that would consume about three days of my life, 12 hours straight per day. Did I mention it costs $600 per person to attend? Imagine how much that costs if you ~enroll~ your entire department, or, dare I say, organization in such a program. Crazy to think there wasn't enough money in the budget for me to make a livable wage, or, DARE I SAY, a salary that is equal to that of my male coworkers... but I digress.
When someone holds your livelihood in your hands, it’s shocking the things you'll end up doing. Against my better judgement, I agreed to sign up for the program. Luckily a few of my friends from work were also going, so at least I wouldn't be going through this alone. I genuinely thought this would be a boring 3-day-long sales pitch that would prevent me from having my weekend. In other words, I thought that was as bad as this could possibly get. LOL. Just wait.
So about Day 1...
We walk into this place and when I tell you it was the most sterile yet busted looking office building in Culver City... immediately not into it. Gross carpets and fluorescent lighting doesn't exactly put me in the mood to deal with strangers and their nonsense. After sitting in one of the middle rows of this room and waiting a few minutes, the woman who would "lead" us had arrived. Given the fact that the Real-Housewives-of-Dallas-looking woman (and potential ~alleged~ cult leader) proooooobably wouldn't appreciate me using her real name, I will be affectionately referring to her as Sister Mary C.
When I tell you Sister Mary C was batsh*t crazy, she was BATSH*T CRAZY. Not only did this little blonde woman from the ‘burbs claim to know Oprah and hang out at her house in Chicago frequently, but she was besties with Michael Jordan as well! He would look for her at his games... or something like that... *eye roll*
After name-dropping almost all of the most famous people in the world, she proceeded to tell a man that she could 100% relate to his trauma as a black man who grew up in gang culture. I'm sorry, but this sh*t had my head on it's side because it wasn't making sense. Wasn't this supposed to be about professional development? How did we even get here??! The fake tears were comical to be honest. I feel like she was hoping a casting director would happen to be in the crowd since she had made her way out here to HoLlYwOoD.
By the end of the first day, I knew one thing for sure - I needed to bring my own beverages for the remainder of the program. Why you may ask? I've seen Get Out, I've heard about Jonestown, and it was not about to be me. Period.
Day 2 was where things took a turn...
Not only was I followed during my breaks and harassed every time I needed to use the restroom, Sister Mary C had made it her mission to call me out as much as possible. As a clear nonbeliever of the process, she literally treated me like I posed a threat to her personally. Already on edge, I was then told we were about to begin a fear exercise. Sister Mary C said to get comfortable in our seats and close our eyes.
She continued to speak throughout the whole exercise to guide the experience. You would think that would be reassuring, but when people around me started growling and making gurgling noises, it was a wrap for me. It continued to get louder and louder to the point that I fully expected to open my eyes and see people crawling on the ceiling with their heads spinning all the way around. The screeches. The pterodactyl sounds. WHAT IN THE JURASSIC PARK WAS GOING ON??????? Now THIS... This right here was NOT what I signed up for.
After the screaming came the hysterical crying. After the crying came the creepy laughing.
Simultaneously, me and everyone I knew opened our eyes at the same time and looked at each other from across the room. Without having to say a word, you knew the question was "sooo are we running orrr...?". Right as we were about to stand up, it suddenly stopped. It was over. It was finally over.
... but why was everyone else acting like we didn't all just go through that? Like nothing weird even happened...
Can you believe I came back for Day 3?
After having literal nightmares from what had occurred the day before, I felt I had to come back since that was the day my boss would be stopping by as an alumni of the program. If he didn't see me there, everything I had been through would have been for nothing.
On this day I had to bald-faced lie and say to him that this wasn't an absolute waste of my time. I had to pretend I had gotten something out of this and that I was grateful he had ~enrolled~ me in this ~opportunity~. I had to actually thank him for bringing me to the cult... that wasn't a cult.
In case you were wondering, neither promotion nor raise were quick to follow this traumatic experience, but you know what was? The suggestion that I should sign up for the next level of the program.
So, what have we learned from all of this? Joining a cult is NOT worth a promotion.