I finally have come to the realization that I am doomed to fail. This is not a defeatist stance: this is fact. It is also good news.
As I am over 45 (to say the least!); white; American-born; English-speaking and female, I will almost certainly never get another chance to shine in the workplace. Least of all in a workplace that sports the American/NYC corporate model.
If I want a “job” (9-5), there is no glass ceiling any more. Instead, I must crawl under the dirt and barbed wire at the bottom of the pecking order and settle for a miserable wage. Not surprisingly, I am first “tried out” in a way no young professional nor CEO would ever settle for; and fired when I make a mistake. I am now the “fall-gal” for the people who deign to hire me.
The flip side of this is that I have learned that I cannot camouflage who I am. I believe in people and that at the core, they all deserve to be honored. As such, I can never keep a warm note from creeping into my voice when I answer a corporate phone. My last boss (who is ±44) chided me for “trying to be friendly”.
“These are not our friends!” he screamed. “This is strictly business!”
A “business” that occupies somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of one’s life; but refuses to acknowledge the barest humanity of those living it? Really?
On the other hand, I am now forced back to my creative side. I have learned who I am not (once again) on this job; that a good job done by “menials” is never recognized nor rewarded except by the menials themselves in their secret hearts; and that suppressing all the good in me to turn me into a robot is not healthy. It will out! And I am rich in the School of Hard Knocks: there is no better university: I have a PhD!
So I take my collected failures in the workplace (and elsewhere), accumulated over the last 13++ years; bundle them into a rosy bouquet; and throw them to the next bridesmaid behind me, in the hopes that they find some benefit from them, as I did.
Now I face forward, take one day at a time again, ignore my screeching, greedy creditors (e.g., TimeWarner Cable and ConEd), and create a new work identity.
Will I write blogs for a living? Join my ex-boss-from 2008-and-BFF Brenda in her “Paint Nights” at various bars, giving lessons to the happily un-gifted? Reach out to the seniors and homeless all around me and form a new version of the Grey Panthers? Join Myotai’s Hermitage Heart movement and try to save the waters of the planet? Or All Of The Above?
I can proofread, copy edit, write ad copy and blog like nobody’s business (a favorite expression of my dad); I can do 5-minute portraits in Toulouse-Lautrec’s style, but with a tad more compassion; I am an expert designer; I have more energy than most 68-year-olds, and am often mistaken for a woman in her 40s. I can be kind. I can be mean, not “suffering fools gladly” (where is the compassion in this, I ask you?!?) I can tell a good story and remember far too much of my own history and, it seems, everyone else’s. I absolutely LOVE thunderstorms, bright children, horses (still!), language confusion and art. I can drink with the best of them, and learn from (almost) everyone around me. And I love to laugh. I have a finished children’s book/interactive web site called The Brass Family’s Great Adventure that is waiting for a brass musician to help me complete it. Is any of this useful, I ask you??
Maybe none of these things are valued; then again, maybe I have to create the right venue to bring all — or some — of these “talents” together. Once again, it’s not clear who I am (work-wise) nor where I’m headed. And I have 10 résumés to prove it!
A few years ago, I was doing jury duty downtown. During my lunch break, I walked into the dusty little park next to 100 Centre Street, and began to walk to the other side, to buy a sandwich. Coming toward me, however, was a vision that stopped me in my tracks.
An elderly Indian man in long traditional robes was approaching me. He wore a white turban, was draped all in white, wore a long, white beard, and had the most piercing eyes (of what color, I wonder?) that I have ever seen. I felt something go through me at his gaze, and instinctively put my hands together in Zen “gassho” and bowed to him. He stopped, returned the bow and looked at me again with that riveting gaze. Then he and I went about our business — smiling — as if nothing much had happened. But I was enveloped in a warm glow of love and spirituality, and suddenly felt as if I had been blessed by a saint or a very, very holy man. Perhaps he was Jesus. Or Buddha. Or Krishna or Shiva. Or all of Them. It was that powerful. I have never forgotten that moment. And it is part of what empowers today me to “fail forward”.
So: What will I be when/if I grow up? Stay tuned for the next chapter!!
PS: All suggestions/collaborations/personal accounts are welcome!