Not Your Mama’s Fiction

We live in a world of confusing messages about what it means to be a woman. Are we supposed to be diamonds, daisies, or snowflakes? Tinsel on a tree? Chasing rainbows?

Then there’s the question, “Who can turn the world on with her smile?” Women in the workplace, beholden to benevolent counterparts for their willingness to allow us onto an equal playing field, just without equal pay, are not a thing of the past. This remains an unfortunate truth.

Now our daughters and sons are out there on their own. The days of ramen noodles and cold pizza are behind us, and yet, we still feel it, that uncertainty that makes us ask what the hell is going on here? This week I experienced one of those moments when I watched a young professional deliver one of the worst presentations I’ve ever had the misfortune to endure. Five minutes into the talk it hit me, I could do a better job than this guy. I felt sick. Why? Because I inquired about the job a year ago and wasn’t even considered.

Throughout my life, it has been necessary for me to be highly flexible and adaptive to change for the benefit of my family. I’ve done double duty and made the best of bad situations. I’m not ungrateful. I just feel cheated. I am not that girl. I’m that other one.

dale-rogerson-pizza
Copyright Dale Rogerson

Women’s Work

Every guy she had encountered eventually became someone she wished she’d never met. Long days, proving herself on the job, enduring endless mansplaining and indecent proposals bled into even longer nights. Instead of waiting by the phone, she studied. A choice she knew would pay off one day. A thousand broken promises had left her with only one to keep, one she made to herself. Then he came along and everything changed. The guy who made her life worth living and gave her a reason to work harder. The one she would love forever. The one who called her Mom.

*****

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, congratulations! I realize my mixing fiction with reality is difficult for some readers. I make no apologies. If you want to read something better, check out the Friday Fictioneers. Thanks, Dale, for another inspiring photo. As always, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields brings it to life with her own take on this week’s prompt.

One more thing. Elinor Burkett’s article, “What Makes A Woman?” in the New York Times is brilliant, articulate, and every single thing I think about the difficulties of presenting a united front for gender equality. Thanks for reading.

Ten Years A Volunteer

The move was sudden but not completely unexpected. After all, it had been almost five years since we relocated, and that was only because we promised not to move while our son was in high school. Our professional lives had progressed much like everyone else’s, in starts and stops, not always of our own choosing, still, onward and upward from place to place for a job.

Then one day the call I’d been waiting over a month to receive came, offering a promotion that would finally let me step into the role I’d been hoping for my entire career. It meant we’d have to relocate to Florida, but I was excited for the opportunity. At the same time, another call from a different direction changed our lives entirely. We moved to Texas instead.

The first few months were spent learning to navigate the mangled highways in North Texas. Without a job and without children in school, getting to know people took some effort. Completely by chance while searching for a grocery store, I discovered a community garden that supplies a local food pantry and senior center with fresh fruits and vegetables. A sign posted the number to call for information about adopting a garden plot. I called.

A few days later I became a volunteer gardener. In Texas, that’s a bit like being an intern in hell’s boiler room. The first growing season I mostly dug nut sedge out of the neglected plot I’d been assigned near some fatigued fruit trees. I also harvested okra and got to know the other gardeners. It wasn’t long before I made friends with some Master Gardeners.

Certified Master Gardeners are the cream of the crop when it comes to volunteers. Always striving for excellence, how could I not want to be one of them? So, with the encouragement of my new friends, I applied for the twelve week training course offered through Texas A&M. It was great fun, educational, and most of all it opened up volunteering opportunities that filled my servant’s heart with joy. At the end of my first year, I received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for more than 100 hours of teaching and fundraising. Surprised by my new found enthusiasm for community service, it was clear that a search for paid work could wait.

Over the next nine years I poured myself into public education projects with local and national organizations, even going back to school to prepare for leadership in public affairs and community service. I believe education is the single most important factor in reducing a person’s vulnerability to poverty, the causes of which are numerous and complex to some and as simple as having a choice to others. It is my strong desire to serve an organization whose mission is to combat ignorance that perpetuates poverty. The luxury of choosing to do so for free is no longer mine. Ten years preparing for what’s next followed two decades of professional experience. Now it’s time to move on.

 

 

 

Will Work For Life

An unsettling thought occurred to me while I was taking a break after completing six online job applications in a row. That may not sound like many, but it is. The process for jobs I am interested in is excruciatingly tedious. I won’t bore you with the details of my search and rescue mission on dot coms dedicated to helping us find work ’til we die.

Which is closer for some than others.

There seems to be a trend for people of a certain age to humble vent on LinkedIn. Humble venting is a bit like humble bragging, you know, when someone tells how grateful they are for something in that false modesty language with the undertone of “OMG, this awesome thing makes my life so much better than yours and now everyone will want to be my friend so that they can be amazing like me, but they can’t, no one can, not even you.”

Yeah, you know exactly what I’m saying.

ANYWAY, humble venters are people who tell you that they have finally found their dream job with one of the ten best ever companies to work for. A company that values experience and rewards thought leaders and sends fairies riding unicorns to their house in the middle of the night to lay out their business casual wear and set up the coffee maker so that all they have to do is press the button and hop in the shower.

THEN, they go on to say how horribly rotten the job search experience was for them. How a thousand man hours produced hundreds of applications that yielded only a few dozen interviews and how their ego was dealt a deathblow every time an email, thanking them for there interest, but to NEVER EVER expect to get so much as spam in the future, came after hitting refresh on their phone, iPad, AND PC fifty-two times each, oh, but now after torturous months, their faith in humanity has been completely restored.

Humble venters use run-on sentences.

I’ve been cautioned, thank you Mr. Petruska, not to post anything that might be construed as negative or derogatory or damaging or even halfway accurate about organizations that seem to only hire nit wits, dim wits, and knuckleheads for HR recruiting. So, I won’t.

I will, however, say that there are some serious issues with talent acquisition in the corporate world today, my friends, and until somebody makes that great again, there’s gonna be a whole lot of valuable resources wasting away in Margaritaville.

I’m just sayin’. What? Too negative?

The thought that occurred to me is that this experience must be a lesson in humility. This is based on that annoying premise that everything happens for a reason. On the other hand, there certainly have been plenty of humiliating moments in my life for no reason I can think of. Well, I have learned my lesson. Digital rejection is as bad as human rejection. I promise to never humble brag again. I do need to get hired so that I can humble vent. It’s on my bucket list, and if I don’t do it soon, there may never be an opportunity because I intend to get a job or die trying.

Have humility, will travel.

 

 

 

Taking Risks

What leaders do and how they do it is a topic of much discussion around the world and around my dinner table. Leadership theory as well as leadership in action is, one might say, “in my wheelhouse.” A debate about whether or not managers really need to know how to do the jobs of the employees they manage went on for many years in my house. Then this notion of managing vs. leading began to emerge.

It has become popular in organizational development circles to say that managers focus on processes and leaders focus on people. This raises the questions if a manager must be a leader and if leaders need to be good managers. The best case scenario is for leaders to model behaviors that inspire others to deliver results. Of course, accountability and integrity are qualities which managers and leaders share. The ability to build relationships is another. This does not require super-human skill. It does, however, require the willingness to put one’s self out there. In other words, take a risk.

Ten years ago I took a risk. I turned down a promotion and left the best job I’ve ever had to relocate for my husband’s job. It wasn’t long before I became bored. I needed something to do. There was no shortage of unpaid work to occupy my time. Volunteer opportunities soon turned into a passion for community service. So, I decided to take another risk. I went back to school to prepare myself for a leadership role in public affairs. I studied emergency administration and disaster planning. I studied non-profit management and public administration and conflict resolution. I had the opportunity to study abroad and learn prevention and intervention strategies to combat human trafficking. I learned about survivor aftercare. I returned from that experience physically and emotional drained but excited about the prospect of putting my knowledge and skills to work for an organization that needs a champion of customer relationships who can deliver dynamic results.

Now, here’s the biggest risk of all. After months of searching, I have only had one interview. My resume has been reviewed, revised, and has received the digital equivalent of “don’t call us, we’ll call you” so many times that I am beginning to question if all of my risk taking was for nothing. I’m not giving up. On the contrary, I’m reaching out, dear readers of this blog, and asking for your help. Please share this post.

TGIF

Each payday my husband writes a quote on a dollar bill and pins it to a bulletin board in the office of one of his co-workers. I’m not sure how this began, but I think it started because of a conversation about salaries. You know the kind where someone says, “If I had your money, I’d burn mine.” Half joking, half serious, as if to say, “Aw come on, we both know you make more money than me, but who cares, let’s go to lunch together anyway, your treat.”

Last night when my husband asked me for a quote for his quasi-motivational fun time exercise, I thought of a plaque I saw hanging in my friend Susan’s garden that reads:

My husband said, “Wouldn’t it be better to use that quote closer to Thanksgiving.” To which I responded, “Uh, no! What do you think always, always, always, means? Thanksgiving isn’t the only time to be thankful.”

Now, I don’t go in for platitudes. Motivationally speaking, I am not inclined toward admiration for people who say things like, “Look on the bright side, getting old beats the alternative, right?” My automatic mental response to those types of remarks is, “Uh, no!” I’m not skilled at accepting nonsense. Nor do I want to be told how to feel, think or respond to it. If I want to be pissed off, I will. Until I’m not anymore.

But if I’m honest with myself, I have to agree that there is power in positive thinking. I also have to agree that an attitude of gratitude, while great in theory, isn’t our natural first choice. I guess that’s why we have to be reminded. Here’s a TED talk that summed it up for me today.

I’m grateful for the encouragers, as well as the provocateurs who help me remember that whether it’s other humans or bodily functions that are the damn nuisance, there are lots of OMG moments for which to be thankful. Always.