I’ve been thinking about my mom, but I can’t figure out the angle here. Well, there’s the anniversary of her day of birth. But, maybe it’s this: After getting my perfomance reviewed at work — corporate America’s annual dance or bloodletting depending on how you are doing–I keep wondering if she’d be happy or pissed at me.
First week of the month, I was going full-on existential postal. I can’t think much about where I am in life before I start thinking of all the places that I am not. I am not rich, famous and beautiful, and I’d be good at all three, goddamnit, so I should be. The crisis du month, though, was the triple-decker pileup of my birthday, my performance review and this thing at my place of toil that I can’t describe but involves sharing stuff about yourself.
Amid the self-loathing caused by age and excess self reflection, I had a fleeting thought about my mother. A point I will get to after I set it up with too much detail.
Some days, I think I confound some of my coworkers. The environment of my paycheck generation is well-educated and high performing. It definitely charts about the curve by most definitions, or it’s proof positive that with the right motivation and circumstances, and money to pay for it, anyone can get a graduate degree. There’s a metric ton of letters after people’s names.
I was too desirous of money and the associated purchases — groceries and rent mainly — to stick around ivied halls any longer than I had to do to get my bachelor’s. I wasn’t burning for any more learning of the formal sort circa 1985.
From 1985 almost to the day she died, Pat, my mother, reminded me I could still go to grad school. I let her down on that decision for decades.
Today, I am docorate-less and masters-less in a sea of masters and doctors. I have more years of relevant experience than many, though, so I hold my own with common sense and moxie. Hence the confounding, I just don’t defer to not knowing shit, because there’s a lot of shit I know even without the sheepskin to prove it.
it’s a bit like the end of the Wizard of Oz; I grant myself a doctorate of thinkology.
Now here’s where Pat comes in… That woman worked hard, year after year, helping to educate other people’s kids. That hard work full on cramped the woman’s style. Some of the other teachers and the school administrators crushed a bit of her creative sparkle. She was a little pounded down. By retirement, she was caved in by it all.
She indoctrinated me into a fear about work. A fear that you could lose your job for many types of infractions. She had near perfect attendance over years and years. She carried out all of the side jobs and extra tasks asked of teachers with nary a complaint — bus duty, after hours tutoring, grading papers on her own time, mentoring young teachers and helping with banquets and school events in the evenings.
I learned and listened and I have almost perfect attendance and do a lot of good citizeny extras at work. But try as I might I can’t bury my non-conformist tendencies. I am a good worker bee in a happy hive, but I’m a square peg in a round-holed world.
Problem is, I like it.
So, I work in a job that is easy for me. I sacrifice some pay and will likely never have a good title, but I know everyone in the building. My days are laid out with honkingly wide swathes of leeway and not a lot of having my clocked punched by somebody else.
It’s a trade off. It’s a choice. And, it’s a little bit of anxiety. If I got the gig where I got the pay that meant I have to manage stuff, I might fail. I might have to leave my sneakers at home. I might have to be at my desk for geometrically larger periods of time than I am now.
I think Pat might see the genius of my choice. For good benefits and a not awful paycheck, the man isn’t keepnmg me down and the thoughts inside my head are free to breathe.
Outwardly, she’d tell me to do more. She’d ask about promotions and growth opportunities. She’d worry.
Or maybe she’d smile.