My Happily Incompatible Personal Life
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.
I am being chastised. You’d think I’d done something wrong. Apparently, I have. In her eyes.
I used to work for this woman. Before that, she worked for me. I trained her. I guess that gives her reason to take me to task now for disappointing her.
It’s not so much that she’s truly disappointed in me. This is her chance to feel superior, and I recognize it as such. Only, I’m not taking the bait.
“What do you mean, you didn’t put your name in the hat for a promotion?” she fusses. “You’ve got the experience and you’re way ahead of anyone else. You could do that job with your eyes closed.” Hmmm. She’s right.
“I don’t understand you,” she continues. “Don’t you want to get promoted? That job’s prestigious!”
Hmmm. Right again.
“What is wrong with you? The Lorna I remember was always so ambitious. They still talk about initiatives you started when you were a trainee. And yet, you won’t even ask to be considered for the promotion. Don’t you want something out of life? Don’t you want to be successful?” I smile and keep quiet. We have such different views of success, though at one time, we didn’t.
I don’t want the promotion. I’ll choose to forgo all future promotions if they’re like this one. Quite simply, this pro- motion, this prestigious job, this “successful” career move, would take away too much from my life.
If I were picked for the job, I have a bowling-alley of an office, but I’d never get to enjoy it—or my home life—because I’d be on the road all the time. Last time I had a similar job, I had to fight tooth and nail not to spend three weeks out of four in Tucson and the weekends in between in the airport in Charlotte. They tell me travel wouldn’t be “required” for this job, but rather, “very highly encouraged.” Yeah, right. Been there. These are the same people who suggested funerals be scheduled for weekends and Federal holidays and asked if I could postpone my trip to the Emergency Room until I had signed off on a con- tract.
One of the top women in my career field complained a few years ago that if we expected to rise in the ranks, we needed to have a “compatible personal life,” preferably with no children or elderly parents to fret over. She told us we needed to have supportive husbands and children who wouldn’t whine if we weren’t always there for them and if they didn’t always get what they wanted. She said this directly to me, her personal advice to me, in the privacy of the women’s bathroom near her office. She didn’t have children herself, but she didn’t see what the big deal was about your kids’ birthdays, concerts, plays…life.
She also complained publicly that every time she took a flight, she saw too many of her subordinates sleeping on the plane or reading novels or chit-chatting with their neighbors when they could be using that time to take extra courses that would get them ahead in their careers. She wasn’t talking to me—I was already using that time to write or edit. After that, the additional courses became more important to career advancement and we were to use our spare time (you know, the time with the kids or on airplanes) to get the additional training and certainly not do it during our workday.
I don’t take those extra courses. My “competitors” at the office spend their weekends and evenings bolstering their resumes with obscure courses. Me, I’m writing or doing stuff with the kids or advancing my spiritual studies. I’m not interested in spending my life outside of work on the road or with my head stuck in a book that’s teaching me something bland and uninteresting. I have other things, other plans, in the works.
But my former trainee and former supervisor just shakes her head and clucks at me. I’m not ambitious, she says. Not in the way she is.
She doesn’t know about my special projects or my nels or the books Spilled Candy will bring out in the next year. She doesn’t know about the spiritual work or the conferences I’ll attend or the workshops I’ll teach this year. She doesn’t know about the non-profit foundation I want to start. She doesn’t know how very much there is to do!
I’m no less ambitious than I have been in days past. But now, my ambitions are different. And as for having a personal life that’s not compatible with a prestigious promotion? I’m glad to have the personal life, thank you muchly.
Because the prestigious career and all the extra perks and money would be hollow for me if I didn’t have that incompatible personal life.