I’ve spent the better part of the past week doing absolutely nothing. Nothing. I filled my days with mundane chores and marginal tasks, taking almost no initiative to accomplish anything or reach out to anyone. My nights were dictated feebly by the telephone–waiting for my fella to call and include me in his activities, or waiting for Helen’s nightly call as she spent the week with her cousins. Didn’t make much progress on the diary transcription, mostly because it’s making me painfully aware how reactionary I’ve always been and I’m already drawing clear connections from who I was at age 12 and who I am now. I have ever been defined by those around me and whatever they wanted me to do, holding only onto weak dreams of having a “boyfriend” and avoiding any effort to shape my own world.
Perhaps it’s foolish to expect a 12-year-old to proactively shape her world, develop some interests independent of others and pursue them. Perhaps I’m stretching too far by comparing that me with the current one. But I’m longing to see some sign in the younger me of grander desires than simply having a boyfriend–any boyfriend at all! Even if I’d just applied a few standards other than their finding me worthy, it would encourage me that some critical reasoning was being formed in my young brain. But no, the pre-teen me is just going with the flow, noticing when one boyfriend or another isn’t treating me well or when I’m just not feeling it anymore but staying in the relationship and just puzzling over it instead of stepping out and doing something else. I’d love to turn a page in the diary and see my handwriting proclaim that I was putting all this boy stuff on hold so I could spend more time reading, or perhaps learning a language or a new skill, such as splitting the atom. Sometimes, when I’m transcribing, I’ll read forward a few entries just to see if anything is different, if perhaps I’ve become someone else. Thus far it’s just been me, with the same old tactics.
For good or for ill, I see many similarities between that boy-crazy young girl (who goes on to become a boy-crazy young woman–I know how this ends even before I get to those diaries) and this unemployed middle-aged woman. All my working life, I have pursued whatever work or employer that would have me rather than figuring out what I wanted to do and pursuing THAT. My very first job ever, working at Tice’s Farm Market, was obtained when my friend Julie suggested I apply to become her coworker. All my jobs during college were simple work-study gigs rather than a strategic patchwork that could inform my future career choices. Even my first “real” job after college was a fluke: I didn’t have the slightest inspiration or idea what to do, so when a friend recommended I move to DC and try to get a job on Capitol Hill I did it. No imagination necessary on my part, simply wait for someone else to tell me what to do and then do it.
I’m still on that same path today. I can’t seem to put together my own 30-second elevator pitch on “what I do.” I’ve got no particular expertise, no over-arching passion, no cohesive story to tell people who might be in a position to hire me for something. Instead, my answer would be, “What do you need me to do? What do you want me to do?” I give all the power over my career life to anyone who asks. Except nobody does.
In the old economy, the one with available jobs, it was an asset to be a switch-hitter. I could rearrange my resume to feature my writing and research skills (from Capitol Hill), or my print production and project management experience (from NSTA), or my meeting planning and supervisory abilities (from the Michigan Chamber). I’ve even been able, in the past, to leverage my computer tech knowledge (which should have come from my brief time at EDS, but really came from dating my first computer dude–can’t explain that on a resume). But I never took any of those jobs far enough to make a career out of it. And Lord knows that my seven years at the fancy consulting firm mostly served to isolate me from any meaningful career development or advancement. To them I was truly this devoted (if occasionally lippy) girlfriend who did what she was told and sacrificed her self for the good of the whole.
Now I’m stuck in the new economy, the one without jobs. Most organizations are, themselves, in some phase of identity crisis; why would they want to hire someone who can’t identify herself? If ever there was a bad time to be waiting for outside assistance to tell me what to do, this is it.