I love my mom. She is my personal hero. She is amazing. But she’s not perfect. My mom doesn’t like to do things outside of her comfort zone. When we were kids, if my dad tried to force us to do something we weren’t comfortable with (read : organized sports, anything that involved hand-eye coordination, science camp…) my mother would step in at some point (probably at the point of tears since both my brother and I are easy criers) and talk my dad out of it.
The consequence of this is that I don’t usually try things I don’t know that I can be successful at. With this comes a certain amount of confidence – false or otherwise. But if I got into it in the first place, you better believe that I thought that I could handle it. I’ve never interviewed for a job or position that I didn’t get. But I’ve also not made a lot of effort to chase jobs that I might want, but aren’t sure that I’ll be good at.
Until this year.
I work for a family owned business that I doubt will ever graduate from the school of hard knocks. If there’s a way to do something that is confusing and backwards – they have figured it out and become experts in it. It’s taken 5 years but I finally have them using email to communicate with one another instead of carrying written notes and putting them in people’s physical inboxes… (YES. That is true.) Everywhere I turn are things that need improved. I love that. I can handle that.
I currently hold at least three job titles. I’m still performing the tasks they originally hired me for, plus I took over an aspect that was half of a position when someone else left the company and was never replaced. That job has since grown as the company has grown and could almost be a full time job for someone alone. But this year I decided that I would be really insane and go into something that I have no idea what I’m doing with : marketing. The company had no marketing person and things were a mess. There’s an aspect of it that is creative – which I’m always drawn to – so I started to ponder whether or not I could handle it. I read a lot online. I politely asked to have access to the info that was available and to my surprise they said yes. I wrote a 40 page proposal that covered what I thought was wrong and how I would start to fix it. When I went to present it to my boss and the owner, I realized that by purely caring enough to make an effort – it was mine. Very few questions asked.
Last year’s health upsets made me think about how I want to live my life and one result of this surprising bout of introspection was that I realized that I missed hiking and being outdoors and sunshine. I live in Oregon, so that last one is kind of in dispute, but I did some things that made me uncomfortable this year; things I didn’t really think I could do.
I stood gasping for air on the side of a shale field (if there was ever a sight that strikes fear in the hearts of clumsy people, a whole downhill slanted field of sharp precariously stacked pieces of rock that have fallen from above is totally it!) and might have said to my husband “What the *&#@!?! …. Up THERE?!?!? …. *^!% you, dude!”
My husband had attempted this hike two times before. (That makes it sound like it is particularly difficult. It really isn’t. It’s more like a comedy of errors story for another day.) When asked at his staff Christmas dinner what was one of his favorite moments of the year – he cited this hike. Scaling this mountain (or if you are an Oregonian, ‘Ehh… Big rock, maybe. Not a mountain.”), something he had tried and failed before, with ME – that was his big high point for the year. I was incredibly flattered and surprised that he said that. Three years ago I never would have tried this hike. In fact, I dropped him off for a couple of days of backpacking in the area once by himself. But I stopped questioning whether I should or shouldn’t hike because I would embarrass my husband, faint from lack of oxygen to the brain, fall off of a mountain, sweat on passers-by, have people think Darth Vader was suffocating someone right around the bend in the trail….
I just tried.
I can only remember one time that my mom decided that it would be good for me to attempt to force me into something. She begged, bribed and then finally demanded and drug me to a try out for a play with a local children’s theatre organization. At the time my mother was homeschooling two late grade school aged kids and had a new baby. Being a parent now, I realize maybe she just wanted to take a nap a couple of days a week with only the baby to worry about. Or maybe she got sick of my constant complaining about not having enough friends and being ‘homeschool lame’ and thought this was my solution. (The Arts are always the solution to being lame. I would just like to add that tidbit in.) But while she stood in the background bouncing my sister and attempting to smile encouragingly at me, I spent most of my group/circle audition willing my face to look more pathetic so she would take me home and stop this endless torture. When they asked me to make sad faces, that was easy. Mad? NO PROBLEM. Happy? The lady directing our group glanced around at all of the happy faces of the would-be actors and repeated herself. Several times. Thinking I just didn’t get it, she then called me out. “Honey? You, there. In the house sweater.” (My homeschool group had sweatshirts and a logo of a happy dancing house with a graduation cap on. We were pretty cool…) “I think you didn’t hear me. We’re doing HAPPY now! You won the lottery! Someone gave you a kitten! You got new clothes! You’re going to Disneyland! You got an A on a big test!” At this point I am teary eyed from pure embarrassment because all of the kids are staring at me. My mom has given up and is winding through people to my rescue. And that woman leaned in my face and compassionately whispered “I think you get to leave now. Do I at least get a smile for that?”
So I gave her one. And then I think I mentally flipped her off.