Monday, July 26, 2010

Thinking Back on my Old Job

Before I was a full-time mom I worked as a receptionist for a local college. And every so often corporate people would come to visit. Depending on what rung of the ladder these corporate people were on, many of my co-workers would throw themselves into a tizzy getting ready for the big arrival: Quick, get your files in order! Dust! Clean the carpets! Prepare everything! Perfection people!! Stand here when they walk in goes on. It was somewhat comparable to the frenzy seen in The Devil wears Prada. I even had a co-worker run out quick and buy some nylons for the corporate visit.

I'd sit at my desk amused. And I wondered if I should care more. I was happy that my role to impress was small. I was just the lowly receptionist- no big job duties there. I'll offer them water. Lets see, can I get that right? Yeah, I can handle that.

You see, I had never witnessed this kind of frenzy over 'important people.' Up until then I had never met anyone worthy of my frenzy. In fact I have a natural tendency to be casual with everyone. And if I think that someone presumes himself to be important, well I smile, and I know different.

I even had some of my 'higher-ups' try to give me a loose script for conversation with the 'big-wigs': "If this topic arises say this, if that topic, say that. Don't say this. Don't say that."

Part of me knew the reason they felt the need to rehearse with me was because I have had a tendency to be candid, honest, and a little naive. I'd nod, and keep some of what they said and toss the rest. After all, I've got to be me. And while I learned a lot about personal improvement, I was always silently at odds with many of the people I worked with.

I liked them, but our goals were so different: They were eagerly chasing a professional career at this place, while I just wanted out! They wanted careers and I wanted a baby! I had only accepted the job because I could find nothing entry-level with an editing or writing twist. So here I was, a receptionist for a school I did not fully believe in. I would never have gone to this school myself. But I was told by my 'higher-ups' that as the receptionist I was the face of "will-remain-nameless" college. I'd give them one of my oh-so-famous 'blank stares of Sarah' because I had no ready reply. I think everyone I worked with knew I had no school spirit. I tried, but it just wasn't important to me.

However, the one thing I liked about my job were the students. I knew each of them by name, first and last. They were my priority. They were human and talkative - not stiff and professional. And they loved me! I worked hard to please them. I aimed to exceed their expectations. They had constant needs and I was there to fill them. I was their receptionist and they were my students. In retrospect, those students taught me what it means to be a friend. I felt loyalty to them.

But big-wigs never motivated me. I don't like pompous people. I don't like the politics of the workplace, the little power-plays, and the lame cat-fights that women-in-the-workplace, particularly, find themselves in. Some of my co-workers liked to think I was their personal assistant. I had one woman call me her 'underling'- she was all sorts of power hungry and very insecure and defensive. It was a real roadblock for us.

One day I want to go back into the workforce to chase a career, and I think often about what I want to be when I 'grow up.' But for now I am a mother and I'm quite opinionated on how my little sweeties are raised. No one can appreciate Carson's baby cheeks the way I can. No one can adore him more than I can. I want to be here to watch him grow before he's too old to cuddle. I want to be here to answer Athena's questions and help her make sense of her world. I like being the one she learns everything from. We build trust this way. These children are the work of my life and I won't have anyone else do it for me so I can impress big-wigs. I can't take full credit for being here though. Conrad makes it all possible.

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