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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pale Imitation

I used to dress like all of them.

Tailored suits. Expensive shoes. Briefcase, which morphed into a laptop bag sometime in the early part of the millenium when I joined a dot-com startup. I could PowerPoint with the best of them, I knew all the buzzwords and I constantly talked about metrics. I worked late, I came in early, I showed up on weekends. I drank eagerly from the fountain of Red Bull and gorged on the Hot Pockets in the breakroom freezer.

I wasn't happy.
He was, though. Finally, his devil-may-care wife was climbing the corporate ladder. Finally, I was working toward that mythical six-figure salary and eventually he'd get that six-figure salary and we'd have everything we [he] ever wanted professionally and financially. He loved the business suits. He loved the paychecks. I did, too, but only on payday. The rest of the time, my stress level was high, my free time was nil, and I felt like the world's biggest phony. I wore what they wore. I did what they did the way they did it. That "useless" Theatre degree came in handy and I fooled them all.

I couldn't fool myself for long, though. I had a general level of discontent, but I secretly nursed the kernel of an idea [planted and often re-affirmed by him] that I was just unhappy because I was lazy. Lacking ambition. I needed to get over that. How could I ever get ahead if I didn't get some motivation?

Motivation arrived with a loud wail in the spring of 2001. My life changed, of course. Everyone's does when that first child arrives. What no one told me was how much I wouldn't miss parts of my old life.

No more coming in early or staying late - I had to accomodate a daycare schedule. Tailored suits? Only when there was a big meeting. The rest of the time, business casual was just easier, and still within dress code. I sat through meetings, listening to moneytalk and buzzwords and presentation after presentation, wondering how much longer I could pretend this was even remotely interesting. My laptop rarely came home with me, and weekends were spent blowing bubbles and pushing a stroller.

Then, five months later, four planes crashed, two towers and a part of a building fell, and I sat at my desk, thinking: All of those people went to work because it's what you do. All of those people thought they'd be sitting through meetings and working on presentations and studying spreadsheets today.

I still work full time. Finances dictate that, now more than ever. But my climb up the corporate ladder has been arrested, and just having a nice job is more than enough for me. I work my forty hours for good people with great benefits and they don't ask for more - which is ideal, as far as I'm concerned. One of the biggest deciding factors for me choosing this job was the amount of vacation and personal time they had to offer.

Now I stand, single and managing somehow to keep my head above water. I'm not anywhere near his definition of success [but the woman he left me for definitely is]. I'm not losing any sleep over it, though. I've done my time being something I'm not, with people who want what I can't comfortably be.

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