Di Has Stories…

(and they’re all true)

Chapter One, Exercise One October 10, 2006

Filed under: what do I want to be when I grow up? — Diana @ 11:55 am

Make a list of everyone who has been/is important to you and write down what they did/do want from you.  Since I am using this book to help me figure out my work goals, I will below make a list of the people that I grew up with, and the people that are important to me now, and what they want me To Be When I Grow Up, if I’ve gotten an inkling one way or the other.

Who What They Want From Me?
Mom When I was growing up, my mom never really said anything about what I should be when I grew up.  I knew from the time I was four (until I was about 20) that I wanted to be a teacher, and she thought that was just fine.  As I became an adult, and went into the working world, and haven’t had such a good time with that, she has offered suggestions that she thinks that I would like (most recently, librarian and real estate agent) and has expresser her concern that my current field is not really doing the job for me.

The most important message that I got from my mother was to be Independent.  She always made sure to tell me that I had to take care of myself, and make my own money, and learn to be on my own, because no one else would ever take care of me (and I think this is an unconscious wish, as she has always needed someone to take care of her…at least financially…and now that she is/could be financially independent (if she wanted to be) she doesn’t know what her purpose is, either.

Right now, she’s coming up with ideas that she can help me with – I think that her former message of Be Independent is morphing into:  do something that involves independence, and bring me with.  I’m not sure what to do with that message.

Dad (Alan) My dad’s prime motivator is money…he wanted me to do something that was going to make a lot of money.  In absence of that, I was to marry someone that made a lot of money so that I could “take care of him in his old age.”  He’s never really steered me in a career direction after the initial set up at SUPERVALU, but  he was pleased when I decided to go into business, and seems to think that (until recently) I’d made a decent career progression.

Interestingly, he has been with his company since the very beginnings of his career….almost 30 years now.  What he doesn’t get is my job hopping, and the always looking for something new and better.  He feels that I should find a good company, settle down, and collect my gold watch from them in 30 years.  He doesn’t seem to realize that, in today’s market, and in the field that I am currently in, that doesn’t happen anymore.

Dad My biological father was not around when I was growing up.  His wish for me during those years was to communicate with him, and there’s a whole big story as to why that didn’t happen. 

We have been in contact for about a year and a half now, and I am starting to seem some parallels between his path and mine.  He’s very smart, and has a Masters, and started out in one end of a field (electronics) and moved into another part (training people on electronic stuff) and now is working in training and development for several companies.

I don’t know how to say this nicely, so I’ll just go ahead and say it.  One of our parallels is that we are both very good at what we do, strive for excellence, and think that we know better than everyone else.  My way is totally the right way.  I get that feeling from him, too, and I think that it’s gotten him into some conflict in his work life.  There has also been a lot of change, and some uncertainty in his career. 

When I talk to him about job stuff, he doesn’t really steer me one way or the other.  I think that since we are getting to know each other as adults, he has more respect for my decisions than the parents I grew up with.  But I also think he understands me better…he understands the restlessness, the working for people and procedures that are asinine and ineffective, and the desire to do my own thing, but the need for stability.  He’s still struggling with it, so I’m not sure he has any answers for me, but probably a lot of life lessons.

Grandma My grandmother was my grandfather’s second wife, and my mother’s step-mother.  She was single and lived with her mother until she was about 45, when she married my grandfather, the year before I was born. 

She wanted me to married and have children.  That was it.  Jobs, whatever…my job was to provide her with great-grandchildren.  She never had her own children, but I practically grew up in her house, and I was the oldest grandchild by 11 years.  Her only hope.  She started talking to me about having children when I was 18….10 years before I seriously even considered the concept of becoming a mother. 

Grandma also taught me about empty time….once they moved to Minnesota when I was a few months old, my grandma never worked again.  She did some volunteer stuff, and was active in her church, until she really took on my full time care.  What I remember of her days was:  daily trip to the grocery store, the stock market channel, and soap operas.  She ate the same thing for lunch every day.  She followed a routine.  A week in which she had a hair appointment and a doctor’s appointment was a big week, and couldn’t contain anything else.

What I learned from her, without her trying to teach it, was to make every day count.  To not settle into a set routine, that can never be changed, and that offers no excitement.  I learned not to depend on one person for my happiness and stimulation.

But, and this is not career related, I also learned about love, and spending time with those you love.  Although I was the oldest by far, by the time my grandmother died there were five grandchildren.  When we were at my grandparents’ house for her funeral, the cousins were all talking, and it came out that each one of us had believed we were her favorite.  That is a gift that I carry with me forever, and something that I want to pass to my future child(ren) and grandchildren.  And something that I don’t want to give up to “go to work.”  That is work, and the most important.

Grandpa My grandfather was the best person that I have ever known.  He was smart, he was kind, and he believed in family.  He would never tell you he loved you, but he never had to. He made you a huge dinner on Sunday nights, and told stories until he laughed as tears streamed down his face, and you felt the love he had for each one of us.

He had succeeded in business with a high school diploma from a rural Ontario school, war service in the Navy, and some time working with the Provincial Police.  Eventually, he went into insurance, rose through the ranks of his company, was recruited into another company, and started up a new, very successful, division for them before he retired.  He believed in hard work, doing a good job, being loyal, and coming home at the end of the day.  I never remember him working late, traveling much, or stressing about work. You do what you can, as well as you can, and at the end of the day, that’s what you’ve done.  He was very pragmatic.

I think he also learned the value of family later in life.  My mother moved a lot as a kid, for his job, and he did whatever it took to move up the ranks.  However, I remember him later telling my dad (Alan) when he was considering a move for work, that he had done everything the company had told him to, had taken every move and every new challenge, and hadn’t gone up the ranks any faster than he would have had he stayed in one place.  Once that discovery was made, and his family was around him again, he never moved again until after retirement.  He found, and demonstrated, that family is more important than work. 

Mrs. Olson Mrs. Olson was my reading teacher in fourth grade, and the first of any of my teachers to really take any notice of me and what I could do.  I was always in the top reading group (I’ve always been a huge reader) and that year I had the first real opportunity to do some writing.  I wrote some sort of play about Demeter and Persephone, and she took notice.  The next year she convinced the gifted and talented program at my school to start a playwriting class, and told me that she’d created it for me.  She had to fight to get me into that class, as in the rich suburb where I grew up, gifted and talented did not mean gifted and talented, it meant my parents have money and want me to be in the accelerated classes so I can get into Yale like Daddy, even though I don’t have the brains granted to the common chicken.  I always remember Mrs. Olson telling me that she couldn’t get me into the whole program, but she’d convinced “them” to let me into this class.  After writing and producing a few small plays, our group was selected to write the script and songs for that year’s school play (adapted from a children’s book, but I sure can’t remember which one).  She was the one that introduced me to writing, and (although she didn’t know it) taught me that I could still be a good writer, and do some writing, even though I am not “creative” (I’ll never be a novelist, but I might write something non-fiction….that’s where my strength is).

By example, she also taught me about the Elite…and that I would never be one of them, but can get around that anyway.  A by-product of this is my serious distain for people and institutions that base their opinions on pedigree (my daddy has money) instead of skill (I have a brain).  That was the first time that I had seen that in motion, and I find that pattern repeated over and over in my professional life.

Dan Dan was my first love, my high school sweetheart.  We both worked in restaurants in high school, and loved the high volume, high stress (and, for me, the high drama of the other restaurant workers).  We talked about opening our own restaurant when we grew up.

That was the first time I really thought about what I wanted to do, and my scope was so limited…having worked in food service for my (very short) career, I kinda thought that was the only thing out there, especially since I didn’t want to work in an office, and Dan’s family thought that a college education was unnecessary for a future daughter-in-law (you don’t need fancy book learnin’ to birth babies). 

I think that the talk about owning our own restaurant planted the work at home seeds for me.  I wanted to be in control of my destiny, at the helm of my empire, a co-captain in the restaurant that was to be.  I wasn’t gonna work for The Man, I was going to do my own thing, and it would be fabulous.  I’ve never give up that desire to be independent of The Man.

Leitha My friend Dave’s ex-wife and I had an ongoing discussion of style vs. substance.  I think that she’s had some of the same experiences with the Elite that I had, and had formulated the theory that everything boils down to style vs. substance.  I learned through these discussions that I am almost all substance, and very little style.  I don’t schmoose, I find networking boring, and I’d rather shave my legs than go to a business dinner or cocktail hour.  But give me a task to do, or a direction to go in, and it will be done before deadline, well prepared, and exceeding your expectations.

Leitha agreed that I was mostly substance, but thought I should be more style.  I can’t say I’ve tried very hard, as that’s not the kind of person that I want to be.  I’m here to get the job done, and not to give you a warm fuzzy (unless that’s the job at hand).  The fact that the warm fuzzy people get ahead, when the actual workers are kept actual workers has never ceased to annoy me (and, I suspect that if I still knew Leitha, and if she had stuck to a traditional career path, it would annoy her to no end as well).

F.W. My ex wanted me to make money, and support him.  I had his support to do whatever I wanted with my job, as long as I was steadily employed, well compensated, had great benefits, allowed him to buy computer and video game parts, and came home at the end of the day to clean the house and make him dinner.  He wanted me to be Every Woman at work and at home….he had this strange pride that I was successful, but wanted to make sure that I knew that my true calling was to him and to the home.  (As long as I could pay for both, of course.)
Sarah Sarah wants me to find my passion.  It disturbs her that I consider work to be something that I do to pay the bills for the things that I really love…she thinks that work should be something that I really love.  Her feeling is that if you are not happy to go to work in the morning, that you are doing the wrong thing.
Jeff My beloved is the real reason that I am doing this.  He just wants me to be happy.  He wants me to love him, and to build a life with him.

However, he still understands that I am going to need to work, as we are no longer in a society that only one spouse can work and the other can sit at home eating bon-bons (although I’m really more of a chip girl, myself).  With that in mind, he is behind a change that I make 110%.  He knows that I need to find something that makes me happy, because I spend too many hours in a day doing it to hate it, and that effects the quality of our life together, outside of work.

All he wants is for me to be happy.


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