notquiteold

Gracefully Aging – With Resistance

Not My Dream Job

As I wrote in my last post, for a very long time (too long to call it a childhood fantasy) I wanted to be on TV.

Well, it sort of turned out that way.  I worked for TV. Though not as an actress playing the heroine. I was in Finance.

But although I was preparing budgets, it was still TV. Indirectly, still sort of glamorous.

And I did pretty well.  Several promotions and my share of recognition. Some very nice perks. And because it was the entertainment business, many of the perks were lots of fun.

On the business side, the perks included many “offsites”.  The executives attended frequent meetings in upscale settings.  I’d pack my suitcase and go somewhere warm and expensive to talk about the future of television. A tough life.  (Actually, the non-glam parts were very tough. I worked extremely long hours in a crazy competitive climate. But the retreats were nice.)

I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew I was in the wrong job. It was at a retreat.

We spent the day discussing television. We were supposed to be discussing how the new technologies would affect our business.  But as usual, we mostly discussed how special we all were.  Television is a very good career for big egos.

After the formal meeting, we went across the hall to a beautiful big room with a spectacular view for a private cocktail party.

And I stood there with the other executives, making small talk. They spoke about their vacations.  This surprised me, because I had a shitload of vacation time that I was always too busy to take.  Other people actually took their vacations?  But then I realized that they probably didn’t. Not without cellphones and laptops and blackberries anyway.

And the conversation veered west.  Which do you prefer?  Vail or Aspen?

And it hit me.

I am an actor after all. And I’ve walked onto the set of the WRONG MOVIE.

Aspen versus Vail?  I used to slide down the local hill on a flattened cardboard box.

As a kid, I loved a good debate.  Bonanza or The Big Valley?  Mustang or Camaro?  Hot Dog or Hamburger?  But Aspen versus Vail?

I looked around the room, and I thought about these thirty or so people, waving their crystal wine glasses. Odds were, half of them must have been raised like me.  Maybe more than half.  They didn’t grow up spending their summer vacations in Saint Tropez.  They spent their summers with playing cards clattering in their bike spokes.

I won’t say that they were phonies.  I think they truly enjoyed how far they had come from their childhoods. I just happened to love my childhood – just the way it was. And I didn’t want to “come far”.  I didn’t want to leave it behind.  Wherever I was at as an adult, I was taking my fabulous but ordinary childhood with me.

After dinner, when the group went to the bar for their cognacs, I went home.

I stayed on with the company for several more years after that. But I knew I was miscast.

And just the other day I had a conversation with my current coworkers.  A debate on the merits.  Jif versus Skippy.

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32 Comments

  1. JSD

    You are a girl after my own heart…are you sure you’re not my little sister?
    Great comment!

  2. Love it!

    This is usually my option for a vacation: should I stay at home or should I stay at home?

  3. Your memory for the little things blows me away! A bike with playing cards in the wheel? What fun that was. Can you imagine, now, how annoying that sound must have been for our moms?

  4. Skippy. No contest.
    I know the feeling. I am a professional, but my position is the lowest on the totem pole for a person in this profession. Many times I wish that I were in the more glamorous and high money side of things, but then I talk to a kid, one who is hurting and has a very shitty life, and realize that I am where I should be. I just get burned out sometimes.
    I would not like Vail, Aspen, or St. Tropez. Bonanza would have been fun, though.

  5. I love this picture. So glad you were brave enough to make the choices you wanted to make. And it’s so nice you lived that life and have no regrets. Clearly you don’t. There is no place like home.

  6. Snoring Dog Studio

    Excellent post and writing – and such a meaningful experience. I worked in a company once as one of the outsiders – I didn’t have the glamorous job. I realized that most of the people who had the glamorous jobs spent a great deal of time trying furiously to climb the ladder, enjoying perks, yes, but still never satisfied and always kicking people on the ladder rungs below. It’s truly better doing something that makes you feel that even if you’re on the outside, you don’t need anything more.

  7. On a much smaller scale (insurance is not as exciting as TV) I ended up in the elite executive group of a company right before it went into receivership. I had about 5 years where I got to enjoy “the perks.” On the whole, I miss the great dinners at wonderful locales but not much more. I hated the phony small talk and shmoosing. There too were folks who thought they were more than they were. It was interesting to witness the executive slaughter that comes with downsizing. I expect you saw some of that too. I was one of the few who survived. Definitely Bonanza — I was in love with Little Joe!

  8. Well said. I’m between careers myself and I can certainly relate. It’s shocking, but also very liberating when you realize that you are nothing like your co-workers.

  9. As usual, a nice read. Liked the spokes and the playing cards, now that took me back a year or two. Farmers where I like (Oklahoma) have a saying for phonies and/or fakes. They say: “The boy is all hat and no cattle.”

    I guess my dream job would be the person who takes the winning ticket at the Lottery Office. Just think about it, “Each and every person (winners) that you come in contact with, will be happy and so congenial, willing to help you out with anything you need.”

    Yeah, that would be the perfect j-o-b.

    DS

  10. RVingGirl

    BRILLIANT! Love love LOVE this post.
    I recall one time being at a fancy-smanchy dinner with my husband’s partners (he was a senior partner with a big CPA firm) anyway no matter what, both he and I have always maintained that we would Not become those kinds of snoots. Anyway at the meal with us in evening attire, the guys sitting next to and across from me were arguing about the wines….did they ‘breathe’ enough or was this the right one with this kind of dish. I couldn’t stand it a moment longer so i said, “Do you think when you stand before God one day it will matter one bit that you knew which wine to choose????” SILENCE….ha ha ha

  11. I have often thought of career in television, doing what I have no idea. But if I were to be surrounded by egos, bigger than mine, I would never make it. Only once been to a fancy, smancy dinner party. I spent the evening talking about puppertry for children. As you can imagine, I was never invited back.

  12. Great insights! OMG! I forgot about the sledding down the snowhills (in the backyard, not Vail) on cardboard !! What great memories!

  13. “But as usual, we mostly discussed how special we all were” –> great line. I know how you feel, I work at a law firm and have to listen to people talking about their “nannies” and “housekeepers” all the time… I usually just smile and nod thinking, I am sooo not relating to this right now! haha

  14. rose

    I loved this post. We are kindred spirits.

  15. Beautiful post. Thanks. We put cards in the spokes of our bikes, too. But, sadly, instead of playing cards we used were baseball cards from the late 50s and 60s. If we had kept them instead, we’d be deciding between Vail and Aspen.

    Then again, maybe things do work out for the best.

    • Oh my god, you are completely right. Baseball cards. My cousin Johnny could be schmoozing right now with the leisure class….

  16. love this post. and i agree with speaker 7 about vacation debate.

  17. Great Post!

  18. Skippy!!

    Love this post. :)

  19. I recently had dinner with “city folk”…not fancy shmancy, just city folk. And I’m still trying to wrap my mind around all the things they told me about living in the city. “Don’t look anyone in the eye!?!” “Don’t talk to a person about anything hanging on their clothesline?!?” I’m way to small town for that…fear I’d get taken out in the city by the bad guys…cause I’m from the line of thought that you are “nice” to everyone. I talk to everyone in the grocery line, I offer to help if someone’s car is broken down…and for all those fancy schmancy folks…I just kill them with kindness, too. Like my father always taught me…”they put their pants on one leg at a time too”. And my own version…”their panties probably have holes in them too”. :)

  20. My experience with folks way up the corporate ladder is a bit different than yours, fortunately! The folks I have met are quite down to earth people, in touch with their roots. Maybe it is because the corporate ladder I’ve seen is leaning against a different wall in a different country!

  21. Definitely Jif.

  22. I teach school, so the thought of a “retreat” that the company pays for is something I can’t wrap my head around. I attended my sweetie’s company Christmas party last year and just about lost it when he told me the dinner and the drinks and the dancing were paid for by his employer. I can’t imagine what would happen if I actually went on a holiday (working or not) that I didn’t have to pay for.

    Good for you for taking a job that you can relate to. It’s better to be simple people honestly than to fake our ways into fancy pants living.

  23. It’s amazing – at times – what makes us realize that what we really want is what we already have. Simple and happy – perfect for me!!! And – I vote for Skippy!!!

  24. Doc

    I understand exactly what you’re saying! Always being on the outskirts of the entertainment industry, I’ve met a lot of people just like the ones you describe. So, you might appreciate this story. I was saving it for a blog post but I’d have to flesh it out too much. I was an assistant editor at the time screening dailies for Edward G. Robinson. It was just the editor and myself in the screening room when Robinson came in, walked over to us, and introduced himself (as if we didn’t know who he was) by stating “I don’t like being in a room where I haven’t met everyone”. It just floored me. No pretensions!

  25. We’re all great actors to some extent, aren’t we? And every profession has their fair share of egos (ever talked to a bunch of academicians?) ;)

    I’m happy for you that your ‘Ah ha” moment came and you did something about it eventually. You weave a mighty good lesson in a charming story.

  26. I think you struck a nerve with this one. There’s lot to be said for the simple life….

  27. “I am an actor after all. And I’ve walked onto the set of the WRONG MOVIE.”

    Love that. I feel like that sometimes. My challenge this year is to banish acting from my life and change the movie swirling around me.

  28. Where I came from it was Players cigarette packages clothes-pinned onto the spokes and how excited we all were the this novel idea, especially the kids who actualy had bikes and could show them off!

    I’ve met corporate types who had their heads in the clouds when among their own, always competing. Sometimes, I got lucky and actually got to talk to some who had their feet on the ground and didn’t put on airs.What’s worse, if someone putting on airs who can’t pull it off. Now that really takes the cake.

  29. I’m happy you found your dream job! :)

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