What We Can Discover By Opening Our Eyes

As a deeply creative person and introvert, I have always tried to work for myself since I entered the proverbial workforce. And besides the various restaurant jobs I took on when I was young (actually, I grew up in my family’s restaurants or bars), I have done pretty well in keeping away from the corporate monster.

I call it thus because, for those of us who are sensitive and/or introverted, corporate culture can easily devour our spirit and spit out an empty, soulless husk. I speak from 35 years of experience in working both for myself and attempting to survive the Monster. Without fail, every single occurrence of me entering the belly of that beast ended badly. And though this is not a post about bashing the corporate culture (many people seem to thrive within it), it may come across like it. Just remember, I’m speaking from personal experience, and don’t pretend to speak for anyone else. Having said that, I have worked as coach with hundreds of introverts and HSPs (Highly Sensitive Persons) in career guidance. Sometimes, though, the coach is the person who needs to heed his own guidance the most.

In 2000, I suddenly (and perhaps compulsively) decided to stop working for myself and go to work for someone else. It was a seemingly benign choice, because what could possible go wrong working in a public library? Sadly, my naivete worked against me. I lasted five years before moving on to working for my State government. In an agency full of petty bureaucrats and political warriors, it took everything I had to survive it. From there, I jumped job to job to job, never really stopping to analyze the fact that each instance ended in a less than positive way. When having to maintain a steady income in order to survive becomes the priority, we sometimes make poor choices for ourselves.

What I mean by that is, as soon as I chose a company based pretty much solely on income opportunity, the less happy I was in each respective position. Let’s face it…none of us wants to be homeless and destitute by choice.

Last July, after another fiasco with a local hospital, I found myself set adrift from a corporate atmosphere. Realizing that I’d been making the same judgment error over and again for over four years, I took a step back.

What are you really good at? I asked myself. Well, in my opinion, I felt that I was really great at a number of things…but when I narrowed the list down by what I excelled at over what I had merely experienced a few times, the list was considerably shorter. Thinking that the short list had to be filtered then through what types of positions I would thrive in and what types did I want to avoid, I created a list of careers that would best suit my character and temperament. Not one of them involved re-entering the belly of that corporate monster again.

I don’t work well where decisions are made, not on what’s best for the individual or the team, but what’s best for the bottom line of the company. It’s pretty straightforward. When you are absorbed by the Monster, you are expected to act like the zombiefied employee every one else seems to be. You cannot be separate from it….you are it.

Many introverts, ambiverts, and HSPs experience similar things within that atmosphere. We tend not to feel valued, important, or that anyone hears what we have to say, no matter how insightful or valid our ideas and thoughts might be. Our brains are not wired for being assimilated to a Borg-like state. Many of us do not subscribe to “hive-mind” mentality. And these are qualities that are pretty much a prerequisite for immersing ourselves in corporate America. You exist solely for the benefit of the company and never the other way around. Sure, many HR salesmen pay lip service to being focused on us as individuals, but that philosophy never seems to extend much further than their office. (please note: I’m sure not all companies are the same. However, in my experience, I found myself in the same atmosphere over and over and over)

I felt, back in 2000, that I needed to land a position that paid well and had good benefits. I figured that I wasn’t getting any younger, and putting in my time with a large corporation was the *only* way to proceed. I didn’t take into account that I am a strong individual, and don’t respond well to upper management or mid-management. In fact, I tend to be obstinately defiant when I feel I’m not being treated like a person instead of a robot — expected to do exactly as I was programmed. I’m that one guy who cannot be programmed by others. I am the bane of a corporation’s existence. They despise my “type” because I see through their flimsy attempts to reprogram me and to assimilate.

On the other hand, it’s really tough to start over again in your fifties, and that’s what I decided to do. That thought nearly derailed me numerous times. “I’m too old for this shit,” I’d think. But then I’d realize that I’m never going to be too old to work for myself. So I sat down and created a 52-week plan to implement my own company. That meant setting my own schedule, working from home, doing work I am passionate about and thoroughly enjoy….and never having to worry about the Beast again.

When we open our eyes to our personal reality, we can often discover amazing things about ourselves and our environment that changes our direction. We limit ourselves through statements such as I made above, or thinking we “have to have benefits” to survive. In this current economic climate, that doesn’t necessarily hold true any longer. We must stop thinking “can’t” and start believing “can.” It’s a process, don’t get me wrong. But one of the goals I made for myself was to counter every single argument I presented as to why I “can’t” with five “can”s. Soon, I had learned the lyrics to a whole new song — one that I’d written and composed myself. And while I continue to struggle at times financially and mentally, the need to avoid the Monster outweighs the false need I had created to assimilate.

I can take care of myself. I’ve been doing it since I was 12. If anything, I’m smarter and stronger now than ever before. I have confidence in my skills and abilities, and have proven time and again that I’m very very good at what I do.

How about you? Which do you choose?

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4 thoughts on “What We Can Discover By Opening Our Eyes

  1. “When having to maintain a steady income in order to survive becomes the priority, we sometimes make poor choices for ourselves.” I really liked this quote and its reality in the lives of many. Thanks for your insights. I always look forward your writings.

  2. Juliana,

    I am so pleased that my experiences connect with yours! Sometimes we must go through a lot of lessons before we can uncover our authentic selves. And there is no set process for this. We arrive when we’re ready, no matter how long it takes. 🙂 Peace and love!

    Christian

  3. Every time I read one of your articles, an inward part of me jumps out of her seat and says, “that’s me too”. When I left high school, I took a job with the county of Cape May NJ. It was my first real job – clerk typist. I was so excited to be making a pay check.

    Now…one day,… I don’t know what got into me,… but I had this picture in my mind that I want to draw. Where it came from, I have clue. So during my lunch hour, I would take pen and ink, and begin drawing on this large white construction board. Over time, I finished it. I wish I had kept it. Little did I know at the time, the artist in me that was begging to come out. It was a beautiful snow scene. Even my co-worker told me how lovely it was.

    Well, after three years, I moved out of the area and on to another job. Switchboard Operator for NJ Bell. I lasted about 6 months. Then I had a waitress job to hold me over until I got a job at a bank in Philadelphia. Got married, move to Texas…and from there, went through various jobs…the longest one I held down was almost 6 years. EVEN THEN, I ended up finding a singing job that I did at night (love it). I stuck with the day job, until I was so exhausted, I had to make a choice. I became a full time singer instead.

    Truth is, all the while I was working in corporate, I was miserable, even cried more often than not; and was always being chastised for not being focused. Or, a nice way…you’re not a good fit. I don’t know why they would say that, as I worked SO HARD to fit in! I would act, dress and be the part…and never satisfied anyone, or myself.

    Do you see where I’m going here???

    It took me until I was almost 50 year old, to get the point that I’m an Artist to the Bone…and no amount of focus, determination, tenanciousness will ever allow me to Fit into a desk job (even tho’ I’m typing up a storm at the moment).

    And now, tho’ I struggle with finances, I’m never hungry, have a roof over my head, and sometimes Can’t Believe that I’m actually living a Creative Life. And sometimes I make money doing what I love. okay, I’m not quite setup for retirement – didn’t think I would ever stop working. But who’s to say My System isn’t a workable system? Who’s to say I HAD TO HAVE that Big House? Or new car? Or a fancy wardrobe? I live quite well with thrift shop finds, bought a used car, and live in an old small house. My only drawback is needing more room for a workshop – but what I have works for now.

    Would I ever want another desk job – omg, I hope not. I’d rather be a bartender and enjoy chatting with folks! …or cleaning floors if I had too (okay, my grammar construction probably is making everyone wince) But I think you all get the idea of what I’m trying to say? 🙂

    Juliana

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