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Archive for April, 2013

The sign on my head

I seem to have a hard time taking ownership of this space. I realize it’s fear, more than anything, that keeps me from writing, being vulnerable here, after having had so many experiences with people who aren’t interested in conversation, support, or just the fact one persons life/experience/choices might be different and that’s ok.

Yesterday I got together with a former colleague. I assumed that this would be a catch-up session as we hadn’t seen each other since I moved away (and then back) in 2011. Instead it became an advice session. He wasn’t seeking advice, but he was determined to provide advice. Career advice, house buying advice, (that I will never take on because his ideas are financially unsound and far to risky for my risk-adverse personality); he was set to “offer me ideas that people would pay hundreds of dollars to have.” I felt like I was being sold something. It was so strange. All of this was prompted by me making one post, one!, on facebook about how I was tried of adjuncting and wanted a consistent job. Any job, just to pay bills, while I invest my time in my writing career goals. (For the uninitiated, adjuncting is teaching at a college part time for little pay. There’s a lot of other issues surrounding this type of work.) I didn’t realize this was such an unreasonable desire, but if your friends/colleagues are also in the field, they feel as though one person’s need or desire to leave invalidates their decision to stay.

When he asked me what I’m good at I said “making people feel comfortable.” I’ve been told this by various people over the years, so it seemed the obvious answer. But really, what I seem to be good at is being whatever it is people need at the time. Need a good vent? Need to feel important? Need to give advice, even if it’s poor advice?  Apparently, I’m your woman. Because that’s what happens. People often overshare around me no mater how uncomfortable it is. Mind you, I can’t actually get advice and compassion on the topics when I actually need and want it, but it’s always there for topics I wouldn’t even ask for help on. And usually from people like my colleague–people who know a little about me but don’t really know my personality, goals, etc.

Yesterday was no exception. Advice about buying a home on a credit card and turning it into a rental property. (We won’t talk about the interest rate he found acceptable.) Advice about starting my own business that involves duping people into believing that is they just buy the “ancillary products” in addition to the workshop then their problems will be fixed. Taking advantage of the poor economy and people’s desperation. (My moral code can’t even stomach this.) And of course this advice is mingled with comments about how smart I am so clearly I’d be able to figure this out and do this all for myself. It became evident really quickly how badly he needed to share this advice, how much he needed to feel like he was offering me a unique, special, perfect idea that someone “as smart as” me would be able to take on and do with enthusiasm.

Not once did I ask for advice, but often I was told how much he wanted to help me. If I’m to be generous, I think he was misinterpreting my exhaustion and sadness. The whole experience felt off. (Husband called my colleague’s behavior arrogant.) While I sort through the experience I keep telling myself what really happened is this guy needed to give advice, clearly, to feel better. Can I make money off that?

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