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Who Do I Think I Am?!

April 1, 2013

A little ball of red yarn. We were searching everywhere for a little ball of red yarn. My best friend and I were about 10 years old on a camping trip with our Girl Scout Troop. We were in charge of the supply tent and we couldn’t find the oh-so-important red yarn. Our leader insisted that we retrace our steps and scour the site until we found it. She denied us sandwiches. It was late. Finally, one of us lifted a box and there it was, smushed flat, hiding from us.

By the following week, I had quit Girl Scouts. All of us had decided to quit. We had made a pact. Our leader had been so mean to us on that trip. We were going to show her. But I was the only one who carried it through. By Monday, everyone was over it. Not me. I said I was quitting so I quit. There was a principle involved. We had been mistreated.

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 A few days ago my boss caught me just as I was walking out the door. He led me into the gallery to show me the current version of his plans for the upcoming exhibit. Every update reveals a smaller and smaller exhibit. I tried to keep my emotions from showing on my face as I nodded and said, “That’s great. Sure. That’s a good idea.” In my head I was screaming. Not only because I didn’t approve of anything he was doing but because he knew perfectly well what my vision of the exhibit had been. I had presented my ideas to him many times and he had approved. Then he pulled it out from under me and turned into a joke.

I listened as he justified his ever-changing plans with ridiculous, nonsense reasons. I walked out of the building, got on my bike and started to cry. He was ruining the exhibit. He had taken my research and writing and chopped it up for display on post-it note panels. I announced via facebook that I needed to vent about work. I was walking in the park when my friend Bob called. Bob and I worked together at a daily newspaper. Few people know me as well as Bob. I listened to myself whine and bitch about my job and it hit me. I used to do the same thing about the paper we worked for. There, too I bemoaned the lack of honesty and integrity. The ridiculous rules. Ten months in, I was disillusioned and angry. I gave my notice. I listened to myself talking to Bob and realized I’m doing it again. It’s not the job. It’s me.

I started digging up memories to see how far back this behavior went. A pattern emerged.

The weekly paper. The owner didn’t understand journalism. He didn’t support the staff and give us what we needed. He was immoral and lacked integrity. The department store with its arcane rules and inconsistent expectations. How dare they treat me like that!? The small business owner who filled the shop with second hand smoke, leaving me vulnerable to cancer. How long have I been doing this?

High School. There was a competition. Only two people entered so they cancelled it. They wanted to send us to the regional event. I gave a long impromptu speech to some teacher saying it wasn’t right to send us to regionals. We hadn’t earned it. I would not participate.

I dug farther into my childhood and then I remembered the red string. Girl Scouts. My God, I did this when I was just 10 years old.

Who do I think I am? Do I think I’m better than everyone else? Why do I always end up with this sense of indignation and sadness? Is it ego-driven self-righteousness? Isn’t that the very thing I ran away from in my marriage? A smart-ass. A know-it-all. I’ve been called these things.

I’ve been jumping around from one thing to another my whole life. I spent two years studying architecture, followed by visual arts, followed by marriage and a second child. I’ve been using that as an excuse. I became a mother too early. I got married too early. I had another child. That’s why I couldn’t stick to one thing like I’ve seen others do.

I’ve called myself a quitter. I quit sports because I sucked at it. I quit college because I had a family to take care of. I moved from job to job. Each self-imposed change seemed situational to me. There were logical reasons behind each abandonment.  But I’m realizing now, there’s more to it than just the demands of a family, boredom or changing interests. I quit out of a sense of righteousness. I’m searching for some ideal that doesn’t exist. I’m looking for this magical being, a wondrous leader who will be more than I am. Who will guide me and lead me into being something great. I expect people to be nothing less than great. I expect organizations to be pure, full of integrity and honor. I go into each new situation with a clean slate, full of hope and every damned time, I’m disillusioned and sad. And then I quit and go looking for the next utopia which I don’t find because it doesn’t exist.

Is recognizing this enough? Will I be able to break this cycle and stay in one place, making the most of it? Now that I know there isn’t ever going to be that one position, that one job, that one organization that will finally fill this need to be part of some great organization, led by the perfect leader, can I adjust and find success? Is recognizing a flaw enough to overcome it? Or do I need to find an outlet for this revolutionary streak in me?

Who do I think I am?

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From → Rantings

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