Based on recent feedback, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am no good at telling about myself. My dad’s sister chided me gently the other day, “If it weren’t for your husband letting us know about your life, we’d have no idea what was happening with you guys.” That was in the context of various life changes, mostly related to our careers.
A few days earlier, I had said to my older brother Dan, “I don’t like talking about myself.” I remember that moment, because he seemed genuinely surprised and commented in a bemused sort of way, “Well, I think you’re interesting.” Thanks, Danny.
Maybe my reserve comes from being misunderstood when I have tried telling what I think is the important stuff. A friend recently told me, after I attempted to tell about current life changes, that, “It sounds like you’re making the best of a crappy situation.” Oh, dear. Failure to communicate.
Let me try again. See, it’s more like this: I want to make sure I don’t blow a golden opportunity, which is this moment, right now. I don’t want to miss it by wanting more or looking too far ahead. It’s not a crappy situation that I’m making the best of. It is this gift of life, and I get to live it. Isn’t that amazing enough?
But people seem to want the elevator pitch about how we’re making money. Why? That seems so boring to me. When I am with someone I haven’t seen in a while, I want to listen deeply to that moment and create a memory with them, not rehearse a summary of my resume.
If I have to talk about a job, what I really want to tell about my work is stuff like this:
• Today my five-year-old son watched a video about innovation with me as I thought through potential creative elements of an upcoming event. He seemed genuinely interested. I felt the pieces of my life beginning to come together in a strange, unexpected way. He wanted to watch it a second time.
• There’s this wiry older gentleman I work with. He has piercing gray eyes and makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when he talks about how love can change the world.
• I sat in a meeting the other day as the president of the organization wondered aloud about the ripple effect of service instilled in the hearts of young people. Her candor took my breath away.
• I made my first call to a Congressional representative because of her. I cannot tell you why, except that I would not have been able to look her in the eye if I hadn’t.
• In the third toilet stall on the second floor of an office building I visit frequently, there is a magnet with a quote from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. This part grabs me by the throat:
"…dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."
• I always use that stall.
Is that what folks want to know? I can only imagine a blank stare if I tried to say all that in casual conversation.