"Unexpected Work, Unexpected Gifts"
I didn't start life as a professional agitator and Customer Service Maven. I started working when I was 16. It was not my dream to be a "secretary" and I hated those first office jobs. I was a "Kelly Girl", back in the days (the 1970's and early 1980's) when Kelly Temporary Services was actually called "Kelly Girls". (Jesus! Shouldn't that have been back in the 1940's????) I would actually go into a business and say, "Hi, I'm the Kelly Girl. I'm here to work for the day/week/whatever." It didn't take long for me, as a card-carrying feminist, to begin saying, "Hi, I'm here from Kelly Services."
If the Receptionist responded with a cheery, smiling, "Oh! You're the Kelly girl!", that was on her. At least I wasn't demoting my own self.
The country's, and the world's, view of success in the 1950's, '60's, '70's, '80's, was based on advancement up a seemingly predictable upward trajectory. Go to school, go to college, get a job, get a family, get a kid, get a life, retire, and die.
We still tout this story in America. We set our self-image by it. And our worth. In a very alternative view, spiritual seekers learn that there is no predictable upward trajectory; that the journey is what life is about, and not the goal.
Good luck combining those two in your psyche. That's a spiritual journey in itself! But - not unusually - I digress. I am here to bury limitation, not to praise it.
In any case, like any good American, I judge myself, my worth, and my right to even freaking exist, on how well I'm doing in the world: a.k.a. how much money and Joneses-measuring-up I'm successfully doing. And like any formerly middle-class American child raised with more than enough to get pretty much whatever she wanted or needed, adjusting to my own life trajectory as an adult has been ... well ... interesting.
I am a Marketer, a professional Actor, a Singer, a Writer (d'uh), a Presentation and Communication Coach for Women in Business. I am also...GASP!...
...and I had no freaking idea I would be adding that to my list of ne'er-do-well activities.
I didn't expect it and I wasn't looking for it. When you think of careers that you yearn to follow when you're growing up, this isn't on anyone's list that I know of. I could be wrong, but I think in terms of public perspective it may be right up there with Used Car Salesman, Sleazy Lawyer and Garbage Collector...and I don't know why we shit on the Garbage Collectors because seriously, they are saving our collective asses!
But money went away, and rebuilding came to me, and while that's the kind of thing you become grateful for far after the fact rather than while you're picking pennies out of your car seats to buy a beer to dull the pain of too much negative self-judgment, and I suddenly found myself selling subscriptions for the oldest professional theatre in Cincinnati. And I found out that I was Good at it, and that I got to talk to people (which I love), and that I was making commission, which felt like a game that I got to win. More or less. Depending on the day. Sort of...
After that I worked for a financial campaign in a business that has no moral compass whatsoever, but I was good at that too, and seeing the satisfying application of my service side - helping peel customers off the wall, finding them as many answers as humanly possible, giving them what compassion and comfort I could as a professional person.
Hmmm...two of my favorite things: communication and service.
Do you know how many decades - not years, mind you, but decades - I've been looking for the core of my own personal message? It was starting to open up to me in absolutely NOT the way I was expecting...
And then I came to The Store. America's Store. Macy's. Where my grandmother Elaine Rosenblum worked in the 1950's and 1960's until she retired. The continuity pleases me down to my bones. The weirdness makes me scratch my head to its roots.
And here I am a top seller, just as I was when I sold theatre subscriptions two years running. Here I am recognized for executing and growing my communicative, sales, and service abilities. I am not digressing when I tell you that my Goodbye Good Girl business is about breaking rules to make the professional life - and transformed self-image - that you want.
I am not digressing because: Talk about breaking rules! Family rules, Social rules, you name it. This formerly middle-class child has found herself in a business that uses, and promises to increases the usage of, her best abilities! I can put myself on a Training path - which is something I tried to do to no avail in years past in my secretarial and office managerial positions. And it is in Retail...ish. I'm not in the stores themselves, obviously. But still. (And it allows me to continue my work in my own business. Win-win, baby!)
More rule breaking: I'm proud of the work I do and I'm proud of what I bring to people and I'm proud of my rebuilding my life with a new and unexpected path that includes the best parts of the former pathways I have trod. And most of all, I don't look down on me. I really get the art of this work. You do too, if you'll admit to it. You know when you get a Customer Service Agent that makes you feel like a million bucks plus gets you what you need, and when you get one that makes you want to die.
It's funny...the 130 words per minute typing speed I've had for years and years, since I was a Kelly Girl, come in handy here too. Being able to multi-task like a mutha - searching databases, websites and prices while continuing the customer conversation - is not a small thing.
I used to say, back in my 20's, that I wished I could just make money by talking to people. I would utter that "prayer" while working administrative jobs and spending too much of my day speaking to others around me and connecting with them. I couldn't imagine how I could be paid to talk! I didn't think I was a Salesperson and I definitely thought that if I was a Customer Service Agent I would be a failure, and be seen as a failure, to mention being poor! I mean, of the two options, Sales seemed like the better paying one.
Now here I am.
Back to the beginning, but this time as me. This time from my own starting point and not my parents'. That's a profundity I would need to write a book to explain.
But this I can tell you: The straight upward trajectory is a nice thing but not the only thing. And if you have to stop that upward trajectory - if you fall into a ravine and have to recreate the climbing rope to get yourself the hell outta there - you have been given a deep gift that you never wanted, never saw coming, and now will benefit from. If you dare.
So if you have started at a "Kelly Girl" point in your life, and you find yourself at a neighboring point and think you've reached no goals, think again. If that's all you see, you're just not looking down.
©2019 Lori Kirstein