My eyes must have been bugging out of my head, Jim Carey-Mask-style. My hair was probably all standing on end. Somewhere, soundlessly, screams of wahoo and oh-my-dear-god-somebody-rescue-me vibrationally and simultaneously emitted from my closed mouth, my chest, my every cell, exploding into the ether! Every dog within 100 miles could hear the whine of my voiceless scream! And as for me, I wanted to crawl under a desk and put my arms over my suddenly defenseless head!
All of that because I was talking to my new boss-to-be about the job I will start in two weeks, and as he spoke to me and told me what I would be doing, I realized with a massive jolt of uncomfortable self-awareness that I am going to be trusted, depended upon, expected to be as in charge, as connective, as adult as I have never been expected nor trusted to be in a corporate environment!
Yes, he had told me at interviews and meetings since that I would be meeting with people and gathering information and helping change things, but the level of trust was well, emotionally leveling! I felt shocked to my core that this was real! I felt like saying, “You mean… You don’t want to treat me like I’m a servant, and ‘less than’ you?”
At 61, the open door that I had been looking for through 30 years of previous corporate experience was suddenly swung wide open! And I felt like a deer. in. the. headlights.
Oh. Holy. Gawd.
The new boss was talking to me, showing me a document about what would be expected of me over the coming months, and asking me to tell him if I had questions, and I was realizing that he wasn’t kidding about my being someone who would be in front of a lot of people, talking to everyone from Directors on down, and I was suddenly terrified and thrilled and my energy shot way up and off the charts and I didn’t know how to behave and I felt like an idiot and a little girl at the same time and, and, and…
… inside of me the child, the 20-year-old, the 30-year-old and the 40-year-old all ran in Three Stooges-like circles screaming and then following one another in new, ceaseless and unhelpful patterns, trying to avoid the truth of Being Seen…
… and there was nowhere to run, and I kept hearing the word “idiot!” in my head, and I was trying to stay grounded and focused on what he was saying, and I was sure that he was looking at me like, “What the hell is wrong with her?” and I was certain he was going to fire me on the spot just for being completely freaked out!
… he didn’t.
But I still felt like a moron, having gotten that excited, and that wooden, and that visible!
And now I was supposed to somehow, with that amount of energy coursing through my being, get back onto the phones and do my sales job?
I texted a friend for help.
God bless my dear friend, Susan, who swiftly reminded me that I am as capable as hell, that I always rise to the challenge, that I will naturally feel lost at first and I’ll find my way, and that “it is all perfectly normal being uncomfortable when you are stretching yourself. But so healthy!”
The thing that struck me forcibly — once I had managed to tuck all of that extra wahoo energy back into a reasonable semblance of sanity — is that whereas I am absolutely at home on stage, this particular kind of corporate visibility put me into panic for about 20 minutes. Impostor Syndrome, feeling like a little girl in mommy’s high heels. Put a microphone in my hand and stick me on any stage in the world, and I’ll be a happy and overwhelmingly comfortable woman. But tell me you actually trust me to be the adult I am, in this wacky corporate environment, and I’m like, “Whaaaaat?”, because I have never fit into Corporate, which is part of why I became an entrepreneur 15 years ago!
I’m irreverent, I think outside the box, I believe in things like equal pay and less pay differential between the “top” and “bottom” employees. I have to concentrate hard not to swear (they do say the smartest people swear, though, so that’s my story that I’m stickin’ to), I think people are more important than money and that treating business that way gets the business more money.
Things like that.
But I also worked 30 years in Corporate as an Administrative Assistant, an Office Manager, always fighting the realization that in the corporate structure I was seen as less-than, as an underling, as someone whose opinion couldn’t possibly matter.
And now… the tide has forcibly changed. I am wanted for my personality, for my connectivity and my opinions. In Corporate America! What?!
I feel exactly as I do when I have stood on an empty stage, in an empty hall before a performance and before the audience comes in: that enormous space before me, ready to be filled with all that I have to offer.
But this time with no script.
And you know what? Life is an improv. So bring it on.
Mr. DeMille? I’m ready for my close-up.