Friday, March 14, 2014

Fragile: Handle With Care

"How did your interview go?" my therapist excitedly asked last week as I settled onto her sofa.

"I think I got it. I should find out tomorrow or Monday."

Her face lit up. A wide smile stretched from ear to ear. Her spine straightened as she leaned forward and exclaimed, "That's fantastic!"

"It is." Neither the tone of my voice nor the shift of my body matched the enthusiasm coming from her chair.

"And did you have a date?"

"I did. Really nice guy. He's originally from Connecticut so we bonded over lobster rolls."

"Are you seeing him again?"

"I believe so," I answered before reaching for my cup of water and taking a small sip.

"Do you want to see him again?"


My therapist settled back in her chair, let her mouth fall slightly open, strained to find the words to summarize her thoughts.

"Yeah, I know," I said.  "I'm looking at how excited you are right now and my response, it's like I'm talking about Brussel Sprouts."

"Nailed it."

We danced around this lack of enthusiasm. I was being cautious about work because it seemed reasonable. She agreed. I was being cautious about love because history dictated such.

"But you can still be excited."

We dug deeper. We discussed this sense of preservation masquerading as caution.

"Like I've said before," she started. "This approach served you well during your childhood. But you're still acting guarded without evidence of needing protection."

I took another sip of water, this time using the liquid to help swallow down the lump lodging itself in my throat. I glanced out the window, as if shifting my gaze would help stave off the tears. Then I admitted that no matter how much I rationally knew I wasn't defective in my physical appearance, I couldn't fathom a man embracing it without hesitation. Clearly he'd someday determine my cellulite wasn't worth tolerating. My soft stomach would eventually become unbearable. At a certain point, my larger two front teeth would morph from cute to unsightly.

"Rationally I get it. Veneers won't fix the problem. This runs deeper than cosmetic dentistry."

"Yes, it does," she said.

"Except it's so ingrained at this point, embedded in my bones....." I paused.

"We're going to tackle this," my therapist said, her voice confident yet warm. "Here, in this space.You'll tell your mom to fuck off. You'll hold your dad accountable for not protecting you. By getting the anger out, you can stop internalizing it. You can stop turning that anger on yourself."

I took in a deep breath, exhaled with a slight huff. I considered what she said.

"You see, I can't connect those dots. For me, that process won't lead to embracing my flaws. And I apologize for dismissing your approach."

She smiled. "You're being honest. I'd rather you be honest. But I still think we should try it."

I nodded in agreement, refraining from admitting fear of failure. This wasn't my first time sitting on a couch, trying to tackle this demon. While strong on the outside, I felt fragile on the inside. Unbelievably fragile. As if my heart was made of delicate glass. And if this effort didn't work, I feared it just might shatter.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Third Time's a Charm

"You really should apply," my manager said over lunch in mid-December.

"But there's no relocation," I replied.

"Apply. Get your name out there."

And so I did, throwing my hat in the ring for a promotion that would require a move to the west coast. My California friends were ecstatic at the prospect of me heading in their direction. Leslie panicked. I wanted nothing more than to put my head down and do my job. But I went through the process, answering questions and politely bowing out when it was confirmed I would be responsible for moving myself west.

"You really should apply," my senior manager said two weeks later when my then-manager announced her resignation.

"For her vacancy in DC?" I asked.

"Apply. You have a great shot."

And I did, making it all the way to the final round. I flew to Chicago in early January to sit down with senior leadership. One meeting went incredibly well. The other clued me into the reality that, no matter how tight my Spanx sucked me in, I wasn't getting the job. Though my qualifications far surpassed those of my competition, this was a game of politics and I didn't have a shot in hell.

"Which jobs do you want to go for?" my new manager asked in late January, my inbox flooded with postings he'd sent along.

"I just got to San Francisco for a 24-hour work trip. Let me rinse off this airplane smell, find some food and review what you sent over."

"Apply. You're hot right now. People want you!"

And apply away I did, submitting an application for the third time in two months for a job I was finally interested in pursuing. It was a promotion to a completely different division, removing me from the drama and uncertainty plaguing my current team. It was a title change that would bring with it greater job stability and a very nice salary increase. It was also an opportunity that allowed me to remain in Atlanta, a place that was finally starting to feel like home.

I sailed through phone screens and thoroughly enjoyed my face-to-face interviews, something most people fear like the plague. My scheduled forty-five-minute conversation with the Director ran an hour and fifteen. Peers and managers, both current and former, excitedly reached out to vouch for my competency. With two recent application efforts in my rearview mirror, my interviewing process was a well oiled machine.

"Paige, it's David. Is now a good time to talk?" the recruiter asked yesterday afternoon when I answered the phone.

"It is!" I answered.

"But is it a good time to talk about a promotion? I'm calling to make you an offer."

"It is indeed."