This July I will turn 40. I’m not afraid of it, I’m kind of fascinated by who I’ve become. As the girls are getting bigger and as each birthday puts more distance between my 20-something self and who I am now, I consider what almost was.
What if I had stayed so completely insecure?
I’ve often daydreamed about being able to speak to the people from back then, but honestly though, the person I’d most like to talk to is Amanda.
We’d probably meet at the baseball fields at the community college; the fields are long since covered by campus expansion. I’d be smoking and probably looking deliberately disheveled, part of the lack of confidence back then manifested in a desire to preempt anyone saying that I wasn’t feminine by wearing men’s shoes, baggy jeans and an aloof expression.
“Hey,” I’d say
“How are things going?”
“No, your career. How do you like being the Operations Manager at the theatre?”
I’m not really qualified. If something happened I could never run the soundboard. I couldn’t step in for the master electrician.
“Ok, but is that your job?”
Well, it is Operations Manager, you should know how to run the operation, do everything.
“Hmm, the way I see it being Operations Manager means having the competence to ensure that all the things within the operation are managed, not that you actually pull every lever.”
People don’t think I’m qualified, they think I have the job because I’m the boss’s kid. I just keep trying to prove that I am willing to work harder than anyone else. First one in, last one out.
“Ok, what about what you did last year? You met Paul Newman, worked on an Arthur Miller play, left with an invitation to go back to Williamstown as the Associate Production Manger.”
Right, but it was the same thing, I just kind of tricked everyone into seeing past my inexperience and recognizing that I worked hard.
“So you don’t think it’s possible that maybe the reason they asked you back was because you have value?”
No. If they had more time I’m sure they could find someone more qualified.
“Do you think you’re talented?”
There’s a whole lot more that I can’t do, than I can do.
“What can you do?”
She’d light a cigarette now, beginning to panic.
I don’t know. Ok? I don’t know! I can barely manage a resume. I don’t know how to apply for jobs because I don’t have any of the skills that fit what they want.
“Amanda, listen to me. You have to stop holding yourself up to this imaginary perfect job candidate you fear.”
Right. I don’t have a talent. I don’t have a single marketable skill. Do you really think that, “Handles a crisis well,” or “Knows how to work without the right equipment or tools” is a skill set?
“You have no idea how valuable the ability to improvise can be.”
You say that because you know me.
“No, I say it because I’ve seen employees who have all the credentials but who don’t have the character. I’ve seen people focus exclusively on looking the part and then when it comes to actually playing the part, they can’t do it. I am saying it because in the last 15 years I have built a career and a business with how I think and how I leverage my knowledge.”
Company photo for the business I own with my partners.
You don’t have to apply for jobs or prove yourself.
“That isn’t true, no matter where you are in life, you have to be able to articulate why you are different and how that can help a business, situation, or a cause. I have learned that I do have talent and skills and that more importantly they can be translated to any thing that I want to accomplish. The trick is that I have to believe in myself and I have to allow myself to show on the outside all that I have available under the Amanda talent umbrella.”
Post-meeting in NYC.
“It’s a simple shift in approach; you need to apply your efforts to living without doubt. Stop hiding behind cigarettes and stop selling yourself short. Take a little more initiative in how you meet each day. You can carve your own way. Today’s job really could become a career and the days that you are just crossing off on a calendar can become a life. A business, a community, a family, all waiting for you if you just believe, because the doubt—the only thing that will get you is more of the same.”
This post is part of the BlogHer’s Success Tips for My Younger Self editorial series, made possible by Kaplan University.
Oh, MIllie, coming from you, that means so very much. Thank you.
That Amanda? The old Amanda? She’s completely unfamiliar to me. And that’s pretty damn cool, isn’t it?
Sounds like you were pretty hard on yourself back then. I know I was too. If we only knew then what we know now, except then we’d have nothing to learn.
Forty is a fabulous time. People told me that and I rolled my eyes, but now that I’ve just crossed fifty, I know they were right. So when people tell me how my fifties will rock, maybe I’ll believe them. Or better yet, I’ll show them. (or maybe show myself.)
When 20-something Amanda said to almost-40 Amanda,
“Right, but it was the same thing, I just kind of tricked everyone into seeing past my inexperience and recognizing that I worked hard.”
Oh boy. That hit me between the eyes. That. Was. Me. Always underselling, always discounting, always thinking I’d somehow fooled them all.
Now, in my 60s, I am so comfortable having these chats with myself. They are easy, like catching up with an old friend who is comfortable in her career and life. If we only knew in our 20s how to put out the cigs and breathe deeply it would make breathing a lot more easy now. The fun part now is remembering!