A long, long time ago, in a land that’s about 40 miles away, a young girl, (I’ll call her Suzie), was called into an emergency meeting at her mutual fund services job. It was right before Christmas , shortly after the tragedy of September 11th. At that meeting, Suzie, along with about 6 or 7 other people, was told her services were “no longer needed” and to turn in our key cards immediately. They said something about layoffs and restructuring but Suzie, (okay me), couldn’t hear anything other than the loud voice inside my head that was screaming “You’ve just been fired!!!” It was as if a bomb went off, everything was fuzzy and I couldn’t hear or see straight. After a humiliating escort by security back to our desks, admist stares and whispers, we gathered our personal items. I wandered out into the parking lot. I was so confused, angry and embarrassed. It was only mid afternoon but I had no idea where to go. We were given huge packets full of legal mumbo jumbo and information about career counseling. But there wouldn’t be any kind of marriage therapist. The relationship was over and there was no two ways about it. I had such very mixed emotions because I honestly would have loved to have quit that job months ago. I knew I didn’t really fit into to a corporate culture. It was competitive, confusing and felt really, really fake. Having a job that I couldn’t explain to people made me annoyed. In short, this was the stupid boyfriend that I wanted to break up with but didn’t know how, then he suddenly dumped me and I was all like “wait a minute! I never liked you anyway! I was going to leave you!”
It was a blow to my self esteem for sure. I’m still envious of the money that my 20 something self was making. But while the big corporate paycheck was fun, I also felt like a piece of me was selling my soul. I was consumed with faking it, acting like I really cared about NASDAQ and cruel clients who thought it was fun to talk down to me. I’m actually grateful for that terrible moment in that conference room, because I don’t believe I was ever going to be brave enough to walk away from that job. I had no idea where I would go, and I would have felt extremely guilty. I worked really hard in college and was proud of saying my major was Finance. I didn’t really even like it, but I thought it made me sound smart, which is a really dumb thing to say. We are pushed and pressured, even by ourselves, as young as middle school. We need to get really, really good grades and really high test scores. We want to get into a good college, one that is expensive, so that we show off the school sticker on our car. We hope it will impress others, sort of like owning a BMW or a Louis Vuitton bag, giving us the confidence to feel like we are “good enough to belong.” We choose a major that will look attractive on our resumes, hoping to get a job that pays well, or that has a big title, so that others view us as successful. I’m going to dare to push this even further and say that there is even more pressure to prove yourself academically if you are a girl. What if your daughter/friend/sister looked at you and said they didn’t want to college? What if they said they “just” wanted to be a mom? I don’t know how supportive I, or many of you, would be. That makes me a hypocrite. We want our girls to have choices yet we want them to make the choices we feel are the right ones. We feel the need to remind them that they can’t depend on someone else to take care of them. Has anyone ever said this to a boy?
Can I support myself right now? Alone? Financially? No, I can’t. Could I find a job that could support our family and continue our lifestyle? I’d like to think I could but truthfully it’s been years since I’ve put together a resume. I’m spoiled, not with money but with time. I get to drive my kids to school if I want, I get to be the one that takes them to their practices. During the summer I can stay up late with them or take off on a day trip. Does this make me a “kept” woman? I guess it does. I’m usually okay with it except for the guilt I feel sometimes when I realize it is up to my husband to do the bulk of the financial “keeping” of the family. That pressure is there, day in and day out. I’m pretty sure if I told him my business exploded and I would be the primary bread winner he would be just fine being “kept” by me. I’m sure he would love to do something part-time, something that fulfilled his personal passions. It’s that whole “if we won the lottery what would you really want to do” conversation. I know what I’d do…I’d start a wardrobe consulting company!
This isn’t a conversation about stay at home moms versus working moms, nor is it a women versus men complaint. It’s really more of an observation, one that I think about a lot. Because I am a small businesses owner I struggle with how big exactly do I want to be? So very often I feel like I have one foot in my office and one tripping over all the stuff that I am not getting done in the rest of the house. I also struggle with being stable. Does staying at a certain level and not growing my business make me a failure? I am always thinking about my business, how to market it, how to build it, but do I want to? How truly awful does that sound to say that I am totally okay with the way it is? Or even worse, how awful is it that I can’t just be okay with how it is? Why does everything have to be bigger and better?
Sometimes less is more. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to drive the speed limit and not a single mile over. No one can have it all but maybe we can hope to be okay with whatever it is that we choose to do without. As I get ready to send our kids back to school I will say what I always say to them, which is “Do your best.” My job as their parent is to be okay with their best, and to really, truly, mean it. Their best is not the same as anyone else’s. I just want their best to be able to give them the opportunity to do whatever they want to do. And, perhaps even more importantly, for them to have the courage to be comfortable with their choices. Their future may not include college. Their future may not include marriage. Their future could be them living in a tepee in Costa Rica, the only thing “keeping” them being a devotion to live in a place of pure and simple beauty.
*Insider Tip – Put your style in a vacuum.
I can’t tell you how many times a client will ask me if something is “in.” I’m all for updating your look so that you feel current, but what’s truly in is confidence. Confidence is only an option when you feel comfortable, inside and out. Someone recently asked me if I look at complete strangers and silently critique their style. I can tell you honestly that I don’t. I don’t do that because I can’t. I can only do my job by really getting to know my client. I have to understand where they came from and where they are going. I have to understand what means the most to them in life. Every single situation is unique, and rarely does it result in my client looking like they just stepped off of a runway. My goal is for my clients to be able to get dressed quickly and easily. I want their outfit to be a suit of armor that is fit for whatever battles they may encounter that day. Most of all, I don’t want them not to feel like they have to compare themselves to anyone else. I want them to want to be them.
Special thanks to the fabulous Miss Meghan Trainor, who reminds all of what it sounds like to be confident, comfortable, and happy.
Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading!