Tuesday, November 25, 2008

As I've Gotten Older

Another beauty from the talented Anne Taintor.

Today I was talking with someone about what some of my good and bad points are. For some reason, just about every answer was prefaced with, "As I've gotten older."

Good point/bad point: I am a perfectionist.
In my field (writing), it's good to be a perfectionist. You want to write clearly, correctly, and concisely. On the other hand, if you're a perfectionist, you're never satisfied, and that's not good. You have to know when enough is enough, and you have to apply the "appropriate quality" to your work. That's not to say that you do crappy work -- ever. It is to say, however, that you need to know when what you've produced is pretty dang good and it's time to move on to the next step. This is a lesson that's taken me years to learn.

I debated the whole "perfect" thing with a manager some time ago. I was told that X wouldn't happen until Y was perfect. I pointed out that X would never happen, then, because perfection just isn't going to happen. Ding! Author's message! (Naturally, this individual wouldn't concede the point, so we ended at a standoff.

Good point/bad point: I am uncomfortable meeting and talking with new people.
I am an introvert and have always been somewhat shy. When I was a kid, I was terribly shy. My shyness has decreased over the years, but it's still there, lurking in a corner.

As I've grown older, I've become much more interested in other people. People are fascinating! Everyone has a story. Everyone is interesting. The sticking point for me is what to talk about.

In my last job, I worked with a lot of young women who were right out of college, and our company was their first experience in the world of full-time work. Once I got over knowing that I was absolutely old enough to be their mother (ugh), I had a ball talking to them, telling them the tips and tricks I'd had to learn on my own during my career. Because I was nervous, I assumed that they, were, too, and I worked extra hard to make them comfortable with their assignments. I made it crystal clear that my job was to help them and that, because I'd made every possible mistake -- sometimes more than once -- I could help them avoid making those same mistakes.

In karate, too, I've become much more comfortable with myself. Doing anything physical at this stage of the game feels pretty awkward -- I'm older, and I was never what you'd call a jock. On the other hand, I'm comfortable asking questions, trying new things, and basically sticking my neck out. I may not be able to do some of the techniques well or at all, but I'm somehow able to explain them to other students (who then, later, help me learn how to do them correctly).

Good point/bad point: I say what I mean and mean what I say.
As I've grown older, I've realized that being reticent and beating around the bush serves no one, least of all me. I don't have patience with office politics and I certainly don't have any with petty cruelty. Hey, if you don't like me, that's fine. If we have to work together, then pull up your big-girl panties and get over it. We're not going to like everyone we have to be with, but that doesn't give you permission to be a jerk toward me. If you're going to snipe at me, you'd better be ready for me to call you on it.

I worked with a woman who was a 10th degree sniper. She'd make these cutting remarks in a way that if you questioned her about it, you looked like you were oversensitive or paranoid. Now that I'm older, I would handle this kind of person differently. "You know, that was a pretty insensitive remark," I'd say. "You need to take it down a notch." And if she followed up, as she was wont to do, I'd fire that warning shot across her bow: "You need to stop, right now."

Early this spring, someone said to me, "Don't be stupid!" This was in the workplace, and it was said by someone who *ahem* outranked me. (I don't know how else to phrase it -- I'm trying to avoid any sort of identifiers here.) I was absolutely gobsmacked by that remark. Stunned, I said nothing. And then the moment to respond was gone. Now that I'm older, albeit by only months, not years, I know exactly what I'll say if I ever find myself the target of that kind of attack. "I don't allow anyone to speak to me like that, including you."

There are some things about aging that I don't particularly care for; however, I love the freedom that comes with being myself.

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