That College Scandal

When I applied to college, I didn’t really understand it was a matter of them choosing me. I thought I chose them. I remember being in awe of my friends who paid the exorbitant $25 application fee to several schools. I decided UNC-CH would be my “winner”, filled in my application…..by hand, got a check for $25 from my parents for UNC Admissions, sent it in and waited for my acceptance. Not anxiously…..because like I said….I had no clue they could turn me down.

And I did receive that acceptance…..pretty quickly. Before some friends who had applied “early decision.” Once again, I hadn’t. It seemed really binding and as this was really my decision, it was as though they were unnecessarily forcing me into a marriage. Because what if I changed my mind? (Not that I planned to pay another application fee.) Remember I don’t like people telling me what to do.

I remember I received the acceptance before the early decision friends because at least one got mad at me because I was accepted before they were. I didn’t understand their problem. Why did it matter when you got the letter? We were all getting in.

And then some friends did not get in, and my innocence waned. Soon I was on pins and needles for my friends, and I understood why people applied to multiple colleges. I understood why they went early decision when they knew that was where they wanted to go. And I finally understood how fortunate I was……Carolina certainly does turn people down. A lot of them.

I remember very little about the application. It was long. I filled it out myself. In ink. My parents didn’t help, and I don’t think they even read it before I sent it in. I’m sure the thought was that I was applying, and therefore it needed to be my work. And I probably didn’t want to hear that I should have been more careful with my handwriting.

But as tough as I now know it was for students to get in college then, it has gotten far crazier since then. I helped both my niece and my goddaughter with their applications to UNC (and incidentally both got in, though my goddaughter chose another school.) The application process is easier in many ways than it was when I was applying…..the common app helps so much when applying to multiple schools. But then there are the many extra questions, which varied by school, and out of control. Wish I could remember them now. One of Maggie’s was “Who is your most favorite and least favorite superhero and why?” From my memory, my two or three questions were all related to why I wanted to go to Carolina and why I was qualified to be a student there. I’m sure the superhero question got a far better quality of student. Progress. (Yes, I am being sarcastic.)

Note that while I did help my niece and goddaughter (and a few others) with college applications. I will say it was grueling for them and I made them come up with their own answers. But I was like Chuck Barris and kept pulling out the gong when their answers didn’t cut it. I kept saying “No, no, no!”, “The people reviewing these are probably going to be people my age”, and “Read what they say they are looking for and tell me how that answer will sway them.” They hated me for a time during the process….this I know. But it was a necessary time of torture. I suspect some parents are outright writing their kids applications for them…..but Aunt Kim felt like it needed to be their work. With a bit of coaching.

It’s a competitive world out there for college these days. When I took the SAF, I did not study for it beforehand. It didn’t occur to me you could. Taking it even once was horrendous for someone like me who has a short attention span. And it was a Saturday morning! The first hour I was good. The second my attention was sketchy. By the third hour I was making designs down the answer sheet and not reading most of the questions. Somehow my scores were still enough and sufficient to get me in a good school. But now there are SAT prep classes and students are taking it many times. It blows my mind. And the number of schools they apply to. Phenomenal. And the application fee is more than $25. Mind blowing the money that goes into that process.

More and more students feel the need to attend colleges be successful. And a 4-year degree is not enough. Most believe they need graduate school for most careers. And yet it still doesn’t seem enough. Many still struggle to find good jobs and once they begin, the jobs take over their lives. I loved my 20s. I made some of my best friends then. We worked, but nights and weekends were ours for fun. A lot of “kids” today are working 12 hours a day. And weekends. Companies reward this. I find it insane.

But then we have my young heroes. Those who eschew convention and decide they can’t be locked up in an office. They are the vagabonds. They travel the world on a shoestring. They work to live an adventurous lifestyle. As much fun as my life has been, I have never been able to toss away convention to the degree they do. But they tempt me. I try to live vicariously through them. I closely follow the son of friends of a friend of a Facebook friend of mine. Yep, you got it. Makes me laugh too. But in a random conversation my friend started he came up with regard to my comment in this discussion. So yes….,I stalk him. (He does a vlog. He doesn’t mind.) It’s a weird world.

But a few young folks are realizing another secret we had somehow forgotten. They don’t need college. There are many, many occupations for which they just need skills and they are working towards building those. Some with parental support, some defying everything their parents wanted for them. But they are earning a good living. Not spending money on college tuition. And strategizing as to how they can build it better. They may take a class if it will teach them a new skill. But a degree? To them it is a piece of paper that doesn’t translate into cash. They aren’t wrong

So back to my original subject. These Hollywood parents. I have some sympathy for them. They have lots of things excess money can buy, and kids that are probably normal rebellious high school students who have never had to work too hard or make their own goals. I suspect these parents were desperate. Embarrassed that their kids would not do what they felt needed to be done to be a success, as they were. So they do what they can….crazy things to those of us looking in….to hopefully get them to the next step. But it blew up in their faces. As it should have. But how many other students have passed through college already in the same way? We’ll never know.I know those types were in school way back when with me.

But yet….I am glad I got into college on my own. I would have liked a guidance counselor who helped me a bit more and shown me how to apply for scholarships. I had no clue and we did not have that then. My parents sacrificed financially to send me to UNC. I still am amazed they did it. I only had one student loan for my time there, my senior year. Which took forever to pay off and taught me a great lesson. Renting money is expensive. There were no semesters abroad, no spring break trips. I worked my summers and any other time I could (though not during school my first three years.) But I was so fortunate with what I had. I always knew that. And I wanted to be there. Very much.

Did college make me a better employee? No, I don’t think so. A strong work ethic and co-workers at my first job who were great trainers did that. I already had decent basic readings writing, and math skills, which also have helped. But college did make me a better human being. I learned how to live with others….some different culturally and economically, some just brats and prima donnas. But many superstar human beings.

The world opened up to me….I was able to see history being made up close and personal and hear lectures by some of the finest and most provocative speakers around. I had professors who were celebrities in themselves….Walter Cronkite’s head writer, the former head of UNESCO, a couple of famous authors, experts in subjects far and wide. Interesting and compelling human beings. I debated issues of importance…..really debated, in real life situations and challenging and being challenged on ideas I thought to be incontestable. They weren’t. That confused and delighted me. I learned. Just not always in the classroom. These were my selfish years…..and I am so grateful.

Don’t force your children into college if they don’t want to go. There are many paths to a happy and successful life. Don’t try to make them live your dreams. Encourage them to live their passions. At the end of life, doesn’t happy and purposeful trump everything? And remind them they can always change directions. Remind you of that, too. It’s not too late. We forget that sometimes.

Yeah, I’m not a fan of lying and cheating and throwing around large sums of money to get your way. I have major issues with the entitled. Parents on a mission for the flesh of their flesh can become monsters….but I suspect they’re really caught up in a warped idea of what will make for a good life for them and feel it is their responsibility to give that to them. Misplaced love.

Love your child enough to give them wings. Teach them how to be humble and happy…,and chart their own course. Yes, they could have heartbreak ahead. But maybe God’s plan for their purpose is something glorious you never considered. Be there when they need you….but push them out of the nest and wait for them to fly. That’s the purpose for which they were designed.

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Jobless – Part 3

Trajectories aren’t linear. Life’s just a roller coaster. If you’re getting a chance to do cool stuff, and it’s varied stuff, just enjoy it. I guess I’m a believer in the randomness of life rather than it being a linear trajectory or an arc, a consistent smooth arc, towards anything.” – Riz Ahmed

“Happiness is a critical factor for work, and work is a critical factor for happiness. In one of those life-isn’t-fair results, it turns out that the happy outperform the less happy. Happy people work more hours each week – and they work more in their free time, too.” – Gretchen Rubin

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu

It’s a rollercoaster. A sometimes scary one. OK…..I admit I am having more fun than many would have in my situation and most of the time I’m enjoying this time in my life. I’ve always liked roller coasters. Well, except for the ones that beat up your body along the way. But while most is fine with me, then there are the moments of sheer panic when I think “What if I can’t find a job?”

We’ve already established I am crazy analytical, skills developed by being anxious by nature but not a fan of that particular state of mind. Equilibrium is important to me, so I have learned to quickly look at worse case scenarios and find the truth in them. And the humor. I know I can get by at my current state of living at least through the year. I also know I can reduce my expenses and get by longer. I could actually never have another job and be OK living a crazy vagabond life. But I want to work. I like the purpose it brings to my life. And I enjoy my current life, so don’t have strong desire for major changes.

One of my severance benefits is the use of executive career counselors for six months. I wasn’t sure how helpful that would be, but I suspect it is as helpful as you make it. I had my first “counseling” session last week (I had already made my way through the sessions with their branding expert), and was pleasantly surprised at how helpful it was. It had been a particularly frustrating week, where I got rejections for jobs fir which I felt highly qualified, without even a phone interview. I got to unload a bit with the career counselor. He handled it well. His calmness calmed me. He reminded me it was not personal….but the result of electronic review. He said “We just have to get your resume past the system and in the hands of people.” Which is a matter of having just the right keywords to put you over their limits. I had paid attention to that with my resume, but he said we just needed to tweak them a bit. So we will tweak. Again.

This morning I got another email about one if the jobs I got a rejection for last week. This one was “Congratulations! You have the skill set we are looking for. Please sign up for a telephone interview for this job.” I actually got two of these emails for that same job. From different people. The job already in the reject pile. I guess in an electronic world anything can happen. I almost signed up for the two phone interviews in case I bombed on one. But I didn’t. I figured that one would have to do.

The career counselor is also looking at my Linked In account. That’s important these days. I had ignored most of the suggestions their branding specialist had already shared with me a few weeks ago and had to confess this to him. Mostly I ignored them because I didn’t want to do them. Especially recommendations. I have a difficult time asking for certain things and one is for people to write recommendations for me. It’s asking “Will you please say nice things about me in a public forum that I’m going to be able to see?” Goes against my grain. Plus I know some people hate to be asked and you never really know who those people are. But I needed them.

I was having a conversation with a friend checking in to see how things were going, who is also an insurance company rep, over the weekend and asked her if she would do one for me. Her enthusiasm helped tremendously. She did it right away (late on a Saturday night). She didn’t mind doing it at all. It gave me that last bit of confidence I needed to ask others. I started with a few people who came to mind because they had offered their help if I needed it. I emailed to make it a bit easier for them to say no or ignore. It was gratifying to get a couple of great responses immediately. And humbling. I will admit their words made me a bit tearful. That task I totally didn’t want to do, resulted in making my day.

I still haven’t put myself on that regular schedule a couple of my friends recommended, though I do agree it would be a good thing. Overall I believe I’m doing what I need to do, however. A lot of time is spent perusing job boards and websites and applying for jobs. Sometimes it seems fruitless….you can comb the same board for an hour and find nothing, then something will pop up from that one more keyword search you do that is one letter different than the previous one. There aren’t a lot of jobs I want to apply for, and yet I don’t want to be too hasty to rule some out. I do know what I like to do and what my strengths are, and also what I don’t want, so I try to match the jobs to those things.

My goal is just one significant thing done a day that may put me closer to finding something (today it was asking for those job recommendations and signing up for that telephone interview. Yes, you do that online these days through a scheduler. You don’t talk to real people for the first part of the process.)

I do not subscribe to the theory that your job when you don’t have a job is to spend all your time job hunting. It would make me nuts. I look for some time each week to spend with friends, especially friends I haven’t seen in a while. I also make time to do something for someone else so I don’t get too self-absorbed. Today I made a last minute decision to go to Winston to give platelets. As with much that I do, it wasn’t much of a sacrifice….it was nice to sit in a comfy chair for a couple of hours and watch a movie and get a snack afterward. Platelets are used for things like cancer treatment, which several folks I know are receiving now. Giving them is a reminder that there are way worse things than being without a job.

While I do try to make my days count, there are days when I don’t get dressed and after a bit of job hunting I read a novel and take a nap. It’s OK. Balance.

I’d love to take a vacation, and go somewhere exotic, but I don’t feel comfortable doing it yet. My barriers are the work ethic engrained in me that won’t relax until I find a job and the fiscally conservative side of me that wants a regular paycheck. I’d like to abandon all and just do it and am trying to talk myself into it. The adventurous side of me is in favor. But the rest of me is not there yet. Maybe later.

So that is where I am, six weeks without a job. The roller coaster ride continues. Thanks to those joining me on the journey.

Jobless Part 2 – Old?

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been. – Madeleine L’Engle

My mother always used to say, ‘The older you get, the better you get, unless you’re a banana’. ” – Betty White

“Growing older is not upsetting; being perceived as old is.” – Kenny Rogers

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” – Satchel Paige 

When the heck did I get old? Oh, mind you as far as I’m concerned I’m not….but now that I am job hunting I am constantly asked about the age factor (from friends and family) and warned by the “career counselors” assisting me that I need to make sure I don’t advertise my age.

I’m 58. I’ve never hidden my age. I’ve always been curious about those who do. Exactly why do they do it? I assume they don’t want people to think they’re old. Well, in my case lying about my age has never been something I could even consider. I’m living in my hometown. My siblings and rest of my family members are here. Many of my former classmates are here. Friends of my family are here. So many people who would know my age and know if I would lie about it. Not that I would…,.but truly I couldn’t if I wanted to.

I still don’t feel a whole lot different than I was in high school or college. I have a bit of arthritis in my knees that has stopped me running through life at a break-neck speed, and keeps me from jumping (and since I can’t, I have found I used to jump a lot.) I went through peri-menopause into menopause (it happens), but at this point my body is pretty settled and there are no major adverse effects.

Am I more forgetful? I don’t know. Maybe. But I have always been pretty forgetful. I’m a thinker. I’m often pre-occupied. That’s why I occasionally get called on the carpet from good friends who I pass with a pleasant greeting and they recognize I am greeting them by rote and not because I notice it is them. According to them if there is not a sarcastic comment, I must not noticing they are there. I can’t lie…they may be right some of the time.

When working on my resume, the “branding specialist” discouraged me from including all of my employment history and told me to take the dates off all jobs except the last one. That one lasted almost 13 years. But rebellious me thinks that removing jobs and dates seems weird. I’m proud of my job history. I believe it makes me a better employee. I don’t believe being younger compares to the wisdom and wealth of knowledge I can bring. (But yes….I took their advice and removed the dates and reduced the number of positions I have held.)

When are we going to really wake up to the fact that people are living longer and healthier? When are we going to wake up to the fact that we are all different….that every 58 year old is not the same “age”? I know some people my age that seem like “old people”…..but the vast majority of 58-year olds I know are vibrant and vital and have much to offer….as do the 70, 80, and 90 year olds. (I don’t think I know anyone who is 100 at the moment….but I have heard of some incredible people.)

But take a look at the statistics. The average age for women retiring is 62. (Won’t be happening for me.) The average age for men 64. (Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.) It was sooner than I thought, so it makes a bit more sense for there to be caution. But looking at statistics it appears a huge number of my baby boomer people are without any, or sufficient, retirement savings. They may need to work. Many will live into their 100s. Others are in excellent physical and mental condition and want to continue to use their skills in the workplace. And why not? When it gets down to it, I figure my expected tenure is probably going to be longer than today’s 20 or 30 year olds who have learned the value of keeping their options open.

The good news is I probably won’t be hired by a company who has an issue with my age. If asked questions about my birthday or dates or time periods of my employment or college graduation, I will answer honestly. If they have an issue, they simply won’t hire me.

My takeaway from this is that we need to treasure the years and become agents of wisdom, confident as we age. I have seen our culture often be youth-obsessed, but we who are older have the ability to change that. I look around our town. Many of my age may spend their nights huddled in recliners in front of the TV, but not in my circles. They get out and live. And the really great thing? The circles I am a part of are ageless and tend to appreciate each age and time of life and celebrate it. As we should.

I’m not yet old as far as I am concerned. I am seasoned. And experienced. And content with my place in life. Hopefully employers will embrace that in me and others. If not, maybe they should re-evaluate what they may be missing.

Jobless – Part 1

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell

“An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.” – Winston Churchill

“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” – John Maxwell

So it’s been about a month since I have been out of work.

While there have been moments of panic….which I know are normal since I have seen others go through this transparently in the past. Since college I have always had a job or knew what my next step would be, so this is a foreign feeling. But so far panic has only come in moments and I can remember my friends who came through it and move on!

From the minute I found they were closing our office and I’d be losing my job, I’ve felt like it was a good thing for me. It was time. I had that ferling of discontented frustration for a while, but I wasn’t doing much about it. I figure God decided to kick me off the ledge and let me free fall for a bit. If you know me at all, you know I have a love/hate relationship with adventure, that usually begins in fear and ends in delight. In the end, the fear usually does not stop me from experiencing the pleasure, I’m determined this will be just another of those times.

Not that I enjoy job hunting. If I liked it, I would have done it sooner. But yet there is an element of it that is useful and refreshing. It’s good to think through the question of what my next steps should be. What did I like best about the jobs I have had in the past? What did I like least? What kind of company do I want to work for? What marketable skills do I have? How do I want to use them? A job consumes a lot of my time – what do I want to spend that time doing?

One of my high school teachers (and friends) emailed me and told me to consider the possibility of doing something entirely new. She listed a slew of possibilities. Hang out with people who keep your vision expanding. It made me think through whether my scope is too narrow. What else is possible? I didn’t hate what I did, and feel that I can use my experience to help people, so the compulsion to change is not strong. But I am not adverse to the possibility either.

I’ve been overwhelmed by other kindness, too. People I have worked with in the past (clients and insurance company reps I had been working with, plus former co-workers from over the years) have called with what I will refer to as words of grace. They have bolstered my confidence at what could be a vulnerable time. They reminded me of my strengths…and gave specific examples. I suspect they have no clue how much they helped. You have to hold on to your confidence in yourself and these words of grace sure do make it easier.

My friends and family have tried to make sure I am using this time well. They have made sure I stay involved in life. They have kept that delicate balance of asking me what was going on, while making sure I don’t obsess over it. One friend who is a local recruiter (though not in my industry) called me as soon as she heard and offered great advice and encouragement. A couple of friends have told me to make sure I begin to schedule my time, so I don’t waste it. OK….that’s not my strong suit. But it has made me mindful of it and I believe I am getting there.

I’ve gotten some great assistance in this process… through the severance package my former employer gave me (which means I have some time with income coming in) and my network of friends and business acquaintances. Others don’t have these luxuries. It could be overwhelming without them.

I was prepared financially. No debt but my house, some money in savings, and plenty of places I can cut back if necessary. A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck or above their means. Some have a weird idea of the definition of necessities and luxuries. You can’t count on a job being there tomorrow. You need a plan if it falls apart. I hope my situation makes someone think “What if this happens to me? Are my finances in order?” and causes them to take action to prepare if necessary.

I’m already thinking through what I can cut out if I don’t find a job quickly. It’s a good exercise really. There are some things I will probably cut out regardless because I realize I just don’t need them. I hadn’t looked at my finances in depth for a while, so I had gotten a bit sloppy in my financial priorities (which I admit are probably different than those of a lot of people. Most don’t consider travel a need that would come at the top of their list, for example.) Reviewing finances and getting them in order..another reason God may have wanted me to freefall off that cliff.

I hope what I learn in this process will be of benefit to others in the future….or even now as we go through it together. It definitely has refreshed my empathy….and that is not a bad thing. I guess my main advice would be….don’t make it a secret. Tell people. You’ll be shocked at who will be there to help and encourage. And who won’t. (Consider this knowledge another gift of the process.)

As with most things in life, we get to choose how we are going to handle it. I plan to enjoy it as much as possible. Why not? I can handle even the worse case scenario. At least all possibilities I have considered so far. I’m sure I’ll think of more before it is all over. I’m creative that way. But so far, so good.

The Life Sentence or the Death Penalty

I have spent far more time on a jury than the average person. One time it was three weeks straight. Several other times around a week. Several other times I was just sitting in the jury pool waiting to see if they would need me (that was back when you went for a week, and were only released early if they knew no other jury would be needed.)

I’m always amazed at how many people do their best not to serve on a jury. We seem to love to judge each other from our armchairs. You would think people would love the opportunity to do it “for real”. Yes, I know there are times when the lack of income would be devastating (I believe payment was about a $12 a day last time I served), but most just seem like it would be a bother. And in some ways it is, but personally if I were ever on trial I would like someone like me on the jury. I will always try to serve when called. Though the three weeks in one swoop was a bit much (though it was incredibly dramatic and as the judge said to us afterward “Show me a movie, book, or TV show where you had more drama than what you have seen in the past few weeks.” He was right. We only missed the soundtrack.)

But people screw up. We’re not perfect. There are days when we are insensitive. There are days we see overly sensitive. There are days when we are quick to be angry. There are days when we are passive-aggressive. There are days when we are self-centered. There are days we don’t notice you or we fail to include you. There are days when we are unkind. There are days when we do stupid and inconsiderate things. There are days when we are demeaning. There are days when we do not rise to your defense when others spread gossip about you. There are days we are disrespectful.

People get on my nerves. I suspect some days someone may get on yours, too. When they do, I tend to pass judgment of them in my mind. But what kind of internal judge resides in there? Am I kind and merciful, or do I effectively give them a life sentence or the death penalty? Because for one silly thing, we can despise that person forever and ever, amen. (We usually do it with a certain amount of self-righteousness.)

When I look at my options for conviction, there are many. Why is it that I still often find I have given them a life sentence or the death penalty?

I’m certainly no Pollyanna. I do go through periods of time when I dislike people. I learned to ask myself the life sentence/death penalty question when I noticed other people holding long grudges towards people for reasons I found….well, silly. It made me start to examine how often I unintentionally did the same.

When I did Leadership Statesville years ago through the Statesville Chamber of Commerce we used to make a trip to Central Prison. I went there when I went through the program and then a couple of extra times when I served on the board (I found it fascinating). The first time I was floored to find the death row prisoners were not kept away from us….we mingled with them with no bars between us. Most seemed so young, yet they had committed heinous crimes. I will admit I struggle with the death penalty when I ask myself the question “Could I administer the lethal injection?” I feel I should be able to say yes if I believe in it that much.

But to never speak to someone again because they were rude to me? Because they threw a temper tantrum that seemed over the top and unnecessary? Because they failed to invite me to a party or snubbed me when they saw me out? My logical self doesn’t believe those acts should require such a harsh sentencing. Yet how come sometimes that is effectively how I respond?

This is not to say that there are some people I choose not to have in my life on a regular basis or spend time with. If you are rude to wait staff in a restaurant, I probably won’t choose to go out to meals with you again. If you have anger issues, I’m not going to hang around to give your anger an audience (unless I feel the need to stand close to make sure you are not abusive to another person or animal.) If you constantly rant on politics or religion or any issue for which you have closed the door on learning a new point of view, I’ll probably find you to be a bore quickly and will make my escape. Life is too short to listen to your diatribes. Even if I agree with you overall.

Of all of the wrongs done to me in my life, none have been death penalty crimes. Some particularly heinous things did seem like it for a season. But it’s much easier to live in a world where our mind is not the killer court. Just maybe if we give people a chance at parole we will find that while they may have faults, they may also be delightful and able to teach us something. That’s been my experience. And I am so glad I backed off of my original sentence for them. The death penalty or life sentence just costs me too much….and I prefer a world of merciful judges.

That Critical Spirit

I’m naturally critical. The trait is strong on both sides of my family and it can be my greatest asset or my greatest weakness. It’s a gift to know that about yourself. It gives you the ability to watch for it and make choices. Being critical by nature usually means your choices come after weighing the positives and the negatives and implications of each next movement. Well, if you were taught to use it that way. My choice is to increase the critical side that’s an asset to me and others and to decrease using it to harp on faults. Sometimes I succeed.

It’s interesting to me that when we use the word “criticism” to talk about art or music or writing, it usually includes the good and the bad. There is some balance. If there is not balance, we become a bit suspicious. When we use criticism to reference people, we almost always take the good away. We focus on the bad. But criticism doesn’t always have to be negative. It’s wrong that we have reduced it to that level.

I know some who will say they’re not the critical type and yet they seem to eviscerate those around them, either with syrupy praise that is untrue (and not what they will say behind the person’s back) or with lightly veiled cutting comments that slam through a passive-aggressive facade. They criticize internally and it can’t help but come out, with subtle but deadly consequences. Let’s face it…..all thinking people are critical. If you refuse to deal with this part of your nature, know that some of us may be on to you….even if we keep that information to ourselves. You’re not as subtle as you think.

But we must handle people with care. I once tried to explain to someone in my life, whom I both love and respect, that when they criticize me the words have an impact a hundred times greater than those of any other “normal person.” I can mull their words over like I do the criticism of others, but I can’t do it without sieving it through strong emotion. When someone else tells me something negative I can brush it off after a while, and analyze whether I agree, but when it is one of “my people” it can set off a major internal emotional meltdown. Agree or not, it’s difficult for me to put it in proper perspective. In other words, it’s not always helpful. especially when it happens often.

Criticism should always be true. And not cheap. We’re all flattered by untruths on a regular basis, and probably cheaply flatter a few folks ourselves. That’s not a horrible wrong….some days it does lift spirits.

But what if, instead of just flattering or pointing out flaws, we critically survey someone and come up with truthful wonders about who they are. What if that is our focus? What if we breathe that into them? What if we enhance the positive so much it expands and the negative contracts?

I’m not naive and I don’t believe we never point out the negative. (Those who know me are shaking their head in agreement. Or laughing.) If we really care about people, and know we must do this, we should first ask ourselves “Am I committed to the good of this person?”, “Am I willing to put myself out there to help if they request it?”, and “Is this more about them, or more about me?” You learn a lot about yourself asking those questions.

Yes, I am critical by nature. At times it has hurt people. Some have told me, others I know because I have sensed it has, and I suspect some I don’t know about because they have secretly held onto it unnecessarily and let it negatively fester in them. Or just blew it off as chaff.

But other times, hopefully most times, I have reminded them of the things I celebrate about them….and things they should celebrate about themselves…or my words have shown something that will help them be their best self. Many have done the same for me.

As much as I talk, I’m a good listener. If you look at most of our world through negative glasses, and try to make me jump on that train, I will choose to ignore you and much of what you say. I must do that so I don’t let the negative side of my nature increase. You have a bad habit that is easily contagious.

But if you care about me and others, have a balanced view, and we’ve got that “iron sharpening iron” type of relationship….your words are gold. I will cherish your criticism, good and bad. That still does not mean I will agree with it, but I will consider it. Because you love someone, or admire them, or respect them and crave their opinion….they’re not always right. Or their take on something isn’t always right for you. The best relationships are those when opinions are offered, but there are no hurt feelings if they don’t adopt yours.

I have been the recipient of some very kind and helpful negative criticism, delivered in love. It left me affirmed and energized and clear-headed. Not devastated and feeling insecure. That’s as it should be.

Since I know my critical nature is not going to leave me, and really don’t want it to, my goal is that my words would be delivered so they are wings and not a ball and chain. Let my words always be spoken for the good of those who surround me. Criticism can give life instead of stabbing a heart out.

The rule in carving holds good as to criticism; never cut with a knife what you can cut with a spoon.” – Charles Buxton

“When virtues are pointed out first, flaws seem less insurmountable.”
– Judith Martin

“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.”  Marvin J. Ashton

Severed


It’s been one of those weeks. They called us in for a meeting Monday morning. We had no clue what it was to be about. To put it simply, they told us they were closing down our department in our office (which is in Winston Salem) and our jobs had been eliminated.

I had the least tenure of those of us who were released….and that was almost 13 years.

I won’t go into details, because those are private. Unlike those at many companies, we were presented with a severance package that I believe was fair. I am grateful.

But it’s time to look to the future. When it gets down to it, every day (not just when forced to change) you get to choose the direction of your next steps and how you take them. One of my ten most favorite words is providence. God’s opportunity and God’s provision and God’s preparation. I believe in it.

I feel at peace. I feel prepared. Being the analytical type I have taken it to the worst case scenario and yes, I can survive even that. I suspect I won’t have to. I’ve analyzed how to avoid that, too.

My next steps will be taking the paths that lead to my next adventure. I like to work. I enjoy challenges and even enjoy change. My goal is to find a place to land where my skills are needed….and where I look forward to Monday mornings. And I won’t be alone on this journey. My tribe will surround me. They’re good ones.

Truly, the timing is good. For a lot of reasons. And I’m at a good place to begin again, change it up, and breathe.

What’s funny is I was feeling overwhelmed before. Now I am not. I think it is “supposed to” work in the reverse, but that doesn’t work for me. I will consider this a gift. And whatever lies ahead, it’s going to be OK. It will be a good divorce.

“The biggest mistake that you can make is to believe that you are working for somebody else. Job security is gone. The driving force of a career must come from the individual. Remember: Jobs are owned by the company, you own your career!” – Earl Nightingale