Last month, I was asked to submit a short bio to an organization for which I volunteer. Since I would be co-chairing their upcoming fundraiser, they naturally wanted to introduce me and highlight my credentials on their website.
Gasp. Gulp. Horrors. What credentials?
You would have thought they asked me to personally extract my own wisdom teeth. Without Novacaine.
I perused the group’s website to read what former chairwomen had written about themselves. The career women and philanthropists who came before me were a formidable bunch. Reading their impressive resumes, it was clear that I was in stellar company.
Now what? What in the world was I going to write that would even begin to impress?
After all, I was just a ….
SCREEEEEECH! Halt. Stop. Don’t you just hate it when we do that? When we say, ‘I’m just a mom? I’m just a nuclear physicist? I’m just a volunteer’?
It reminded me of a brunch I attended earlier this year with my hubby. It was a pleasant enough social occasion, a reunion with one of my husband’s former colleagues and his fiancée. The two of them were amiable, interesting and brilliant. They spoke at length about their jobs, their recent accomplishments and their current projects. I listened with interest but did not contribute much to the conversation. After a good thirty minutes, the gentleman turned to me and said, ‘Here we’ve been talking only about ourselves. I’m sorry, Mimi. What is it that you do?’
Oh, no. Not that. Don’t ask me that question. Please, just don’t. What was I supposed to respond? For a brief moment I considered yelling, ‘Earthquake’ and running toward the nearest exit.
Or ‘Excuse me while I go powder my entire body.’
All eyes were on me as I scanned the table; across from me sat Mr. Einstein, his fiancée the rocket scientist was seated to his left, and my husband, Superman, was on my right. I stammered, ‘Um, well, I, uh’, and finally blurted out,
‘Currently, I’m a trailing spouse, and quite content in my role.’
No one spoke. If the fellow could have reached across the table to pat my head, he would have done so.
Awk-ward times three.
Somehow, miraculously, the subject quickly turned to travel or scrambled eggs or world peace, I’m not sure. I blanked from that point forward and tuned out.
Shortly afterward, we said our good-byes and as we made our way to the parking lot, I turned to my husband and burst into tears. ‘You must be so ashamed to introduce me to people’, I projected on to him.
‘Honey, are you kidding me?’
No, I was not. The incident transported me to a place that I revisit every couple of years, that mental Mean Girls Island where the natives shriek nasty taunts at the tourists: If you don’t have a career you’re obviously not accomplished. If you haven’t written a book, you’re surely not smart. If you have not yet solved the Middle East crisis, you’re certainly not worthy.
For weeks I remained stranded there. I commiserated with friends, seeking their support and comparing notes. Many of them had The Big Career. Some had worked, but took time off to raise their children. And yet several of my comrades, like myself, marched straight toward marriage and into the baby brigade. There, we remained on active duty until our kids left for college, placing us in ready reserve mode, subject to recall.
And yet, there we were, in different cities, in different situations, all experiencing nearly identical feelings of ‘I know I’ve got something more to give, but what is it?’
That uneasiness was compounded by angst: I’m ___ years old; if not now, when?
And then I began to pray, ‘Please, dear God; what is it I’m supposed to be doing?
To be continued…..