Saturday, January 14, 2012

How did I get to this place?

I wonder sometimes about living in this house that’s glued so firmly to my back that I might as well be a turtle.  I love living in an old house and I love that it’s been in my family for such a long time.  My childhood was nomadic and I knew very little about my extended family until I was an adult.  It means a lot to me to live where my ancestors lived even though I never knew them.

On the other hand, living in an old house is not an easy lifestyle.  The house was unoccupied for many years.  Maintenance and repairs have been deferred for far too long and country living requires a roll-up-your-sleeves can-do attitude.  I’ve never been afraid of the roll-up-your-sleeves part – in fact, I rather enjoy it.  My struggle is with the can-do part, a byproduct of living for so many years in verbally and emotionally destructive relationships.

I’ve worked at many jobs in my life – I’ve managed a swimming pool maintenance and repair company; managed a pool supply retail store; managed rental properties; been sales clerk in a jewelry and watch repair shop; worked on design and analysis of public opinion research polls; processed, filled and packed orders at a mail order company; done bookkeeping for a temp agency; worked as a small theater go-fer; looked after mice in a biology lab; been administrative assistant for a church; worked as local stringer for a newspaper; and worked in several academic libraries.

The jobs haven’t had much in common with each other, but I’ve worked hard and done them well.  Except, perhaps, when I was 18 and did a very short and unfortunate stint as a bookkeeper at a tire store somewhere in Maryland, the first and only time I was fired from a job.  Hard to believe, but I was even better at vacation home telesales than I was at the tire store.  Well, maybe I wasn’t all that good at the telesales, but I didn’t get fired.  I did, however, give many telephone sales pitches to the lady of the recorded weather reports and the one who reported the time.  They didn’t earn me much in the way of bonuses for sales leads, but at least they didn’t hang up on me.

I’ve also done volunteer work with a number of nonprofit groups.  I’ve taught swimming, first aid and life saving; developed and run fund-raising efforts for fire and rescue departments, schools and open space protection efforts; presented workshops in genealogy research and natural history; worked as a tutor in a variety of subjects; served on an urban planning board and on a rural conservation commission; edited a newsletter and fought community zoning battles.   I didn’t set out to join all those causes, I just saw gaps and stepped in to fill them.  I never stopped first to think about whether it would be beyond my abilities nor did I hesitate to take the lead when it was needed.

I started working my first paid job at the age of fourteen, I’m now 58.  Why is it that even though I’ve been proving myself successfully for the past 44 years I still don’t have confidence in my own abilities?  Stepping out of my well-worn tracks is so easy when it’s to fill someone else’s need – why is it so difficult when it’s for myself?

I have a birdwatching friend who is very knowledgeable about all matters avian and supremely confident in his knowledge.  I don’t have either the years of experience or the depth of knowledge that he does, but I have learned a lot.  Despite what I know, though, I remain uncertain and hesitant in my identifications.  While he says his motto is “Sometimes wrong, but never in doubt”-- mine would have to be “Frequently right, but always in doubt.”

How did this happen and how can I change it?

Those are the questions of the moment.

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