by Christina Michael
Recently visiting New York and seeing the Statue of Liberty, I thought of the beautiful torch on that Statue symbolic of “enlightening” the way of those entering the United States. Unfortunately, in my little life, what has not been so beautiful or enlightened lately has been my attempt (note unsuccessful to date) at trying to re-kindle my work “torch” with ex-employers.
Desperately trying to find gratifying, paying work that leaves flexibility for my family has caused me to re-approach old employers, somewhat shamelessly, seeking project-based or hourly work. Hearkening back on those old jobs from the dark ages of Y2K, I had such a rose-colored vision of those workplaces. Beautiful offices, well-dressed colleagues, interesting work, and getting all of the accolades I could have ever dreamed. Wow! I should run back to those employers and look for more work! What a meeting with one of my old bosses this past week reminded me of was that the reality created in my mind’s eye was totally and utterly inaccurate (a.k.a. revisionist history).
Sitting in an office with one of my old bosses last week, I was reminded of things that I had so easily forgotten (or buried deep in my memory banks). Offices were not so pretty (yes, I know that fluorescent lights may be more eco-friendly, but how many pimple spots or un-plucked eyebrows could I pull off in this measly meeting?). Work was very stressful. Office politics were still bouncing off all four walls like a game of Pong (I know that computer game is 20 years old, but I really haven’t played any other game since then, even though my oldest son already wants an Xbox. Huh?). And, though I was “welcomed” into the office, I realized I was quite the outsider who may never be handed one single piece of work ever again (shoot, they couldn’t even figure out whether to get burritos or smoothies for lunch let alone find any “project” for me and any budget to pay me for that undefined project).
Suddenly, I began deflating, feeling a bit nauseous, and repeating really bad old patterns of not having enough self-confidence, seeking approval of anyone and everyone around me in that 2x4 office, and having a smile turn into a really unhappy frown (“turn that frown upside down”, I hear myself muttering). I ended our meeting, exited that 2x4, and ran to my clunker Y2K car, unbuttoning my so dated pair of Y2K pants, and rushed to my humble abode.
Rekindling the flame with the ex-employer felt very similar to rekindling the flame with old boyfriends that we women might try to phone, to get a cup of coffee with, or to Google over and over again. When you see the face of the old boyfriend or hear his voice, it undoubtedly never feels very good. In fact, the same mediocre or down right yucky feelings that made you run from the relationship eons ago pelt you in the face. It’s simply never the rose-colored relationship that you have created in your mind’s eye.
Just the same, re-kindling with an old employer is not so romantic (thank goodness). Maybe it is because we approach it with a new perspective (kids), with new demands (kids), with less tolerance for bull*** (created by kids), and with the unsettling reality that life keeps moving forward at an unrelenting pace (but 40 is the new 30, right?). The good news is that I am much more self-directed, am beginning to figure out exactly what I need from an employer, and know far better what I can and will offer to that employer. Rekindling that old employer flame is good for everyone involved. The employer knows what services the on-ramped employee will be providing and the on-ramped employee will be much clearer about her needs (work, pay, and some flexibility). That sure sounds like the best employment relationship that one could hope for and one that I wished I had figured out long ago.
So, even if I rekindle with an old employer or two in this on-ramping process, I now know that it will be the healthiest and most profitable engagement to all parties involved. I am going to take Lady Liberty’s lead on this torch thing. I need to stand strong and tall, enlighten my way, and let the re-kindling help me find the most “liberating,” free, and democratic work opportunities available for me and my family. She wasn’t called the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World for nothing.