Planning a Stereotype

I recently arrived at the conclusion that, due to the scars of my three-year tenure in corporate life (primarily spreadsheet-induced brain atrophication and emotional battery), I will require at least one year off in order to recover a sense of spirit and redirect my life course. As a result of this realization, I have become dedicated to hoarding as much into my savings account as possible and to meticulously compiling a detailed list of self-betterfication pursuits.

With a new sense of purpose and a personal deadline for leaving the job (May), I have felt one step closer to escaping the clutches of the corporate paycheck and evolving into a more interesting and fulfilled individual. Of course, yesterday as I basked in the dignity of becoming one of the very brave few with the guts to embark on such a perilous and uncertain journey, Google (in its infinite wisdom) led me to this:

Cover of "Stuff White People Like: A Defi...

When someone goes through a stressful experience they usually require some time off to clear their head, regain focus, and recover from the pain and suffering.   Of course, in white culture these experiences are most often defined as finishing high school, making it through three years of college, or working for eleven months straight with only two weeks vacation and every statutory holiday (“they don’t count because I had to spend them with family.”)

Though you might consider finishing school or having a good job to be “accomplishments” many white people view them as burdens.  As such, they can only handle them for so long before they start talking about their need to “take a year off” to travel, volunteer, or work abroad….

If you work with this person, be sure to give them a FAKE email address on their last day on the job or you will be inundated with emails about spiritual enlightenment and how great the food is compared to similar restaurants back home.  Also, within the first five days following departure, this person will come up with the idea to write a book about their travel experience.  Sadly, more books about mid-twenties white people traveling have been written than have been read…. 

Regardless of how a white person chooses to spend their year off, they all share the same goal of becoming more interesting to other people.  Sadly, the people who find these stories interesting are other white people who are politely listening until they can tell their own, more interesting story about taking a year off….

– Stuff White People Like: #120 Taking a Year Off, Christian Lander (stuffwhitepeoplelike.com)

And there you have it. My plan makes me a stereotype. No. As a TV-less, Prius driving girl with bangs and a liberal arts degree who could live on sushi and wine, I already was one. Well, I choose to think of myself not as a stereotype but rather as a heritage-embracing individual who is totally stoked about taking a year off to become more interesting.

So there.

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Stepping out of the closet

Life is full of epiphanies. Sure, some may just be flickering “oh” moments, but some turn out to be ginormous “holy effing shit” revelations.  They become the orange cones that land in the path and block us from smashing into a wall or falling into a pit as we struggle, blindly groping along. Like moles. Poor moles.

English: A photograph of Scalopus aquaticus. T...

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Well, last week I had one of the big ones. Bigger even than the moment I realized that at the doctor’s office, the needle itself was causing me less detriment than the act of hiding from the shot under the examining room table. While quivering in terror. Way past the age when that is expected. Or the day I realized medium roast coffee has more caffeine than dark roast coffee (true story, look it up). And though not to downplay the impact of increasing my per ounce caffeine intake (it has been substantial), last week’s epiphany was definitely the most profound in recent memory. What great revelation bitch slapped clarity across my cheek? It was this: I would rather be trampled by a stampede of rhinos, gored by a tusk, and left to bake in the sun of the Serengeti than take a promotion in my current office.

I am quite possibly the only analyst since the invention of the spreadsheet to have spent weeks at work consumed by the desire NOT to be promoted. Each candidate who came in to interview became a beacon of hope. Each conversation with my boss where it didn’t come up, a relief.  And because I so profoundly did not want the offer, I got it last week.

Now it may seem that the very existence of this blog communicates an acknowledgment of the fact that I am not on the right career path. That is true. What is also true is that I was not entirely comfortable with that recognition.  And in the presence of an actual offer, practicality began to rear its pimply little head. I could always do it just for a year, just for the resume. Could be interesting. How would I know? I’ve never been in that exact role before. I can’t sabotage my whole career, opt out of a new title and bigger responsibilities and continue trudging through the monotonous sewage of the analytical gallows.

That’s when the team’s VP interrupted my muddle of thoughts to ask if I was planning to take it. My gut heard my mouth mumble some sort of weak affirmative.  That’s when the epiphany roared in like a freight train full of flashlights. I began to wish my window had a latch so I could jump out. Then I began to wonder if I could really kill myself from the second story. Then I began to think about life as a paraplegic. That’s when I decided the rhino would be a more reliable alternative.

As soon as I said I’d do it, I knew without a doubt that I could not take one more step down a career path I had no desire to be on. Suddenly, the coveted Category Manager role became equivocal to a lifetime sentence in the penitentiary of corporate life. Climbing one rung higher would only make it scarier to jump off the ladder. I had a “holy effing shit” kind of epiphany at 4pm on a Thursday and basking in the new glow of clarity I went home for the day.

Now, I’d love to be able to say that I snuggled up with my epiphany and slept like baby Tarzan cradled by his gorilla mamma, but unfortunately even the most profound epiphanies have an extremely targeted point of impact.

Disney's Tarzan

Just because I felt like I’d been pummeled to the ground by astronomical debris did not mean that the tremors of my new wisdom had spread spontaneously to those in my vicinity. My career driven boss with a reputation for being, err, let’s just say “less than pleasant”, was still expecting a signed offer letter. I slept in fits like someone dying of one of those medieval fevers. Nightmares. Tossing. Turning. Rhinos.

But the next morning, though I looked like both eyes had lost a boxing match, I played every song in my “Anna, you ARE a badass” playlist.  I marched into my boss’ office (ok, I actually marched to the hall right outside her office and paused to take so many deep breaths that I nearly passed out right there, but eventually I made it into her office). After about 10 blurry minutes of confessionary verbal vomit on my part and about 2 blurry minutes of surprised acceptance on her part, I emerged from the room not only intact, but also entirely liberated.

I am out of the closet. This analyst is off the career path and everyone knows it.

So even though it’s all about honesty now, I figure it might be in poor taste to take the “I (heart) my job” sign off my office door...

Analysts are sexy

Astronaut

Astronaut (Photo credit: Sharon Drummond)

I will never forget the guy who taught me how to do a vlookup. I was a 21-year-old intern with feeble Excel skills and he was a 29-year-old analyst with a whole arsenal of fancy formulas. That summer I came to a life altering realization: being an analyst is sexy.

When the kindergarten teacher asks her students what they want to be, none will stand in front of the class and proclaim, “Someday, when I grow up, I’m going to be a great analyst!”  No high school senior enters college with dreams of spending her twenties shackled to columns of sales data.  So why does that kid who stood on the monkey bars and announced to all of kindergarten that he would be an astronaut (or a cop or a teacher or a fire fighter or the kind of magician that saws himself in half…) why does that kid end up an analyst?

It’s because at some point, tainted by a siren’s song of rationality, that big white suit begins to look just a little too clammy. The years of training and simulations and eating freeze-dried food while dangling upside down and peeing in a bag and whatever else people do at astronaut school, all of that looks pretty uncomfortable. An ergonomic desk chair with its smooth lines and bouncy seat begins to looks pretty seductive. And then, suddenly, analysts become sexy.

Analysts have swagger: each paycheck and career step validates every life choice they’ve ever made up to that point. Analysts have power: they draw meaning from data dumps that no one else understands. But most importantly, analysts have a shit ton of disposable income.

Analysts wear labels, eat sushi, and drink good liquor. They go to conventions in Vegas and team meetings on the beach. Analysts are 23-year-old BMW owners. They can answer confidently when relatives ask where they’ve ended up since school. They go to their reunions. Analysts impress people.

So when that kid who wants a meaningful life grows up into that adult who wants a comfortable life, that’s when the analyst is born. Or at least, that’s when this analyst was born.