I Got the Job, Part 3: Working – and living – in the moment

The first post in this series focused on preparation, specifically how preparation helped me land my current job. Over the years, preparation has become my default behavior when faced with uncertainty. I like surprises, but sometimes they scare me. Especially surprises at work. A fear of appearing unprepared and incompetent will lead me to prepare for even short meeting encounters with superiors or people I don’t know.

In her Homecoming podcast, Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis remarked that the need to always be prepared can keep you from experiencing spontaneity. I know from my creative work and personal life that there is no substitute for spontaneous joy and learning. I just have trouble being spontaneous in the work setting. Being spontaneous means giving up control. It means being vulnerable. As a woman worker and a person of color, I know how dangerous being vulnerable at work can be. The workplace is unkind to vulnerable people. They are the ones who put themselves out there, presenting unfamiliar ideas, wearing their hair kinky and undyed, asking unwelcome questions, and refusing to lie. Vulnerability is scary to experience. It is scary to witness. You remember what happened to the last vulnerable person and you resolve to not let that be you. You only have one skin and excoriation is painful. Being vulnerable is not worth the pain.

Except that that can’t be true for me. I am an artist and a writer. For me being vulnerable is synonymous with being alive. I can tell myself that my work life is a different life altogether, but the brain knows no difference. My life is my life whether it takes place via Zoom meeting, on an open mic stage, or in the safe space of my home. Invulnerability anywhere becomes a threat to vulnerability everywhere.

I like to be prepared because when I’m prepared, I perform better. On the other hand, life is not a theater stage. There are times when it is OK to show up without a set of notes. From now on, I am going to be on the look out for those times at work. I will even create them myself if I have to.

What it comes down to is trust. When you trust yourself you know you will be alright, no matter what happens. But self-trust is only part of the battle. You have to trust others, too. For me that means, feeling safe around people I don’t know well and knowing that I can handle whatever response I get from them. Inevitably, that response will not always be positive, but people are not the gods of me. I can believe I am alright even when others do not agree. Because I am.

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