the waiting game
There’s an odd push-pull thing about human relating. I’ve heard, for years, that there’s this thing that exists in every relationship where one person loves the other just a bit more. Same goes for friendship. And work. Someone needs someone just a bit more…sometimes, a lot more. And the person who loves less or needs less holds all the power.
You hear things from people, sometimes. Little bits of wisdom–or what seems like wisdom–designed to keep us safe. Things like: “don’t make someone a priority if you’re only an option.” Which is really a modern take on “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Well-meaning, yes. Helpful? Sometimes. Does it make it better? God, no.
Aren’t we always options? Do you really want to be stuck with just one choice? Even if you love that one choice more than anything? And isn’t it kind of amazing to be the one chosen when there are a million options?
What I’ve learned is that needs are always changing. Love is always changing. The minute you think you understand yourself and some other being, the rug will be pulled out from under you. Don’t get too comfortable. The moment you do, everything can change. So, this priority versus option thing? Nonsense.
I want options. I want to find the best thing for me. I want to be able to change my mind. And I want that for you if I’m your option. I don’t want to be the one you settle for. I don’t want to be the have-to. I want to be chosen, every day. And I want to choose you every day. And the moment that stops being the right choice, I want to let go. And I want to find the right choice for now.
But, sometimes, I forget that. Sometimes, I just want to be picked–and I don’t give a crap about it being right. I just want something. Because that’s what I’ve been taught to do. That’s how I fill up my holes.
I’ve talked about my father. I have many painful stories about him, but I guess the one that stands out–the most scarring one–came when he picked my best friend over me because I told him I hated him.
My father and I had a difficult relationship. It started when I was still a baby. I’d cry whenever he got near me–mostly because he smelled like booze, and it scared me. And his neglect often got me hurt. I never trusted him. I had good reasons.
As a kid, I saw through him. I saw what was wrong with him, and I’d tell him. You’re a bad dad because you drink beer. I didn’t know what beer did or what it really was. But I knew my Daddy went from being an awesome, kind magician to a sullen, lazy asshole every time it entered the equation. And, like a child, my Daddy reacted by being mean back. Only, he wasn’t a child, and I didn’t deserve that.
So, for most of my life with him, I became the girl who had to be perfect–who had to win affection because I had hurt his feelings when I was three. He never really thought about my feelings. I was taught not to have them. For most of my young life, that’s who I was: a performer wearing twenty masks–all dependent on an audience.
I’m still like that. Less so, now. But I have a need to please people. In every moment, when someone’s in front of me, they’re my priority. They’re the Universe. I live to make them feel good–to make them like me. There’s always a filter. It takes years of knowing someone to get Alma unfiltered, and after knowing that other Alma, it can be hard to take.
I get that. But I know unfiltered Alma is worth knowing–and so–I’m trying harder to be that person all the time.
But my job encourages me to filter everything–to stick up arms to keep people away from me. To be a gatekeeper. And I’m really good at all of the above. It brings out sides of my personality that obstruct my true self and stop me from being vulnerable.
I’ve gotten better at balancing it, but it’s a struggle sometimes.
I think the hardest part comes when I have to reject people. But that’s also an opportunity to be me.
Rejection, in this economy, is rough stuff. When I reject someone, I may feel totally justified. I’ve done my homework. I see their weaknesses, and I know the HM will reject them if I don’t. But I’ve talked to them. Every candidate I talk to–unless he’s a big jerk–I fall a little in love with. I want to love them. I’m rooting for them. I saw something in them, after all. And they want me to love them, too. It’s kinda like a romantic relationship at warp speed. Where you slowly realize that–nope–not it. But you never reject them immediately–at least, I don’t. I usually mull things over, even if I know in my heart of hearts that they’re wrong. I may even call colleagues to talk it over. Because this is someone’s life, and I am taking opportunities away. And I don’t take that lightly. Because people gave me opportunities that I sometimes didn’t deserve, and though they had no reason to think otherwise, they were right to believe in me.
You never know when someone’s having an off day. You never know when this is the final straw. So, I try really hard to do right by people and act ethically–to not leave people hanging and wondering. This is where I’m vulnerable. And this, I think, is where I really help people. Because I let them question me and ask me what they could do better, and I tell them. And they do better. I’ve been told my advice got people jobs.
I’ve learned a lot about this dance since getting into this industry. A lot of people don’t act like I do. I’ve had to put up with HMs who wouldn’t give feedback–who rejected people who were totally qualified–and never told me why. Or just never responded to my calls, so I couldn’t do the right thing.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is this: if you have to chase someone for what you deserve, they’re not someone worth chasing. And anyone who wants you will chase you first.
This week, I’ve been doing a lot of chasing. People not returning calls or emails. Now, I’m good at following up. I’ve made a career based on it. I will get my answer, eventually. It gets frustrating because communication is so easy. But you’d be amazed by how utterly chickenshit people can be. And I’ve decided those aren’t people I want to surround myself with.
If you can’t take a minute to honor me, then why should I spend one second worrying about what you want or think?
I’ve done this my entire career–for other people. When it comes to me, though, I’m putting the brakes on it. Because, God, I really don’t want you if you can’t just be straight with me.
I wasn’t going to follow-up anymore. If they wanted me, they knew my number. Until then, I’m letting go of them as a possibility for my life.
I made that decision, and the phone literally rang two seconds later.
It’s okay to be unsure, but it’s not okay to leave people dangling. And I’m not accepting it from anyone–including myself.
It’s an odd feeling for me because I feel like I’m really changing. In the past, my instinct would be to be a doormat–to keep following up and being nice. To be understanding. To dance like a monkey and show them how incredibly worthy I am of their whatever. My instinct would be to amaze them with my skills and talent and personality. To win them over.
Even if I wasn’t sure I wanted it. And then, when it didn’t happen, I’d be devastated over something I probably didn’t want because it was now about me as a human being instead of my skills. Or, if it did happen, I’d grab onto it and make it my world. Only to find it was unworthy.
Now? It’s an option. I followed-up, sure. But just once. And I started creating more options for myself. Including–maybe–a whole new world for myself.
And I’m taking it all in and asking what I want. Their choice is just a technicality.