Saturday, September 28, 2013

So..Your Parents Let You Get a Degree in French Literature II

I've already told this story several times verbally so I don't know how smoothly it will come out in writing--it may be a bit stale. In fact, I'm writing it up because I told this story three times in the past few weeks.

I will occasionally be asked by friends (usually engineers) why my parents let me major in French instead of "something practical." One of my friends went so far as to tell me about the conversation his parents had with him and his sibling about how they were happy to pay for education, but it needed to be in something useful.

After college--after I came back from France--I spent years running around crashing into walls/flailing because I didn't know what to do with myself professionally.  For a while I was a bit mad at Carleton for not insisting that everyone take a course in (say) Accounting, or something equally practical along with insisting that we learn how to swim, pass a writing requirement and take a course on the Recognition and Affirmation of Difference. I mention this because it would have been nice to have a straighter path between college graduation and happy/useful employment.

On the other hand, from the year and a half or so I spent in business school, it's pretty obvious to me that I couldn't have gone to a school that had a "business" major. It would have killed me/bored me to tears. And I loved French Lit--I never got As because I had a terrible work ethic--but I loved it.

Earlier this year I needed to meet with a rep from a software company my employers work with. I had expected this to be a boring sales call. The rep (let's call her Toni) showed up in my office, we called my boss (who worked in an office in another state) and the three of us discussed general "state of our two companies relationship" stuff for about 45 minutes at which point my boss said he was all done and left us alone. I spent the next 3 hours or so with Toni talking about all the cool stuff her company's software could do. It was awesome!

We got lunch and talked about more general matters. Toni's company is located in Toronto and she is Canadian. We talked about our undergraduate educations--it turns out that she majored in French too! (Although I gather this was more of a pedagogical degree than mine was.) She had done several other things (including having a career in fencing) before starting to work for the software company--first as a geek and now as a relationship manager.

Somewhere during the conversation I realized that here we were--two former French majors working as geeks for successful businesses.  Was the path as straight forward as that of Babson alums who went on to work as Business Analysts? No.

What's the moral of this story? It takes all kinds? Verbals make good geeks too? Smart people can pick skills up and reinvent themselves? Language geeks can be good at SQL too? I don't know.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Labor Day 2013

When I talked to my sister on my birthday she said she couldn't come up to Beverly this year, which was not a surprise--we were almost out of Summer. I told her I wouldn't be down to New York for Labor Day because I hadn't bought a ticket yet and I was afraid it would be wicked expensive. She said "I'll buy you a ticket."

This is how I ended up in New York City for Labor Day weekend for the first time in 4 years. I bought my own ticket down to New York, but the fact that my sister said she'd buy me a ticket showed me that she really wanted to see *me*--not just come up to Beverly because we have the beach.

I  told my parents that I'd be down to see them in less than two weeks and they seemed happy "You'll be staying in guest room #4" my dad said.

My parents have a big Labor Day party every year because they moved in on Labor Day weekend. They make their own ice cream and have one last barbecue for the summer. Since my dad became the Braumeister for church beer club they serve dad's home brew as well. They invite their neighbors and their church friends.

Other than visiting for the birth of Giovanni and Brian, I have not been down to New York any time other than Christmas, so at the party I found myself speaking with people I hadn't talked to in 4 years (or longer.) I had to reintroduce myself and give my elevator speech. "I'm-Jack-and-Barbara's-older-daughter-that-lives-in-Boston-and-does-IT-for-a-fee-only-wealth-management-firm.
"Yes--I work with wonderful people! Yes, our office is right by where-the-bombing-was.
"I bought a house in Beverly--how weird is that--I live in my Mom's home town! No, I will *not* be back for the Stuyvesant High School reunion this fall."

I admit, I found it draining. At one point in the evening I got my sister's third kid--Giovy--to sit on my lap. I just held him (he was shy and not up to all the people.) I joked with my sister that the introverts were over here in the corner*.

On the other hand, the experience taught me a few things. For example at one point my parents pastor spoke with me. I was glad to talk with her, because I had heard a great deal of good things about her. She asked if I had "a family" back in MA. I knew she meant "Are you married with kids?" so I said no--but I felt a little silly doing so. No--I don't have offspring and there are no rings on my left hand but I have my pack and yeah--they kind of are "family." If I smell gas in the house I call them. If my toilet develops a personality I'm going to call them. If their computers start acting up they know they can call me. Likewise if they need dogsitters. It's not as simple as a nuclear family.

The morning after the party I came to a realization. I was texting someone about what I did at the party and it hit me--I had been playing the part of Jack and Barbara's successful daughter, but most of what I'd said to people was actually true. I do have good friends. I do own a house. I do have a Master's Degree in IT and I do like most of the people I work with. All of these things are true, so...maybe I am Jack and Barbara's successful older daughter who lives north of Boston?

Another thing that occurred to me was that the last time I'd been down to a Labor Day party was in 2009. At that point in time I'd been dumped by my boyfriend of 9 years. I was broke-down--whatever any of these people saw of me was not my best face. I was being evicted from my Cambridge life and I was scared and depressed. I had not yet decided to move to Beverly.

It's 4 years later. I moved to Beverly and stayed here. I own a house. I have awesome friends (and their dogs) I have a Master's Degree in IT. Bonus added--there's this cute boy I'm seeing. No one who met met me this year could possibly mistake me for the miserable, shell shocked creature I was in 2009--the last time I went to my parents' Labor Day party.

*Later in the evening Giovy was high on refined sugar and mooning the guests. I admit I picked him up and kissed him and called him a little punk. Before his mom hauled him off I got him to say "I am the Lizard King."