Last night, I had a weird dream and had to wake up and instantly write about it.
I don’t know where I was, but I do know I was dressed in a black suit, white shirt and slim green tie.
So I looked hot.
I walked down a hallway and into an unassuming office that seemed haphazardly decorated, as if it wasn’t intended to be used as an office for long.
The woman standing behind the desk had her back to me. She turned around when I entered. It was Brenda.
Brenda was the best boss I have ever had. Still. The only shitty thing about Brenda is that she works in banking, an industry I have no interest in. (Ha! Get it? Interest? Never mind.)
What was it about Brenda? I’ve been thinking of her all day and can’t seem to get her off my brain.
I worked for Brenda at a time when my life wasn’t very exciting. I wasn’t sure I was good at anything back then, let alone not knowing what I would or should excel at. I was 22 and while in college, worked part time as a supervisor in a bank. I was horrible at math but undeniably good at dealing with people, especially unruly ones. This made me well suited for a few things: a club bouncer, bartender, FBI agent, driving instructor or bank supervisor. The last choice allowed me to have a steady income, so to me the choice was crystal.
Since I was in college, I floated from branch to branch, working for a beast of a woman who hated even her model employees. The bank’s upper management could see she was a shrew, and would reduce her region of bank branches bit by bit until she had the smallest region in the state, with most of the branches located in economically depressed, crime ridden suburban cities. I was lucky to work for her and even luckier to have lived.
When a bank merger offered an opportunity to work for a week in new territory closer to Boston and in more affluent towns by the ocean, I jumped at the chance. If the shrew sent her star employees, it made her look good, so through her scowl and over her thermos of Ketel One, she signed the approval for me to go.
It was there I met Brenda. Well…met her again. Brenda had previously worked for the shrew herself, and as the company grew, she was recognized as a standout and was promoted to running a region of her own branches; a region that now thanks to this merger was the largest in the state.
Brenda got loose from the grips of the shrew, and she was committed to helping others do the same. She always thought I was a promising kid, so she let me know by showering me with compliments in front of everyone I worked with that week.
As luck would have it, by the end of the week a job posting came out in Brenda’s newly expanded region. It was for the same job I had with the shrew; a traveling branch supervisor.
I don’t feel I need to go into detail to tell you that I got the job with ease.
For the next two years, I became part of Brenda’s elite team. When I graduated college, I didn’t want to leave the home I made as one of Brenda’s stars, but I needed to put my BA in Political Science and Theatre to use, so I looked at my options. One was to accept a position working for a liberal magazine in Boston. The other was to manage one of Brenda’s branches and become a mini Brenda.
I chose my path as a male mini Brenda and never questioned myself.
Brenda was an enigma. I know enigmas usually don’t hold corporate titles at banks, but this was an exceptional case. Polished dresses, a coif of brown hair always styled differently and heels that could kill, she looked like a business school version of Jennifer Aniston. Or rather, what Jennifer Aniston would look like if she could eat men for breakfast.
Clearly I never wanted to work for anyone else.
Brenda made me an Assistant Vice President at the age of 23. But she herself had bigger aspirations and moved on to another job a short time later.
I learned many things about life and how to achieve things in those two years. She taught me how to separate myself and even though I would be there for my staff 24/7 I wouldn’t need to live and breathe work or make work my entire life. She taught me how to be proud of what I was doing and even if she had to address a weakness of mine, she did so in a way that made me feel superhuman for having a flaw.
I dreamt of Brenda because I felt secure, proud and accomplished when I worked for Brenda.
I haven’t felt that way since.
I’ve worked for a congressman, I’ve been a paid performer, and have put my graduate degree to passive use. I’ve run myself ragged and burnt myself out over and over again. I’m facing now the biggest hurdle yet, which is to really scrap all that I’ve accumulated and ship just myself and a few suitcases out to California to begin again and perhaps find some happiness. I wanted to do this when I was 23 and fresh out of college, but of course as you just read, Brenda snatched me up. Other things kept me in New England as well, like a sick mother, good friends, and my procrastinating nature.
Just as I was about to lunge back into consciousness, Brenda made it a point to say “You can always come back here, and come back to this life, but you don’t want to, and you don’t need to.”
Was the deep subconscious specter of my former boss telling me what I already knew? Actually, she was. Because it wasn’t her telling me that I would be fine, it was me telling myself that I would be fine and using someone I trusted and respected to deliver the news. Duh. That’s a dream, for you.
So, basic lesson here? Maybe it doesn’t get better after you graduate college. But maybe also if you’re lucky, you will have surrounded yourself with people and mentors who actually tell you useful things about yourself. Brenda was mine. Who was yours?