Silent Spaces

A house in the Woods

A house in the Woods

I am alone, often. Don’t mistake this as a cry for company, I like my silent spaces and will paint them in deeper silence more frequently than I realize. I am I think strange in liking my silent spaces, no television, no background music, no white noise to distract me; only me, the clacking of my nails on the keyboard and occasionally the roll of my lighter as I fire a cigarette, or a candle.

I have always been this way, always liked the silence the quiet of empty beaches with only the waves for company. I have always liked mountaintops in the winter with only the crunch of snow as your feet break through icy top layers or you slide across the top during a solitary run on slick ski’s. I was always able to dance in a silent studio, without music except what I heard in my heart my body following a rhythm all its own.

Don’t mistake me, I like people truly I do like people in small doses. I enjoy a night out with friends; a great meal with magnificent wine is my idea of a fabulous way to spend money and time. Given the right cornersoftheroomgroup of women (or men) I could sit up all night and talk, I know this is true I have done it. With some people, I can spend hours on the phone and have far ranging conversations that touch on nearly every aspect of life, from children to government misconduct. I am not I don’t think a hermit.

Nevertheless, I love my silent spaces and have never felt the need to fill them. As I have grown older, I feel as if I am growing in. I am looking for balance; you know that ever-elusive balance we all seek in life between our mental, emotional and physical well-being and what the world requires of us. The requirements of paying the bills, keeping a roof over our heads and the lights on and if you live in one of the hot as Hades during the summer months keeping the air conditioning pumping, at least at a reasonable temperature so you don’t look like the Wicked Witch of the West or the Polar Ice Cap, you know…melting.

Growing in, what does that really mean? For me it means I am finding myself less and less likely to be tolerant of the bad behavior of others, this is especially true of what I perceive as the ‘entitlement’ syndrome. What is this you ask; well you should ask as this it is a growing phenomenon within society today. There are many infected and this nasty and pernicious disease of the soul spreads into both their personal and professional interactions touching all they touch and leaving an oily residue behind.

Growing in, I find what it means is I am unwilling to sell myself short or cheaply. What was acceptable even five years ago is not any longer “just part of the package, just part of the business”. I have ten, maybe fifteen years left to work, I love what I do, at least I use to truly love what I do. I worked very hard to carve a niche for myself in what had always been a man’s world, I had put in my time and when I say this I don’t just mean the years I mean the 70 hour work weeks and the millions of air miles. I now find I am truly unwilling to accept the disdain from some asshat recruiter who calls me with an opportunity but then has the nerve to say the following to me:

“Would you be willing to pay your own expenses to Philadelphia for a face-to-face interview?”

This for a 4-month project!

Then had the nerve to say to me, “Your rate is too high, I can find someone for half that price at an all-inclusive rate.”

“No, no you cannot, not with my level of experience, not with US Citizenship which you stated is a requirement and not with my references. But you know you should go ahead and try, call me back when they screw up the project my rate is double when I do project remediation.”

Yes, I did say that. I don’t know if that particular recruiter understood half of my response, however since it was in writing he can look up the big words.

perfectly silent and stunning

perfectly silent and stunning

Growing in, I find has created a great big question mark in my life. That question mark is leading me down the path of questioning what I really want to be and do right now and for the remainder of my productive / working life. What are the other things I truly care about and that matter to me? My independence in work, yes that matters. Being able to take time to myself, yes that matters. My silent spaces, yes that matters a great deal. The questions though are these:

Does my independence trump stability, focus and being able to chase other important dreams?

I am alone, often. This is not a complaint, not a cry for company. I like my silent spaces. I like my growing in. I like I am questioning my new places and maybe yet again reinventing myself, what I don’t like is I am being forced to this by an environment unkind to people like me, people of a certain age, certain gender, certain type; people who are growing in like me.

Overrated, Certainly Not

crybabySome weeks it doesn’t pay to get out of bed, well okay it does pay but not enough. Have I ever mentioned what I do for a living?

No?

Well, if I don’t get out of bed I do not get paid, no one pays me to sit at home, not one single red cent. It would be nice if I got paid to recline, eat grapes, sip wine and otherwise indulge my decadent debauched  dissolute self-indulgent delicate sensibilities, but it doesn’t happen. For many years, six in fact I have been an independent consultant or as some of my more delicate subtle clients refer to me conslutant.

For nearly twenty years, I honed my skills at sucking up and telling clients, what they didn’t want to hear in dulcet tones and with smiles, convincing them, that yes, they really did want to do what they didn’t want to do and they wanted to pay astronomical sums of money for the privilege of doing it. Over the years, my clients bitched and moaned about the cost of my presence, whined about how much they paid just to have me darken their door. Now and then, a client would shake an invoice in my face demanding I actually read aloud the figure at the bottom and explain why I was worth all those zeros.

Finally after all those years I decided I no longer wanted to work for others, there is a story behind that decision and it isn’t pretty. Nevertheless, there is a downside for my independence. I do not get paid if I don’t roll out of bed and show up at the client side to work each day. Having a bad day, worse how about a bad week? Suck it up, really tough tits girlfriend get your azz in gear stop at Starbucks for a quad shot and shake it off before you get to the client, no one cares they are paying you for your skills and competency, not your personal drama.

Sick today, hope it is only today and not all week? If you are too sick to get out of bed this is a day you won’t earn a dime. Better hope you have money in the bank, your bank that is. Your salary is paid by you, if you don’t have enough to cover it for the next payroll, you will be short paid. Hope the bills aren’t too bad and you don’t have quarterly taxes to pay this month!

Another big downside to my world?  There is nothing like uncertainty. Oh sure, everyone has uncertainty in life and certainly in their jobs. Whether you are an employee or a contractor you face the reality of job loss, this is  the world we live in today. If you are an employee with even a little bit of tenure you will likely receive some notice or a small package in lieu of notice. You will also be eligible for unemployment, something to tide you over. Contractors on the other hand get nothing, maybe not even the courtesy of a warning shot over the bow. We sign-up for specific periods of performance (contracts) however, these can end without any notice. If we know contract is ending we begin looking for our next contract, if a contract is ended without warning we are out in the cold, no severance no unemployment.

Most of us work on Net 30 day invoicing terms, all too often when our contracts end without notice that last payment is very difficult to collect.money-lock1-300x269

I am an IT Program / Project Manager. I am independent, I have my own consulting firm and I am incorporated. I have been fortunate, I have had very little time between contracts in the nearly six years I have been independent. This doesn’t mean there haven’t been a few scary times though. I have been on a couple of contracts that ended abruptly, a couple that were long-term and great fun. I have nearly always been fortunate in those I have worked with, never had problems collecting my money.

The upside to how I live in my work life? I am independent, if I really don’t like a client I am free to end a contract. I do not have to play politics, I have only one goal I want the project I am working on to be successful and the client to be successful, this is the only dog I have in the fight. If my dog wins I will gain a client for life and a good reference.

Generally speaking, I control the hours I work and the time I spend in my work. I no longer work 60, 70 and even 80 hour weeks. This happens now and then, when it does it is justified and necessary for a very short period of time. I take at least four weeks a year of vacation, I never did this when I was someone else’s employee.

The downside to my work life? Some days, when I am having a tough day, when I don’t feel emotionally, mentally or physically up to the day I can’t call in sick. I have a greater obligation to my client than I might to an employer. I also only have myself and I don’t get paid if I don’t roll my happy ass out of bed and get to work.

Most days though, even when my life feels like it is spinning entirely out of control it is pretty dammed good to be me.

Career Trajectory at Fifty-Five

Let’s talk about some of old adages we use to accept as truth, but not so much any longer.

  Age before beauty
  Practice makes perfect
  Experience is the mother of wisdom

What has changed you ask? Better, what exactly am I referring to when I say these are no longer truths within our culture?

These I think are more apropos for today:

  Hype and arrogance trumps experience
  Blame the other guy or circumstances beyond your control for your failure
  Two in the bush for half as much makes perfect cents

Why do I think this, it is a fair question. Honestly, this is about career progression and how those of us who have not been fortunate in our bonus checks, must navigate the ever-increasing rough waters we find ourselves in as we age up and out of our career relevancy.

My career and educational path was not a straight line, by the time that sheepskin was in my hand, the shine was slightly tarnished and I had a few years of work behind me. What that first degree gave me was the burnish I needed to move up the ladder, be taken more seriously and yes, be paid a little more for the work I was already doing.

As a woman in the world of business, you may move up, usually more slowly than men; this will depend on your willingness to throw others under the bus in your climb to the top, including your friends and family. My rise

The difference truly men are willing to go to great lengths

through the managerial ranks was impeded only by lack of corporate / political sophistication; encumbered by my failure to identify my enemies and my belief that ethics and quality outweighed arrogance and a penis. It didn’t, not even once.

In my thirties I was handed a gift, a career opportunity that would change my trajectory and open doors that might not have opened otherwise. I walked through those doors; I also walked through University doors once again and pursued a Masters to polish my credentials, one more time. This gift didn’t come without sacrifice, including playing in an entirely new sandbox with much different, bigger and more aggressive dogs. There were pros and cons to this career gift such as:

PROS

  • Challenging work
  • Fascinating, always new experiences
  • Travel, national and international
  • Education, lots of it
  • Decent income and decent opportunity for women, myself included, initially

CONS

  • Long hours, 70 hour weeks were the norm
  • Long weeks away from home, it wasn’t unknown to be away two to three weeks at a time
  • Dog-eat-dog mentality within the industry
  • Ten years ago the industry was outsourced badly

Career Relevance and Age

I don’t think of myself as old, irrelevant or outdated. Truth be told, I think of myself as damned near in my prime. I am experienced, knowledgeable and unencumbered by many of the outside influences others might still have. I no longer want to move up the career ladder, been there done that and found I didn’t all that much enjoy some of the jobs I landed in. Now I know the jobs I enjoy and am happy when I am doing them. I love challenging work and love to produce quality results, whether for an employer or a client.

I have worked as both an employee of consulting firms and as an Independent Consultant. There are clearly pros and cons of both. The problem with independence is the market is no longer geared toward individuals and their

How it feels, stop and all

capabilities or past references. In fact it is rare to find an opportunity that isn’t through one or many off-shore farms that advertise on the boards, set the rates (low) and nine times out of ten will rarely talk to you if you are (1) a woman; (2) American.

Does the above statement sound bitter? It is not bitter; it is simply the truth of what has happened in our market today.

What is happening?

I did not think at fifty-five my future would be no-future or at least as frightening as it is. I didn’t think that all my work my 70 hour weeks, my time away from hearth and home, my investment in certifications and additional

degrees would result in nothing. Just a career that came to a screeching halt in my prime. What I thought was I would do my consulting time, I would learn my craft and prove myself (I did this in some of the most difficult

environments there are) and then I would go to work for the last fifteen or twenty years of my career in some capacity as a full-time employee. I would earn a decent living, with benefits no less. I would mentor younger members of an enthusiastic team. I would write books about my experiences. I would be a visiting lecturer at local universities about quality, ethics in business and values, how to do things right.

What I didn’t realize is at fifty-five I am old and perhaps the best I can hope for is Wal-Mart Greeter.

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