July 1996

"I realize that I'm simply not making conscious choices from all the options that exist"

“I realize that I’m simply not making conscious choices from all the options that exist”

I have finally been promoted to Finance Manager at HP. I love working there, but it has been really frustrating being stuck at the level of “Senior Analyst” for years, while watching the Wharton Alumni Magazine publish news from my graduating class, and noting the awe-inspiring announcements of promotions and job changes. I realize only select individuals share their “news,” but it makes me a little bit crazy to contemplate the possible career I could have with even a little flexibility. It’s definitely more important for me to go home nightly and be with my family than it is to make a lot of money. More salary and fancy titles are not the issues for me. I realize that I’m simply not making conscious choices from all the options that exist; I have only ever considered whatever conveniently fits without disrupting our lives. We moved to North Carolina for Lou’s MBA, and I worked there. Then we moved to Long Island for his first job, and so I got my BS at SUNY StonyBrook. Then we relocated to this area when he got his consulting job in Philly, and I so got my job at Playtex in Delaware. Despite the fact that he became self-employed years ago, it has never been an option to move for the benefit of my education or career. I applied only to Wharton for grad school because Phily was close. After graduation, I only sent my resume to firms that I could commute to from home and for jobs that did not require travel. Not that I want to travel for work… one person in the family who is frequently away on business is more than enough.

I was thrilled about my new position, until I told Lou. His initial reaction was, “See, isn’t it good that you went to business school?” I agreed that getting our MBAs has really been a great investment that has paid back well for both of us. He then said, “You know, you would still be working in a restaurant as a waitress or something or at the front desk of a hotel if it weren’t for me pushing you into going to college.” I replied that I’d always had every intention of continuing with my education beyond my associate’s degree. He was instantly furious as if I had hurled a horribly degrading insult at him. I felt the glare of his eyes almost burn through me as they transformed from dark to coal-black, small, and sunken below his brow; his face tensed and he bellowed, “Don’t go there! Don’t even think about going there! How dare you say that? I believe you saved my life. How can you claim that you would have gone to school anyway? Is that really what you have to say to me now?”

I was dumbfounded by his reaction. I didn’t say it out loud, but my initial thought was that I actually would have completed college a whole lot earlier if I hadn’t taken time off from college to work to pay our bills while he got his MBA when we first got married. Maybe I wouldn’t necessarily have become a Finance major at Wharton in particular, but I would definitely have continued with college. I put all my plans on hold for him, and then changed my plans completely because we lived where he wanted to work, despite the fact that none of the nearby colleges had degree programs I wanted to pursue. He actually thinks I would have no education and no career without his influence? And when I object to that absurd assertion, he’s mad at me for having the nerve to believe I had something to do with the course of my own life? I didn’t say any of that out loud either.

What I did verbalize is that I hadn’t meant anything negative, and that I was sorry if it sounded that way. I explained that I was just saying that he made it seem like I had no ambition for anything on my own, but that I did always want to continue with college. I said that I know he supported and encouraged me, just as I did him. He was unimpressed by my reply, and just scowled and repeated, “How dare you?” He stayed mad for days, giving me the cold shoulder, and calling me “Jo” instead of “Joey” when he did speak to me at all. Personally, I think it should be the other way around.

I read a book, The Celestine Prophecy, which is a fictional novel, that has me thinking a lot about life in general. Within the story, the book breaks down personality types into four categories based on what methods people use to essentially gain power and control over others: “aloof,” “intimidator,” “interrogator,” and “poor me.” I see Lou as a definite intimidator, and I think I fit in the category of aloof, because I tend to stay so quiet now. I never used to be that way, and I’m not quiet in the office. At work, I’m outgoing, very vocal, and participate in meetings and always stick my neck out with my opinions. The rest of the time, I tend to keep my mouth shut. In the book, they say that being quiet would be a control mechanism to keep other people feeling uneasy and off-guard and guessing about what I’m thinking. I’m trying to absorb that concept, but it doesn’t seem to fit me quite right. I keep my mouth shut more often because I don’t want to say something wrong that’s going to cause a problem. Being quiet causes problems itself, but from my standpoint, it is preferable because I can only be accused of being too quiet. But that doesn’t work either, because Lou says my silence makes other people feel I’m being judgmental, and that I think I’m too good for them or something. It’s still easier to defend being quiet than having to justify every word I speak.

On a positive note, I got my check from Harrah’s for my lawsuit for my neck injury. Now the plane and the house are both paid off. The only remaining debt is the student loan from my Wharton education, which, apparently, can be accredited to Lou along with my promotion and the favorable lawsuit judgment.

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