What did you want to be when you grew up? I was about ten and I sent away for career brochures. I think it was from an insurance company. I thought lawyer looked interesting and different. Girls just didn’t become lawyers then. I also really, really wanted to become an actress. Also, write books. My father was a writer so it’s in my DNA. And I probably couldn’t do it because my father was a writer. He did tell me before he died that I should write and not let him stop me. It was a gift from him to me.
As I grew, practicality intruded. I have a facility for language. I decided to be a multi-lingual secretary. My mother was a secretary. She was excellent, well-paid and powerful at times. I was told in high school that I wasn’t fluent enough; native speakers would receive precedence; I was that smart that I should have my own security. Reality? After Hopkins, I applied for a secretarial spot that wanted someone who spoke English, French, Spanish and German, and who studied Latin America and Africa in that order. All checks. I didn’t get the job because my typing wasn’t fast enough.
Moving on, again with the practicality. OK, if I couldn’t be a multi-lingual secretary, I would major in International Relations at Johns Hopkins and become Henry Kissinger. Well, that didn’t work. Economics and I were a nonstarter. I did attend a job placement interview at Hopkins. When asked for my aspirations, I said I wanted to wear Vogue clothes. The counselor was mildly taken aback but assured me with a Hopkins degree I could do anything. NOT!! See above for starters.
Attempting to be logical, I determined if I wanted Vogue clothes, I needed to work in clothing. I had thought about this in high school but fashion was a trade and I was supposed to be too smart. And I didn’t draw. Uh, all work in fashion is not design. Hopkins? So, not working. I was on my second job as assistant office manager in a major construction company when the receptionist turned me on to FIT Continuing Ed. I was off and running. Sundays 9- 5 and two nights a week till 9:30 or 10:30. And I received an A in my art class. My new ambition? I was gonna be Calvin Klein. In later years, I was questioned as to why I always wanted to be men. Duh, that’s where the power was and is.
I started out as an assistant at Bobbie Brooks. Why I got the job? I was the only candidate with personal stationery; I am a Libra and they thought because of Hopkins, I knew psychology. I decided I wanted to be a merchandiser in my own right. Five companies later, I did it! So, then what? I wanted that VP title but I was just a “girl”. This “girl” negotiated a licensing agreement with a major French fashion company. Girls didn’t get to be vice presidents in that company. The fashion press referred to me as vice president merchandising but not the company. Yes, they merged with another company and gave my job to a male VP. I definitely was able to buy and wear Vogue clothes so I did fulfill that ambition.
Back to the drawing board and I started working in financial services from the bottom up. I had a facility for it. Who knew that a fashionista could be successful in banking?! Complications. I was up for an AVP but was let go. I came back as a consultant for another 11 years. Same story – perceived as VP but no title. I wanted to end my career as a VP.
Unemployed again, over 50, mobility issues, not happening. In the last three years I have applied and applied. I began to realize that I could no longer commute into Manhattan. If you want to be a VP and a woman on Long Island, you have no life. I tried anyway. I was told three years ago to apply for disability. Me? I am not disabled. I just don’t walk well. I am no longer the woman who wore three inch heels ,carried pocketbook, laptop and projector but disabled?
I finally succumbed last November and applied. It’s like when I obtained the handicap sticker 5 years ago. It was a “just in case”. I thought it was temporary and I would be me in 5 years. I am worse. Cane, walker. Everyone said if anyone deserved it, it was me. I have fought so hard. I only did it because of economics. This is a title I do not want.
Last Thursday, I received a letter saying I was medically qualified but the non-medical was still being evaluated. This makes no sense. Friday, there is a check in the mail. I am officially disabled. It is bittersweet. The wolf at the door is being held back. This is not a title I ever aspired to or even wildly imagined. WTF happened!! This was not what I wanted to be when I grew up. I am coming to terms with the fact that my career life is over. I am NEVER going to get that title, again, something outside the sphere of possibilities.
It’s reinvention time, Tresswann rising. What do I want next? What am I going to do for the rest of my life? Well, the great Carib-American novel is possible but probably not publishable. I need to walk. This gives me the opportunity to focus on getting back to walking. I feel a little lost but I shall regroup. I did originally want to write so maybe…
What did you want to be when you grew up and what happened along the way?