Straight Outta Woo-Town

 

If you read my last blog post, you know that I recently moved.  I’ve moved many, many, MANY times, but this time was the most drastic change and the hardest worked for.

After 10 years and about a hundred thousand dollars in expenses and mortgage payments, I was able to sell this June. YAY!  I was even able to make some money on the sale (Thanks Dave! Sorry I panicked and tried to convince you to lower the price.  You were right, I was wrong… you are smart and I’m stupid.)

We ended up having to replace the entire sewer line.  It was incredibly expensive and stressful… after our 2nd sewage back up in 2 weeks of purchase. Thanks to Dave we were able to use the proceeds to pay for it. I never realized how exhilarating flushing a toilet without fear could be. Who knew?

straight lawn 1

Nothing to see here.  This is all totally normal. 

We moved from Worcester to a country town about a half hour outside the city. I wouldn’t call it a suburb.  It’s a working class area that has been hard hit by the continuous loss of working class jobs.  I like to think we are doing our part for the community having immediately injected about 30K into the local economy through our many post-move catastrophes.  You’re welcome!

straight money

Makin’ it Rain!  Until the money is gone… so… now.

Worcester is the 2nd largest city in New England. It’s known for its booming restaurant and art scenes, and also for a lot of crime and deteriorating schools.  I always liked the city, and I will continue to visit often.

New-Town is different.  I told a friend before we left that we were moving with the hillbillies, but that’s ok because I’m a former hillbilly and still speak fluent hillbilly. He responded “It’s Massachusetts hillbillies, so…”.  True.  Massachusetts hillbillies are… different. I’ve also noticed that the distinction between a hillbilly and a redneck appears to have disappeared post-Trump Presidency.  Or maybe it was before and I just wasn’t paying close enough attention? At this point I’m unable to self-describe.  Am I a current or former hillbilly? Current or former redneck? I’m just going to check off all of the boxes and call it a day.  TBH that’s probably accurate.

straight thinking

Immediately I noticed that everyone here is wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  Seriously, almost every single person. Other options appear to be gym shorts that basketball players wear and pajamas.  As people came to the house to help us with various service needs, I tried to wear the jeans and t-shirt uniform, so as not to be discovered as a city slicker who’s too big for my britches.    It seemed to work!  Mostly.

Things NOT to do if you want to go undetected:

  • Wear all black
  • Wear $400 Burberry Sunglasses (even if you bought them at a silent auction for charity. That actually makes it worse)
  • Take down the American flag the prior owner left on the house
  • Go for walks wearing matching fitness clothing
  • Carry Trader Joe’s Bags into the house during daylight hours
  • Resting Bitch Face
  • Mention politics, even in passing
  • Read a book in public (unless it’s to children)
  • Ask what kind of bourbon/wine a restaurant has, just order Makers’ Mark/House Merlot
  • Do not blare “Straight Outta Compton” because you love it or because it’s ironic
  • Tell the sewer line replacement guy “fine whatever it costs” after getting a $10,700 quote.
  • Complain about only having 25K in your 401k at age 45 (Hint: A lot of people have NONE, k miss fancy pants city slicker?!)

Things TO do if you want to go undetected:

  • Forget you have bed slippers on when you go to pick up Applebee’s take out and go in anyway
  • Be very clear that you have dogs and love all dogs
  • Ask people about their lives even if they are cleaning sewage from your basement
  • Smile when people walk by
  • Don’t cover up your tattoo(s)
  • Sigh really loudly when you say you left Worcester to point out how relieved you are
  • Mow the lawn with a push mower
  • Wait a year to buy a snow blower. Not just because you’re out of money but as further evidence that you aren’t a damn fat cat city slicker
  • Get supplies at Walmart.  It’s cheap. It’s 5 minutes away. Target is an hour away, get over it.
  • Hide your mosquito magnet, even though you want to tell everyone about it.
  • Eat all of your DQ fries before you even get back home (less than a 2 minute drive)
  • Stare at your garbage disposal in wonder every time you use it… this thing is magical!

straight mosquito

Dear mosquito magnet. I love you so…

There are awesome things here like tons of farms where you can buy fresh food.  We went grocery shopping last night and couldn’t bring ourselves to buy tomatoes and eggs at Big Y (no offense Big Y you’re awesome buddy!) because we knew we could get them fresh from a local farm.  We also found a farm that has milk and a bunch of pre-made stuff right from their place like shepards pie, pulled pork and chicken pot pie.  Take that Worcester!

I will admit that when I take my daughter into the city for her voice lessons we stock pile Chinese take-out to bring back to our hillbilly Shangri-La.

straight chinese

When the take out lady at Nancy Chang asks if you’re having a party because your order is for like 20 people and there are only 2 of you standing there…

So far we are happy here.  I feel most comfortable living in a working class community.  That’s not a huge surprise considering that’s how I grew up.  I feel like I can be myself… even with the Burberry Sunglasses.  I can adjust to wearing all black only SOME of the time and can definitely get used to DQ fries and fresh eggs. Resting bitch face may be harder to let go since it’s… well…. My face.

One thing though…. Is it me or is this landscaping at the local cemetery WAYYYY too creepy.  What the frig is happening with the corpses in that cemetery? What is happening to them that would make them cry out for help in this insanely disturbing way?

straight pray

Nothing creepier than all hell going on here. 

Dear readers… have I waited long enough to post about politics or are we ready for some real talk?

straight kermit

Dave’s Not Here, Man

If this title doesn’t mean anything to you, I suggest you hit up Google, YouTube or Siri then come back (although technically you can still follow along unaware).

You might be thinking to yourself, Marie Christine, where the heck have you been? OR you might be thinking… hey Marie Christine, I didn’t even notice you were gone so get over yourself.  Either way, here’s the story of the long strange trip that was the last 7-ish weeks.

A very intuitive person told me that this entire process would be a flume ride… with anxiety inducing moments weekly, sometimes daily.  He was right.   Here is the story of my flume ride.

I put my house up for sale. Not-Tom-Brady and I are very different people.  I handle moving by putting everything I haven’t touched in the last six months out on the sidewalk for anyone who wants it to take…. I’m surprised I moved with anything at all.  I even sold our living room furniture on Craigslist before we even sold our house. When they showed up to pick it up I just started handing them random items like a serving tray and an ottoman… everything must go!!!!

house 5

This is where most of my stuff went… gone within hours.

Not-Tom-Brady, on the other hand, sifted through what seemed like hundreds of boxes of odds and ends, cherishing the memory attached to each one.  The process took a long time.  Being the anti-clutter queen of the universe, the process almost drove me over the edge.  But for Not-Tom-Brady, I stayed strong. Number of my “boxes of memories” = 1.  Number of Not-Tom-Brady’s boxes of memories = I have no idea.. a LOT y’all… a lot.

 Ohhhh Not-Tom-Brady!

We also handle stress in very different ways.  Not-Tom-Brady is an optimist with an everything-will-work-out-like-it’s-supposed-to attitude. Not fair. With the knowledge that a flume ride could be imminent, I turned to my 2 saving graces in times of high-stress… productivity and booze.  Yes, these two options can happily co-exist.

house 6Jager Nips I packed for my business trip to San Diego.  This is about 20% of what I packed.  Airlines allow these in carry on AND checked bags, especially if you have TSA pre-check.  For those of you that were unaware of this, you’re welcome. 

Stay busy, stay productive, then drink…. and repeat.  My realtor, and friend, is Dave. During these 7-ish weeks Dave has been reassuring and always available. I, on the other hand, have been overwhelmed, busy and moderately drunk.

house 11

Me overwhelmed, busy and moderately drunk when Dave would stop by…

I have two jobs, so staying busy usually isn’t a problem.  Between the two I work anywhere from 40-70 hours a week.  BUT during this time I pretty much needed to be busy 24/7 to avoid having a complete nervous breakdown.  I was living in a difficult-to-sell home.  We had 13 showings and NO offers.  During the 14th showing we got bored and decided to go to an open house for a small ranch that didn’t appear to be a good fit for us.  We opened the door and saw a sprawling open floor plan with a SUNKEN LIVING ROOM.  I LOVE SUNKEN LIVING ROOMS!  Then there was a finished basement.  A partially fenced yard.  Privacy.  A two car garage and landscaping like I’ve never seen. We all knew… THIS IS OUR HOME.

As it would turn out, the 14th showing was the charm and an offer was made on our house the same day as we made an offer on the new home.  Let the joy (I mean flume ride) begin!

First, our buyers were first time home buyers.  No problem!  Except that their realtor was also a first time realtor.  Awesome!  She can’t fill out basic forms and asks ridiculous questions like.. Can the buyers come in and clean the week before they buy the house? Um no, it’s not their house so… no.

house 444

We decided on closing dates. My purchase the day before my sale.. easy peasy! NOPE.

I did a home inspection on the new house, the seller refused to make any of the updates I requested, basically stating that they didn’t need to be done.  One was replacing a cable leading into the circuit breaker box (I’m using the wrong lingo I’m sure)… I won’t spoil the surprise on how this turned out, we will get there.  Fine asshole.. have it your way… don’t make the repairs.

Then, I realize that we are only a week away from closing and the seller still hasn’t signed the P&S agreement.  It turns out he was on vacation and didn’t think it was a big deal.  Guess who DID think it was a big deal? My mortgage company.  He ended up going into the lawyer’s office on a Saturday and we got it signed within about 4 hours of the timeframe necessary to close on our closing date. Awesome!

As I’m reading the P&S, when it’s eventually sent to me, I notice that it’s missing an entire parcel of land attached to the property… yep… true story.  At least we have 3 whole hours to fix it… lucky us!

house 16

Thanks to a very cool cast of characters on my end (Dave, Mortgage-Guy and Lawyer-Lady) they got shit done.  Literally at the 11th hour.  High five team-Dave.

Finally my title is clear and the P&S is good.  Just call Fidelity to get the 401K loan right? NOPE, I need the money for the mortgage within 7 days and the best they can do is get it in 14 days in the form of a check, and it will take 7 days to clear.  Perfect!  I spent 7 hours on the phone with Fidelity.  Eventually they agreed to wire me the money.  I can’t even tell you how I did it. Let’s just say manipulation and negotiation skills are key in life, and I probably also owe the director there a kidney, but it was worth it. Jager.

house 7

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, all is peachy keen with the buyer!  Oh wait no that’s the story of another person that I’ve never met.  Since the buyer is inexperienced, and their realtor is new, no one noticed that their mortgage broker went on vacation and forgot to process their paperwork.  The bank appraisal on my sale home was never ordered, and the closing was in 4 days.  But it’s all good right? Nope, it’s not all good.  Even with a rush appraisal the house would not sell/close as planned.  They order a rush appraisal.. I stay busy, and wait, and drink. Oh and I also attend Dead & Company’s show at Fenway Park with Not-Tom-Brady because I got him VIP Tickets for his birthday.

Yea that’s right. When you aren’t sure if you’re about to have a great year, or if you’re about to lose everything, you might as well go big right?

house 10

Dear John, I forgive you for what you did to Taylor Swift and/or Jennifer Love Hewitt. Thank you VIP heaven. 

My appraisal on my purchase comes back $3,800 under the asking price.  We all know that the bank home appraisers have some subjectivity here.  Probably in the 10K range. Mine, nope… she decides to prove some sort of point during my flume ride.  Let’s just say I don’t want her to have any sort of tragic event, but if she were to get the worst sunburn of her entire life this week I would be ok with that. So, I got to pay $3,800 to the buyer that I wasn’t expecting because some lady decided it was her day to shine in I-Have-Self-Declared-Power land.  Perfect!  Why not right?  p.s. My sale is now completely up in the air at this point.

My sale house finally gets appraised and I’m told we will close in about 10 days. Ok scary. I’m going to own 2 homes for at least 10 days and don’t have the resources to support it past that… deep breaths. The house will sell.  We will be ok… it’s all fine. Nothing to see here. Jager.

house 12

I finally close on my new home and move in. YES!  Sunken LIVING ROOM!  The movers are awesome.  Life is good.  Not-Tom-Brady and the kids are thrilled.  There is still drama with the sale but hey at least we are in Shangri-La right?   Waiiiit for it..  wait for it…. What is this water leaking into my finished basement?

I call a long list of plumbers in an unfamiliar town in a house I’ve lived in for just a few hours.  One finally comes over.  I can’t figure out where the water is coming from.  I assume a broken pipe is my worst case scenario.  Ya know what? A broken pipe is NOT a worst case scenario.  It turns out that a sewage drain back up IS.  And you guessed it… it was a sewage drain back up.  There  is a stand up shower in the finished basement, full of…. well full of shit… Literally.  I call a restoration company and a drain specialist.  The next thing I know I’m writing thousands of dollars in checks to get the drain unplugged at the street level and to have my finished basement sanitized.  Yay! Jager.

house 8

Two days later the sewage is removed from the house.  They tell me it was a single paper towel flushed down the toilet that caused the problem. I have no idea if that’s even a thing but it’s all very calming (hint: It’s not).

The very same day I get a call from lawyer-lady.  Great news!  The closing on your sale is going through.  OMG that’s great news wow!  So they pushed it ahead to the day after tomorrow instead of next week isn’t that great?  They will be coming tomorrow night for the walk through. Insert visual of me picturing my old house with a basement full of junk that needs to be hauled away and 11 years of grime in every crevice of the 100 year old house… Remember… at this moment I have sewage in my new home and men wearing masks working. I thought I had at least 7 more days.  No rest for the wicked.  Jager.

The next day Dave swoops in with the number of a cleaning lady that turns out to be some sort of magic sorceress.  I’m so exhausted from the past 7 weeks plus the sewage back up that my 45 year old body can barely manage.  The magical cleaning wizard asks if I want her to start in the downstairs.  I nod.. sure.  15 minutes later I walk downstairs and she has transformed the house of horrors into a beautiful home full of rainbows and glitter happiness.  Meanwhile, Unicus, the Junk Master General, shows up and hauls away every bit of junk from the entire house.  He makes all of the bad disappear. #Unicus The buyers are on their way for the walk through.  We finish with 23 minutes to spare.  They could probably see us driving away.

house 22

Now that things are “calm” I call an electrician. Remember that silly cable that the prior homeowner insisted didn’t need to be replaced? It wasn’t just susceptible to leaking into the circuit box, it has been leaking for a while.  So this Saturday I get to pay to have the entire thing replaced.  Isn’t that exciting? Who doesn’t love an unexpected 2K expense for something you thought you already had (working electricity)?  Side note: I knew this in advance but I also need to replace the furnace.. yea!  Do people still offer money for blood plasma donations?

Did anything go right?  Well, we love the house.  The fence guy showed up on time today to install a fence so that my dogs can run free, unsupervised, for the first time in their entire lives.  My teenager has her own hang-out area for her and her friends in the finished basement. I have a garage.  I don’t have a sidewalk to maintain. I can hear birds outside.  People here smile and say hello. My kids can walk to DQ from the new house. Did I mention the sunken living room?  I have a front porch and neighbors who wave to me.  I have a kitchen with enough counter space to prepare food on without using the stovetop.  My backyard has plants and flowers I’ve never even seen before.  There is a breeze in my back yard 24/7.  The people who bought my old house are over the moon happy to be there. I have EIGHT parking spaces, 2 in a garage.  At my old house I didn’t even have enough room to invite more than one person over at a time… and even with one person one of us would have to move our cars to a side street.  My family is HAPPY.  The redneck police did not show up, they are letting me have this one.  Stay tuned.

E X H A L E

house 17

Gigi dancing in the sunken living room the day we moved in. 

  • house 3

How to handle a flume ride.

 

 

 

Jesus Walks – Top 12 Marie Christine Game Changers

We are all many things.  I’m a strategist, a wife, an ex-wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a homeowner, a professor, a diplomat, a mentor, a humanitarian, a drummer, a blogger, a friend and a pessimist.  My list goes on, as does yours.  I’m having an extremely busy quarter.  Whenever I use the word “quarter” my friend Andrea makes fun of me.   Apparently it’s not a term normally used by the general population to describe time.  Alas, I’m having a busy quarter.

I sold my house!  I also bought a house.  Wow!  Blog posts to follow about city vs. non-city, moving, and the differences between my husband and I when it comes to how we approach(ed) the entire process.  I’m also leaving for a business trip to San Diego in two days (Poor me! I “have to” go to San Diego.  Feel sorry for me.).  I close on the houses in less than 4 weeks.  Not only am I going to San Diego, but I have my day job (strategy), my night job (teaching economics etc), 2 charity events, the Worcester Economic Club annual meeting and I’m taking Not-Tom-Brady to see Dead & Company at Fenway Park in Boston for his birthday.  I’m sure I’m missing something, but there’s a lot going on.

Every single day there is someone at my house.  The handyman fixing my windows.  The electrician covering up exposed wires.  My realtor collecting ANOTHER check (Hey Dave!) The myriads of people buying all of the furniture we’re selling on Craigslist.  Side note: If you have a busted snowblower, it doesn’t matter how bad of shape it’s in…. put it on Craigslist.  We had 48 emails in the first hour!

Looking for a home is awesome, and not awesome, at the same time.

What do I do to get me through busy and/or tough times?  Clarification: These are not tough times, these are awesome times… but still busy and a little overwhelming.  I look to music.  I’m here to share the songs that have meant the most to me in my life, and why.  I hope to hear what you think about these songs, and even better, if you can tell me what songs are meaningful to YOU and why. Side note: there are 27 songs that I struggled with NOT putting on this list. It’s very hard to get down to 10ish… so know that there are an additional 27 deserving songs such as “Hear My Train A Comin’: Jimi Hendrix” that I refuse to live without.  But I don’t think the general blog reading audience is up for a selfish extended blog of 39 songs… I digress…

Disclaimer: I’ve had a bit to drink.  Disclaimer to the disclaimer: I’ve had more than a bit to drink.  …. Note to self for future blog title: “Don’t drink and blog”. Damn you Jager and also bless you at the same time.   Forgive any typos, I blame the Jager. There is also a Jager related future blog post… you will enjoy the context but it’s difficult to explain in one sentence so enjoy the suspense lol.

Songs that have impacted my life the most… in reverse order.  Heads up… these aren’t the song’s you’d expect, I’m just being as honest as I can be:

12. The Chain: Fleetwood Mac.   I simply love this song.  It’s not only technically on point, but it gives me a sense of calm and meaning.  If you haven’t heard this song, you need to listen to it immediately. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t love this song.  I’ve seen it performed live once.  It was awesome. My family is always very talkative on car rides.  I notice that we are all silent during this song.  That speaks volumes.

11. Daughter: Pearl Jam.  This song has multiple interpretations.  I recently asked my daughter to teach me to play this on acoustic guitar while she sings it.  Stay tuned for the youTube debut. #LABRocks

10. Beat It: Michael Jackson.  This was one of the first songs that made me feel optimistic and made me want to dance.  It’s also brilliantly written and musically just about perfect. In 2015 we saw a famous Michael Jackson impersonator perform this in Woonsocket, RI… and even the impersonator nailed it.  The song is THAT good.

9. Wanted Dead or Alive: Bon Jovi.  When this music video came out, it was the first glimpse into the life of a musician that may be less than glamorous.  The song is well written, has great hooks and is all around great.  I love playing it on drums.  It’s one of the few songs I can listen to over and over after years of hearing it.  This song was ahead of it’s time and still holds up today. I sometimes wonder if non-musicians love this song as much as musicians do… ?

8. Head Over Heels: The Go-Go’s.  The Go-Go’s changed my life.  As I was trying to figure out how I fit in to the world, Belinda Carlisle helped me get there.  This is one of their lesser known songs, but it’s the one I remember listening to over and over and saying ok… I can see myself in this person.  I have someone to relate to.  Thank you Belinda Carlisle!  She wasn’t all punk, she wasn’t all pop, she wasn’t any category she was all categories, and still is.  I aspired to be like that. I still want Belinda to be my best friend.

Belinda ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

7. Fight For Your Right To Party: The Beastie Boys.  You should know, the Beastie Boys are my favorite band of all time.  They don’t have my top slot in the countdown, but if asked to name my overall favorite band… it’s hands down these guys.  They changed the way I felt about music and felt about life.  They broke barriers. They still break barriers.  I would sit with a friend and memorize the words to Paul Revere and life was good. I couldn’t possibly name all of the songs I love by them, but this was the very first. Plus let’s be serious, before this I had no idea that I had the RIGHT to party 😉

6. Dream On: Aerosmith.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Aerosmith.  Too many to count.  This is partially due to the fact they they are from my home state.  I even settled 2 insurance claims for them in the 1990’s when I was a claims adjuster.  I originally wrote the details in this blog because Jager temporarily made me forget that was inappropriate.  Luckily I remembered before I hit “Publish”.  Let’s say we have a long history. My band did a cover of their cover of “Walking The Dog”.  That said, Dream On has always been an important song to me.  I’m in the process of convincing my daughter to perform this one with me because it’s such an emotional song and has so much meaning to me.  Whenever I hear this song, I feel like a 19 year old drummer at UMASS in a state of Zen once again.  Does it get any better than that?

5. I Know You Won’t: Carrie Underwood.  Best vocals of any song I’ve ever heard.  Also a great emotional message.  Lauren will learn this song when she’s ready.  I’ve heard this performed live twice, and have been speechless every time.  Not only are the vocals better than anything I’ve ever heard… even without production/mixing/blending… but the emotion and meaning is real.  When someone doesn’t keep their promises but you keep hoping they will, this is the song for you. Carrie Underwood can’t dance for $hit but I’ll tell you what, that woman can SING. She doesn’t need studio tricks… this song is the real thing.   Songs I couldn’t include in a short top 10ish list: Someday When I Stop Loving You, The Night Before Life Goes On & Wasted.

4. Ali In The Jungle: The Hours.  I learned about this song last year.  I asked, on social media, for inspiration.  Someone who knows me better than most suggested this song.  The music video is just as good as the song.  A senior leader at my day job recently asked me what I felt my best quality was.  I responded by saying “overcoming adversity”.  I believe that to be true.  When self-doubt creeps in I listen to this song and it tells the self doubt to F-Off and go back to where it came from. If you’ve overcome adversity and struggle with intermittent bouts of self-doubt, this song is a necessity. In my 40’s this song has been a critical reminder that I CAN and I WILL.  Thank you song writers and producers.

3. Ride The Lightening: Metallica.  When I was a Sophomore in high school I experienced a lapse.  I have always been extremely driven.  Focused.  Achieving.  Surviving.  Cutting through red tape with a machete.  In 1985 I experienced a lapse.  I gave up.  I decided the fight wasn’t worth it and almost gave into the dark side.  I started smoking cigarettes.  I stopped caring about my schooling.  I focused on survival but nothing else.  I determined there was no point.  A fellow student gave me a Metallica tape.  One day while mowing the lawn at my house I put the tape in and heard Ride the Lightening.  I have no explanation why, but this was a turning point for me.  It energized me and put me back on track.  I felt a kinship with the meaning of the song. I realized I wasn’t the only person going through something.  I realized I had the power to control my outcomes.  I could ride the lightening.  Thank you Metallica for this turning point. I regained control of my future because of a cassette tape and a lawn mower.

2. When Doves Cry: Prince.  This is one of my favorite songs of all time.  I loved this song at the same time that I loved Metallica.  I wasn’t a metal head. I wasn’t a pop culture buff.  I wasn’t into anything, I was just me and I loved parts of most things.  This song is almost perfect.  I regret that I never heard Prince perform it.  This is my go-to song when I need to forget about something.  I get in my car, I put this song on, and I sing every… single.. word.  I LOVE THIS SONG. Prince had a way of helping you to let go and become a part of the music.  You dance in your car, sitting down, and you don’t care who sees you. We will never hear a song like this again.  People in the next lane over in traffic stare at you like you’re crazy.  Instead of worrying about what they think, you feel sorry for them because they can’t experience the same sense of freedom.  I’m thankful it exists.

  1. Jesus Walks: Kanye West.  If there’s one thing in the world that I CANNOT STAND, it’s Kanye West.  I think he’s one of the biggest narcissistic assholes of our time.  He’s overconfident and often unintelligent.  He puts down others to make himself feel powerful. That’s my least favorite type of person.  That said, he has produced the song that has had the most impact on my life.  I listen to this song several times a week.  This song is my anthem.  This song is my reset. This song is for anyone that has come close to going to the dark side and come back.  This song is for those who have gone to the dark side and come back.  This song is for those who are still on the dark side and still have the opportunity to come back.  This song is brilliantly produced.  It’s motivational and meaningful.  I have listened to this song weekly since it came out over a decade ago.  This song keeps me on track.  This song reminds me to stay the course.  This song has had more of an impact on my life than any other song every has.  My only regret is that it wasn’t released earlier in my life when it would have helped me sooner.  This is the message we need in the struggle.  We are all equal.  We can all rise above evil and do what’s right, even without the resources or means to do so.  Even if we have already gone down the wrong path, there is always still time for course correction. YES WE CAN. We can always come back no matter how far off track we have gone.  #JesusWalks.

 

 

Test Drive Playlist: My Nearly-Victimless Con

Disclaimer: I do not advocate the disrespectful behavior I’m about to describe or the hobby I’m about to elaborate on. It’s not nice… not nice at all. Driving speeds are deliberately omitted from this blog post.

I’ve always loved driving. Every car I’ve ever purchased has had a manual transmission. I learned to drive on a manual transmission truck and have loved them ever since. Every decade that passes it gets harder and harder to find manual transmission vehicles without a special order. With driverless cars on the horizon my relationship with this driving style may be coming to an end.

In the early 1990’s I lived in Jacksonville, NC. I was hired at a law firm as a receptionist, but was quickly moved to a back room position as an insurance claim paralegal because I wasn’t “Southern enough”. I didn’t want to spend the first 2-3 minutes of every call discussing the weather or the blooming flowers. I was the receptionist. Wasn’t it simply my job to receive a call and transfer it to the proper party? Not in the Southern United States it wasn’t. I was too “abrupt” apparently.

Who they thought they hired

Who they actually hired…

One day, one of the partners asked me to take his car to the carwash for him. I wasn’t opposed to menial tasks, and let’s face it getting time out of the office was a bonus. He handed me the keys and I walked out to his spot. Back then it was common for offices to have labeled parking spaces as a sign of prestige, so it was easy for me to identify his car. It was a beautiful new Jaguar. It took me about 2 hours to get his car washed because “the line was busy”. I had never been in such a luxurious vehicle before. I basically melted into the seats. As a reference, I was driving a Dodge Shadow at the time, and proud of it, as my first new car. I had driven plenty of muscle cars in the past (Chevelle…. Favorite car to drive HANDS DOWN). I had never driven a luxury car. How could I NOT take it out on the empty highways of Jacksonville. Everything was awesome, except the music. He had no tape in the car and the radio was nothing but talk shows where churches asked listeners for money or people complained about the heat and general state of the economy.

What his car looked like

What my car looked like

After this experience, I decided that I was going to need to find a way to drive cars outside of my wheelhouse. Hence, a new hobby was born: the test drive hustle… and I’m not talking about a dance, I’m talking about a victimless con. Note my use of the word “victimless” as if any hustle or con could truly be victimless. Let’s say on a scale of 1 – 10 I perceived the negative impact to be a 1… we’ll call it “nearly victimless”.

When I get anxiety or stress, driving helps alleviate it. Driving fast helps even more. Driving fast in a car I’ve never driven is even better. Driving fast in a car I’ve never driven, in an area I’ve never driven in is the best.

I have my flaws, just like everyone does, but one of my better qualities is my credit score. Very sexy, no? I pay my bills ahead of time. When I can’t pay them, I find a way. I’ll rob Peter to pay Paul. I’ll work a second job, or third job. I’ll negotiate with the people billing me. I have never paid a bill late, and I never will. My thought process is that if I have a high credit score, I will always be ok. I set it as my top priority, and everything else falls into its own place beneath it.

One of the cool things about having perfect credit is that anyone will give you a loan, a credit card, anything you want… without collateral and without high interest. The mortgage broker says “I’ll let you know how much the bank approves” and you’re thinking “Whatever I want so…. We’re good”. What does my credit score have to do with my desire to drive fast cars that I’ve never driven? Everything.

Santa Land: Low Credit Score and Good Credit Score.

After my Jaguar experience I became a bit depressed (not in a clinical way, in more of a moping, bitching and complaining way) because I loved the experience so much but didn’t have the means to do it again. *Shrugs shoulders* oh well. Then, one day when driving from North Carolina to Massachusetts, I stopped at a diner to eat. As I was going back to the highway, I saw an Audi dealership. Thoughts of the Jaguar came back into my mind. “I wonder what their highest end Audi is like?”. I pulled in, got out and started looking at the cars. Then came the magical words that would jump start my new hobby “Care to take it for a test drive?”. Well…. Yes actually, yes I do.

They ran my credit… perfect… excited look in car salesman’s eyes. “Let’s go!”. I got into the blue, 1994 Audi A4. “Can we go on the highway?” “Sure, just watch your speed”. “Ok” (Not happening). We got on the highway and made some small talk. I accelerated slowly but steadily hoping he wouldn’t notice how fast we were going… until suddenly he did. He pleaded with me calmly to slow the vehicle down, I responded with short, confident phrases like “It’s ok”. “It’s fine”. “Don’t worry this is no problem”. We eventually drove back to the dealership. I wasn’t sure if he would scold me, or get a manager, etc. The car wasn’t damaged at all. There was no “problem” really. I sensed that, more than anything else, he was embarrassed that he hadn’t been able to control the situation. I told him I’d think about purchasing the car, took his business card, winked, and left… in my 1994 Dodge Shadow (my car should have been a bit of a red flag, no?).

You said it’s fine, but it doesn’t seem fine.

Over the course of the following decades I’ve probably test driven anywhere from 2-4 cars a year that I had no intention of buying. Having people check your credit DOES impact your credit a little, so I figured no more than 4x a year would be a nice boundary. (See, I DO have boundaries after all!) I picture someone at Experian looking at my credit report and thinking… what in the hell does this pattern even mean? Is this the most indecisive car buyer in the entire world? Ha!

Another thing I began to realize is that the radio stations in new cars on the lots are usually programmed to benign talk show stations or easy listening music stations… both of which have their purposes, but clearly don’t meet my particular test drive needs. In the late 1990’s I made a CD titled “Test Drive CD” that had some of my favorite songs to drive fast too. Once in the car with my chaperone, I would wait until we were at a stoplight far enough away from the dealership that turning back for mildly strange behavior was unlikely… and I’d casually say “mind if I pop in a CD?” The answer was always a go. Like any good con, the CD would start with something from Sade or Seal that was very calming. As we’d enter the highway (always against the original plan, they do NOT want you on the highway) my go to line is “Let’s see what this thing can do”. I think the salesman’s reaction to this statement often more fun than driving fast itself. It’s usually a chuckle or assumption that I’m kidding… then the realization that I’m actually getting ON the highway so perhaps I’m not kidding… and if I’m not kidding am I just going to abuse the car or am I going to kidnap them? I’d advance the CD to the next song (proper fast driving music) and proceed to drive at a very unreasonable speed. I would always approach the youngest salesperson and always a young man. I found them the least likely to rat me out, whether due to embarrassment, or wanting to keep their jobs, or wanting to seem cool and go-with-the-flow.

Of course, this doesn’t break any laws. They clearly have my information and have run a credit check. No harm no foul, right?

My Most Recent Test Drive Playlist:

The Prodigy: Smack My Bitch Up (Offensive title but great fast driving song)

Van Halen: Hot for Teacher (Do remember I am a drummer so…)

Motley Crue: Live Wire

Metallica: Shortest Straw

I generally only needed 4 songs because you’ll come close to the kidnapping/car theft perception it of you much longer than that.

Enter the iPod. The era of the iPod opened up an opportunity for me to create a Test Drive Playlist. How delightful!!!! This led to my favorite moment thus far in my unusual part-time hobby. Believe it or not, after years of driving luxury cars, muscle cars, everything under the sun… my all-time favorite has been a Camaro. In 2010 I had a field job that caused me to travel by car around New England almost daily. The 2010 Chevy Camaro was fricking AMAZING. It was beautiful. It was fast. It was a cross between a 1970’s muscle car and a luxury vehicle.

My Precious…

My first obstacle with this test drive is that no salesmen at this particular dealership were under 35 years old. I did the best I could and “Pat”, who appeared to be in his mid-50’s, helped me along. Thanks to my iPod technology, I just clicked on “easy listening playlist”, which Pat reluctantly allowed even though he tells me asking to play music is “unusual”. Oh thanks Pat that’s so sweet! Thank you Carly Simon for getting us to the highway ramp unnoticed.

“Pat, let’s see what this thing can do!” Wink. Pat, Ahhhh let’s take a right here, no right lane… right lane. Wait we…. Ok ok, let’s get off at the next exit. I reach down for the iPod. Pat’s eyes follow my hand. I click on “Test Drive Playlist”. Pat looks at the iPod, sees my playlist selection and says “What the FUC# is a test drive playlist” in a mean dad voice. Clearly he’s not the newbie 23 year old salesman, he knows exactly what test drive playlist means. It means that I test drive cars so often that I need a pre-planned playlist. It means that I didn’t accidentally get on the highway. It means he has no idea what’s going to happen next. Luckily for Pat, it’s just me driving fast, pretending I can’t hear him, and returning to the dealership with an undamaged vehicle. Pat, unlike the skittish young salesman of the past, opens my door and tells me to “Get the Fuc# off his lot”. I say thank you, bow politely, and leave. This was the first time a salesman knew what was coming, before it arrived… thanks to the tattle tale iPod screen.

That was actually the last time I test drove a car I wasn’t planning on buying. I’m honestly not sure why? Maybe I got it out of my system? I do still enjoy driving, and won’t rule out an unnecessary test drive in the future before driving becomes obsolete.

Now my question for my readers is:

 

Christmas in Hollis – Tales of an Italian Superhero

I’m not sure if my grandmother was born on a Sunday, but I know that was her name. Her name was Domenica, which translates to “Sunday” in Italian. Her friends knew her as “Maggie” or “Madge”. I never even thought to ask why. I knew her as “Gram”.

If you ask most people how they remember Maggie, the response is often negative. You’ll hear stories about her being irrational and demanding. You’ll hear about the time my father returned home from the Vietnam War and many of his possessions were missing/sold/gone. You’ll hear about her blind hatred for her step-mother and her apparent inability to relate to her own daughter. You’ll hear about an ungrateful woman full of bitterness and impatience. That is not my story… and most people know better than to argue with me on this subject.

hollis argue italian girls

I’m a worrier. I was born serious. I was a serious child. I’m a serious adult. I’ll be a serious elderly person. The world, if it remembers me, will remember me as… Serious. Maggie was also serious, precise and deliberate. I’ll save the details of the serious child-Marie discussion for a separate blog. Or, let’s face it, a series of blogs. Back to Gram…

Gram listened to me. In a world where people don’t often pay attention to unaffectionate children, she paid attention to me. She made it her mission to embrace my nature and to point me toward a life of self-sufficiency. For those who know me, mission totally accomplished. Probably to an extreme. I tend to be a bit… productive.

hollis productive woman

hollis productive cartoon

Gram would often take us to interesting, out of the way places. She took us to fish hatcheries to learn about fish farming and to learn about forestry. She also took us to “the brook”. I have no idea where this brook is. It’s in Berkshire County, MA, USA somewhere. It was a typical New England Brook. Rocky shore. Clear running water. Minnows. Trees. We ate egg salad sandwiches on the rocks and waded around in the brook.

If there were ever other people around, it was usually another family or a couple of teenagers drinking Genesee Cream Ale listening to the radio. This time, there were two men in their 30’s. No swimming gear. No fishing poles. No picnic baskets. They were staring at me as if they were waiting for something to happen. Gram came over to us and said, “Girls, everything is ok. We might have to leave. If I say something, you obey.” She had never used the word “Obey” before. I noticed she was side eye-ing Beauregard and Jimmy-John (Pretty sure these were totally their names). Something wasn’t right.

About 2 minutes later Gram (who was calm, beautiful and, of course, serious) started walking sideways toward us. She was walking calmly in a way that she could see us, and our unwelcome guests, at the same time. Calmly and deliberately, she stepped into the brook. She picked up Sissy in one arm and me in the other. B and JJ sprang into action.

They were probably 100ft away and started running toward us. “Girls, stay calm and do as I say”.

With two lanky primary school children in her arms, Gram ran at what felt like a gazelle’s pace. At first B and JJ were so close that I could smell them. I could see their calloused hands reaching forward as if they were trying to propel themselves faster. I looked down and saw Gram’s legs outstretched and strong. Huge strides on an uneven terrain of oddly sized rocks. Wet and dry land. Tree limbs and rusty pieces of metal. In her bare feet. “Don’t look back”. I didn’t. She didn’t. Sissy didn’t. I failed to mention that in order to get to the brook you had to walk down a very steep hill with a winding dirt path. So steep that it was hard not to fall forward on your way down, and hard to catch your breath on the way up. No time for the path now. No time to catch your breath now. Like an Italian Superhero she flew up the rocky slope. I could hear rocks falling down the hill behind us.

Hollis Italian Superwoman

We finally reached the road. “Almost there”. I see the blue Dodge Horizon in the distance. Tilted at a right angle half on the paved road and half on the dirt path. I hear her shoes fall from her fingers and hit the ground. I hear panting and footsteps of B & JJ but can’t tell how close they are. I obey and don’t look back. “I’m dropping you now. RUN”. We fall to the ground and run. These were the days of unalarmed, unlocked cars. Her right arm reaches out and grabs sissy by the back of the shirt, shoving her through the open driver side window. I open my door, jump in and curl into a ball. Driver door slammed. Key into the ignition and the car starts. Tires burn out leaving skid marks from the driver’s side tire. The acceleration slams my door shut. I sit up and look out the back window and see B & JJ bending down, hands on knees, exhausted.

Hollis Dodge Horizon

Gram, serious and calm. Her hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that her knuckles looked like they would pop out of her skin. Her right leg pressing so hard on the gas pedal trying to make the piece of shit engine go faster. “It’s over girls.” Wet bathing suits. No shoes. Calm Gram. Life continues as usual.

I was confused, but not shaken. I wasn’t shaken because she wasn’t shaken. She behaved how I now behave. Behavior that is often mistaken for unemotional or cold. In reality, it’s just serious. We went to the Friendly’s take-out window for ice cream. None of us wearing shoes. Life went on.

hollis italians forgive

Gram in a nutshell:

She took me to see every breakdancing movie that came out. Ever. She was obsessed with gang wars being resolved by dance battles. This knowledge hasn’t come in handy in real life…. Yet… (I’ve got my cardboard slab ready to throw down)

Hollis breakdancing

She felt it was important that I could find my way around by myself. She would tell me our destination and I would have to tell her how to get there. I now have a keen sense of direction and no fear of getting lost.

She knew that I didn’t enjoy life. She knew I was capable but that I just had no desire to enjoy it. I felt it was unproductive. One of the ways she countered this tendency was to bribe me to enjoy myself. I would be allowed to stay up late, or to try on her clothes, or watch soap operas if I would enjoy myself for 30 minutes. She chose to do this by taping songs from the radio and playing them back on a small, portable tape player. She played the music loud. Very loud. No breaks. I had to dance the entire time. Not move my feet around. Not move my hands around. DANCE. I had to dance my ass off for 30 minutes. It was an order. It was also amazing.

I really dislike sports. I refused free Red Sox Tickets so many times when I worked in Boston that my boss asked me if I was crazy. I explained to him that sitting through a sporting event for me was akin to him having a crying baby held in front of his face, and asked if he wanted free tickets to that. No… no he didn’t. Gram was one of the most dedicated NY Yankees fans I’ve ever seen. She took me on a tour bus to the Bronx to see a game once. This was her happy place.

My grandfather was a stone mason by trade by a guitar player by heart. Gram played saxophone. In their basement was an oil tank covered in signatures from people having partied with them over the years. I loved that oil tank and wonder if the current residents have painted over the signatures.

Natale / Ned / Grampa (Added bonus, Natale means Christmas in Italian)

She complained about housework constantly. Her house was spotless. You could eat off the bathroom floor. Her complaints to me weren’t just annoyance or regrets over life choices, they were direction. Don’t be like me. Be something more. Do not do housework. Ask my husband, I don’t do housework. I should, but I don’t. Blame Gram????

Gram loved Bruce Springsteen. She would lecture me on his music with detailed explanations about why he was the best musician, and best human being, on the planet. “The Boss” really understood life, apparently. She was very interested in pop culture and fashion. I knew all about which dresses Nixon’s daughters were wearing and how Nancy Reagan was a fashion nightmare even though she meant well. Poor thing.

She taught me that health is our most important asset. She hiked every day. She also loved to eat (and loved forcing others to eat… a lot… and then eat again). She taught me about balance. Ok Marie you can eat a Jim Dandy for dinner but then the next day you’ll want to just have a salad. Don’t deprive yourself or life isn’t worth living.

Hollis Jim Dandy

For those not from New England, USA.  THIS is a Jim Dandy.  Hellll yea.

Hollis nonna food

She taught me which plants you can eat and which plants could heal you. She taught me how to survive in the woods to the extent that I always felt being stranded in the woods was something inevitable… I’m still basically waiting for it to happen.

Gram learned as much as she could about rap music. She loved Run DMC. She bought me the Christmas in Hollis 45 record. We played it constantly. To me this was all very normal. In hindsight I re-think the scene. Me in my black, leather jacket, red nails and Metallica T-Shirt. Eating piles of pasta with poppy seed rolls. My grandmother in her Madonna-esque, but very appropriate, black outfit and thick silver, short, modern hair. Listening to Christmas in Hollis over, and over and over and over. When RUN DMC and Aerosmith later decided to collaborate, this was basically a national holiday for us. All very normal…

Hollis Album Cover

hollis aerosmith

Yassssssss

She must have told me a THOUSAND times to “Work in Computers”. “Computers are the future”. “You’ll never make it if you don’t know computers”. Yup, she nailed it. In 1981, she knew.

She was a fierce democrat. This isn’t uncommon for Italian immigrants, especially during this time. I would post the photo of us at a Mondale/Ferraro rally but my sister would stop speaking to me. Let’s just say we didn’t look our best that day (or that decade if I’m being honest).

Waste NOTHING. I swear this woman’s garbage on the curb was the size of my fist. She would find a use for everything, and if someone was wasteful I had to assume they were basically going to hell. Quickly. And we would be judging them as the descended.

hollis italian tupperware

She drove fast. She told it like it is. She did not GAF. She really didn’t. Except when she did. And when she did GAF it was about me. So she gets her own blog post, and she gets me punching anyone in the face who tries to tell me she wasn’t amazing. My often irrational, demanding, ungrateful, bitter and extremely loyal Italian Superhero.

Gram / Domenica / Maggie

 

Acoustic or Electric? “The Voice” Auditions.

You should know that once a year-ish I’ll be doing a shameless plug for my 14 year old daughter.  This is no ordinary “my kid is awesome!” post… She is, but this is different. Keep in mind when you watch these videos… She’s FOURTEEN.  We need help deciding which “voice” she goes with for her audition for “The Voice”.

Here are two of her most recent performances, one is VERY electric, a cover of “Zombie” by The Cranberries at a live show (the end is my favorite part).  The other is VERY unplugged and recorded last night in our dining room, a cover of “A Team” with acoustic guitar.  She taught herself to play guitar over the last 3 months.

Auditions for the voice within the next 12 months.

Trying to decide which “voice” to go with for auditions… her acoustic voice or her electric voice…  Which do you prefer?  The first is a link to the Zombie performance because I can’t seem to figure out how to get WordPress to let me embed both.  The acoustic is embedded.  #ISuck

They review her YouTube channel as well, so please subscribe to help her chances!  ❤

Link to LAB Rocks Zombie Electric Cover that her Mother Can’t Figure Out How to Embed Because She’s Incredibly Old and Incompetent

 

The Redneck Police

Let me start off by saying that I have a self-imposed blog rule.  I do not talk about my parents, or childhood, except in passing… on this blog. I don’t say anything good about it that would make my mother (who is reading this right now) feel awkward, and I don’t say anything bad about it that would make her feel regretful or sad.  It’s very unlikely that my father is reading this, but the same rules apply.   

Now let’s begin the story of the ever looming Redneck Police.

When I graduated from college, I moved to Norfolk, VA. I had been to Virginia Beach to visit a boyfriend who was in the Navy at one point, and thought hey… why not?  They have a beach, it’s nowhere near my hometown, and it’s not so far South that I won’t fit in… so I grabbed a college friend, and we went.

I got a job as an underpaid financial products sales-rep during the day, but worked at Morrison’s Cafeteria at night.  Sadly, Morrison’s Cafeteria paid more.  I had waitressed at Friendly’s Restaurant during college.  This was different.  In a cafeteria style setting the customers would get their food, and essentially I would refill their drinks and bring them extra napkins.  There was no assumption that I would receive a tip, so I was forced to get creative and make them feel as though I had earned one.  I’m a hustler, I did well there, but it was not fun.  It was, often times, humiliating.

imposter waitress

One evening, a very Southern man and his family came in for dinner.  I engaged them in conversation and refilled their drinks and napkins quickly, essentially securing at least SOME tip, even if it was just a dollar.  The father asked me if I had considered college, and I replied that I had recently graduated.  I turned and saw a teenager across the room drop her entire tray of half eaten food on the floor, and walk out.  As was required, I went over and started to clean it up.  Beef stew does NOT come out of a carpet easily, Plus, who puts a carpet in a cafeteria?

I felt a tap on my shoulder, looked up and saw the Southern man from earlier.  I stood and asked him what he needed.  He put his hands on my shoulders, paused and stared at me for a moment.  I said, “Are you ok? What can I do for you?”  He said something I will never forget.  He said “Marie.  You don’t belong here.  You need to stop cleaning up after rude customers and start the rest of your life.  Quit this place.  Quit and never look back”.  I looked over his shoulder and saw his wife, nodding in agreement.  He squeezed my shoulders, and walked out of the restaurant.  I still remember exactly what he looked like and what he was wearing that evening.  He also looked and sounded like Morgan Freeman, and somehow that makes the advice much more powerful for real. That is the day I decided to elude the Redneck Police and take control of my professional life.  2 weeks later I moved to North Carolina and got a job as a paralegal.  I’m skipping a short stint at a sewing factory when I first arrived… but trust me, you want that to be its own blog story.

Imposter Over it

Fast forward to the next 20 years of my adult life. In 1997 I started working as a claims adjuster at a Fortune 500 Insurance Company in Warwick, Rhode Island.  Fast forward a few years later and I was managing a team of complex claim adjusters at a Regional Insurance Carrier in Central, Massachusetts.  Fast forward to me running all Claim Management at one of the world’s largest retail companies.  Today I’m an adjunct Economics Professor at a Private College and a Strategy Director at a large insurance carrier.

I hope to be adding to this progression in a couple of years: Assistant Vice President of XYZ.  I feel confident that this is on the horizon.  Yet, I’m still an imposter.

Imposter Syndrome is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.   What does this mean?  How does it apply to me? How might it apply to you?

Impostor Cartoon

There is even a debate on the spelling of “Imposter” vs. “Impostor”.  Both are correct.  “Impostor” is more widely accepted, so I chose to use the underdog.  The imposter of the imposter choices, if you will.

Imposter syndrome is especially prevalent in woman, and even more prevalent when crossing over social classes.  My bosses and colleagues over the years have expressed nothing but confidence and appreciation for my work ethic, work product and friendship.  I have no evidence that I’ve ever disappointed any of them in any professional way.  I would also argue that I’m one of the most confident people you’ll ever meet. Yet I still, at times, feel like an imposter.  Why?

I’m currently surrounded by co-workers who were seemingly born and bred for success.  Their stories are almost identical to each other’s, even though their personalities are very different.  They don’t appear to even realize how similar their backgrounds are.  You’ll often hear them talking about having struggled as children with parents who were perhaps middle or upper-middle class.

I nod in acknowledgement as they re-tell the horrors of only vacationing locally or having a job during high school. They usually have very deliberate, and readily available, examples of not having everything handed to them, even though it essentially was.  It doesn’t mean they aren’t hard workers or good people, but there’s a lack of perspective on the reality of the experience of being in another social class.  Just as other social classes lack the perspective on having resources or proper guidance and what that might be like.  Overall I would say that the middle class and rich can never really understand how the struggle feels and evolves for the working class. The working class can never really understand that the middle class and rich have struggles as well, just different ones.

I avoid talking about myself in most work situations, with the exception of a very select few (who are probably reading this right now). Even then I try to keep it to a minimum whenever possible.  It is what it is… “normal” means something different to everyone,  as does “struggle”.

Impostor Maya Angelou

The vast majority of my friends from childhood did not go to college. I, personally, always assumed that I would go, and I did.  I got a B.A. in Sociology and went on to get an MBA.  I don’t see my high school friends very often, but when I do I try to downplay my job and my education to the point where it’s probably ridiculously obvious that I’m doing so.  I truly care about them and want them to know I’m the same person.  But, it is what it is.  I’ve never believed that you need college to be smart, or successful.  But I always knew that I would go to college, to give myself as many options as possible.

My first day at a real corporation was on January 17th, 1997. I felt very proud wearing my professional dress and heels, walking into the building.  I met my training class and immediately realized I was not with “my” people.  People talked about graduating from Brown University or Salve Regina and their family vacation homes in Newport. They asked questions about being taken off their parents’ health insurance (health insurance?!!!! I get health insurance?!!!!) while I asked questions about how health insurance works.  They lived in condos in the city, and in Westerly near the beach.  I lived in a basement apartment in Pawtucket, in the parking lot of a working factory building, with 2 roommates and a dog that we hid from the landlord.        

I participated but was, for some reason, assuming there would be more people like me there.  There weren’t.  At UMASS there were all kinds of people.  Rich kids who couldn’t get into better colleges, poor kids on scholarships, people from other countries…  A lot of us working toward the same goal, a degree.  Not here.  This was a group of people born with resources.  People born with the assumption of a white collar future, and health insurance! I made friends and did well.  3 friends I made there (Lisa, Stacey & Cyndi) I still speak to today and cherish their friendships and opinions.  One of the 3 is a black woman, which was as close as I could find in the group to another person not from the exact mold. Years later the two of us left on the same day to go to another company together.

20-ish years later I’ve come to understand that being an outsider isn’t a bad thing.  I actually believe that it’s an asset.  That said, it’s VERY hard to find like-experienced people once you’ve crossed a line like that.  Walking into the building with my dress and heels back in 1997 I didn’t realize I was passing through an invisible portal separating one life experience from the other. It’s probably even harder crossing in the opposite direction.

imposter portal

It’s best not to try too hard to find our counterpart portal-jumpers.  We tend to gravitate toward each other seemingly driven by some unknown force.  Once the realization hits that you have this common life experience it does reduce the amount of times a day you question your decision to cross the line.  You create a sort-of secret society of people who have infiltrated the system.  It’s one of the strongest bonds I’ve seen in a professional setting.

Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not one to pretend I’m someone I’m not.  I’m not a new person.  I’m just me.  I’m the same person I was in 1985 in high school as I am in 2017.  I’m the person who drinks cheap beer and smokes generic cigarettes in a 2 bedroom apartment with 9 residents AND am also the person who eats lobster and drinks bloody marys in downtown Boston. I’m both of those people, but also an imposter in both of those situations.

This is a fairly accurate pre and post-portal depiction, sans black hair.

For the most part, both of those groups of people continue to accept me.  I like to think it’s because they recognize that it’s possible to be both of them at the same time.  I think it’s really the assumption by both groups that I’m strictly theirs. I won’t say it’s easy, because honestly it’s not.  You’re in a constant state of feeling like you’re betraying one group or the other just by simply existing. You belong everywhere and you belong nowhere… and there’s no going back. 

I’ll be at a party and feel like people are staring at me because my earrings are expensive or because I’ve had a manicure… or maybe they “KNOW” that I went to grad school. I’m in a conversation thinking “Please don’t ask me what I do for work.” I’m an imposter there.

The elevators of the tower I work in will open and I’ll begin to step off the elevator in my suit, as my co-worker complains about the contractor for her beach house working too slowly or not meeting her expectations.  I’m an imposter there.  I’ll start to feel faint and look to the left and look to the right.  I’m looking for the Redneck Police.  They will tap me on the shoulder and say the same thing the Morgan Freeman doppelganger said at Morrison’s Cafeteria in the summer of 1994.  “You don’t belong here.” … “It’s been a nice ride lady, glad you enjoyed it, but the jig is up.  No time to pack a box, just leave.  We don’t want your non-beach house having a$$ up in here.”

As of today, the Redneck Police haven’t shown up.  I’ve learned that they are a figment of my imagination, and the imagination of those like me… and that there is a real term for this: “Imposter Syndrome”.  As a middle aged woman I tell the women I mentor and the men and women who will follow in similar footsteps… you are not an Imposter. Be strong. Stick together. You belong everywhere. Infiltrate the system, and take it over.  It’s up to you.  If you can’t trust Morgan Freeman’s doppelganger, who CAN you trust?!