Biases and stereotypes. We all have them or embody them, in varying degrees. What happens when our first loves or secret desires are incongruous with those stereotypes?
I got to thinking about this after reading an email from one of my employees. She was complaining about her case manager poo-pooing her job ideas for an injured worker. In her note, she decried stereotyping and used her husband as an example. She stated (paraphrased and tweaked for confidentiality reasons), “my husband was a truck driver and after that a prison guard but his preferences? He likes cooking, poodles, growing roses and would rather watch Anne Hathaway and Hugh Grant than Vin Diesel….”
So, what preconceived notions might others have of me based solely on my resume? First, I’m a CPA. I used to work for Arthur Andersen & Co. … in Texas. I have shredded work papers before. No, not THOSE work papers. I left before THE BIG SCANDAL. I worked in mortgage banking. I left before that big brouhaha too. I work in insurance now. I’ve told my colleagues to beware if and when I leave, for I am a bellwether sea-faring rat.
I’ve been told accounting and creative writing seemed oxymoronish, an unlikely pairing of interests and abilities. Maybe it’s more that people just have preconceived notions about who CPAs are and who authors are. I know before I started writing, I used to picture authors as people who wore black turtlenecks, corduroy pants and beat up shoes. They frequently suffered writer’s block and would stare at blank sheets of paper before working forty eight hours straight typing, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”
Some stereotypes are rooted in truths, however. Yes, I am numbers-oriented. I can’t help it. I convert most decisions to dollars and cents in my head. I know what LIFO means and how to compute a weighted average. I also wear glasses and laugh at jokes like, “What’s purple and commutes? A boolean grape.” haha No, I don’t. That was a fake laugh. Even I’m not that lame. How about this one instead? “How can you tell when an accountant is extroverted? He looks at your shoes while he’s talking to you instead of his own.” Now THAT’S funny!
Point is, most of us couldn’t and don’t make a living doing what we love most. If we did, the world would be full of rock stars, taste testers, porn actors, stunt doubles, and CEOs with golden parachutes. Guess which one I’d pick?
Somewhere along the line, reason kicks in and whispers, “Only the best of the best, the incredibly lucky, or the mentally deranged get to do their first love for a living. Now get back to work on that financial model and stop daydreaming.”
There’s a bit of Walter Mitty in all of us. I’m lucky enough to be able to share a glimmer of my Mitty visions with readers. What makes those dreams so precious is they’re unexpected, maybe even forbidden. Dreams are the spice, the rest is the sustenance. You can’t have one without the other and have a life worth living.
So, those rock stars? At least one dreams of having the hand-brain coordination required to operate a ten-key by touch. That’s his spice in a world of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Shh….
What’s your unexpected spice?