Modeling the Good, Bad & Ugly

Yesterday, Cindy Kane posted a Reverb Broad prompt and I need to follow suit even though I’m a day late (we had a friend in town for wedding planning, I didn’t open my computer to go anywhere but Pinterest after 5pm on Friday).

The June 3 prompt was: Who are your role models?

Like Cindy, I’m going to mention my anti-role model. I write this paragraph first so I can end this post on a positive note. To protect the innocent, let’s call her Gertrude. She gossiped about colleagues and students almost constantly, preferred to make her staff and student leaders do all the work in program planning and implementation but took the credit, and had little to no interest in learning how the systems worked. One more than one occasion she admitted to being “lazy” and “unwilling” when it came to learning how to do things or to make changes. It always bothered me that students heard and saw this in a professional, and I had to sugar-coat the situation even though I agreed with their complaints. I feel guilty for even saying this, but I have done everything in my power to reverse what she modeled to me because there was so little to be otherwise learned from her.

This is going to be so cliche, but one of my role models is Juliette Gordon Low. As a Girl Scout, I would be remiss in not putting her, and the others who bought Girl Scouts/Guides into existence, on a pedestal. In a time when women could only dream of becoming a homemaker, possibly after a short stint as a teacher or nurse, Daisy taught girls how to camp, play sports, signal, be an artist, etc. We’ve come a long way since 1912, not just as Girl Scouts, but as women. That’s thanks in large part to Daisy, who overcame a hearing disability and her own status at the time to found the largest youth organization devoted specifically to girls and young women in the country.

There is also my former supervisor Michelle. She was always incredibly supportive, but she took no guff from her staff or anyone else for that matter. I can’t count the number of times one of the older faculty members would be giving me hell for not granting them some special exception to the benefit policies. As soon as I offered to transfer them to Michelle, they would tell me it wasn’t that important. If they did go to her with their complaint, she had a knack for not only convincing them that, yes, Jessi WAS in fact telling the truth, but she somehow charmed them into hanging off her every word–turning them into the former category of faculty/staff. She was so well-liked & respected by the Senior Management & Faculty that she was offered the VP of HR position several times during the last search; she turned it down each time because she knew where her heart was–and wasn’t. The whole time she served as Interim VP, she told her direct staff within the Benefits dept that she missed us and her “real job.” She knew that her life would be worse if she took the promotion–she would work even more hours than she already did; she didn’t like being in constant meetings; or be too busy to sit and chat with faculty/staff she’d known for the last 20 years. Her passion was the policy of benefits administration, making sure that the 4 of us who worked directly for her were happy and getting things done, interacting with both the vendors and the faculty/staff  to ensure that we were doing the best we could. Seeing her not take the promotion & speaking to her about it made me realize that it’s okay to not be solely interested in climbing the corporate ladder, that I shouldn’t be ashamed of not wanting to become a VP, Dean or even President. I’m not saying I want to be an entry-level drone forever either–if I wanted that, I’d still be working for Michelle because it was a good job with amazing colleagues. I want more, but I’m focused on my happiness rather than a title or $$.

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