August 20, 2003
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
I had to go in to work today for a special meeting with a corporate bigwig. I was a bit excited about this, because, since until recently I have always worked nights, I have never gotten to meet the VIPs when they visit our site. Now, before you think I am impressed by VIPs, let me set you straight. Actually, it’s exactly the opposite. I want to look them in the eye and be introduced to them and be a real person to them, not just a name and a statistic. I want them to know that I am the one who is making the money for them. This real person is the one dealing with the customers. This real person is the one who will be losing her job because they are sending their business offshore. I don’t care if I meet them. I want them to meet me.
Anyway, I am secretary of our very “proactive” Safety Committee, the designer and webmaster of the committee web page, and author of many of our procedures and forms, some of which have been adopted by corporate. When the head of the corporate safety department planned a visit to our site and wanted to meet with the Safety Committee, you had better believe I wanted to meet her—or, rather, wanted her to meet me!
So, today I dressed carefully, like I really was somebody, and went to my meeting and chitchatted with management like they were old friends. (Well, considering that the only remaining committee members are management, and most of them have been on the committee since Day One, that was pretty easy to accomplish.) I felt good.
Then I met our guest. For the record, she was extremely congenial, and praised our committee and, specifically, my work, to the skies. She commented on how often she had seen my name come up (because I had done so many projects for them). But that wasn’t what struck me most about her.
She looked like me.
Now, you need to understand, this is a psychological thing, having to do with depression and poor self-image, and all kinds of negative stuff. When I look in a mirror—as seldom as possible—I am constantly fighting down self-insults like, “Homely!” and “Loser!” I am plain, but so are a lot of other people, and I honestly don’t think beauty is that big a deal. I am not so young, but I am told I look young for my age, which, these days, is considered a good thing. But, in my warped self-image, when I look in the mirror, I see a tired, disillusioned loser, old before her time. In my mind, my face is the face of failure.
But this woman looked like me. Not just like me, of course, but in general appearance. She was short like me, had a round face like mine, and had long stick-straight brown hair worn lose like I have always preferred to wear mine. She was heavyset, and, while the suit she wore was neat and appropriate, it was designed neither to camouflage or enhance. It was simply a suit, and she wore it with the unselfconsciousness of a businesswoman in an important position who wore a suit every day.
This lady was good at what she did, trusted and respected by the multi-national corporation she worked for. She was happy and friendly and obviously loved her job.
She was unquestionably a success, and, also unquestionably, got to be that way because she loved what she did.
And she looked like me.
And now, when I look in the mirror and think I am looking at a failure, I hope I will also think of this other face, the happy, relaxed, smiling face of a person doing what she what she loved, the face of success.
A face that looks like mine.
And, just maybe, someday, the face of success will be mine.