Friday, June 08, 2007

Growing up - will I ever get around to it?

Years ago, my mother read a definition of youth as that stage in your life when you take umbrage at perceived injustice whether or not you are the victim. I distinctly remember her declaring that by that definition she was still a youth. I am probably at least as old now as she was then, and I guess that I, too, am a youth by that definition.

That said, I don't know that I agree with the definition, I think youth is more likely to be a time when your self absorption is often a hindrance to noticing injustices to others. Don't get me wrong, there are good reasons why teenagers are self-absorbed and it is a normal and natural phase of growing up.

But when do we get to the end of those "phases"? When can we categorically say that we are grown up? My sister in law considers me very grown up. She says so often and she gets in touch with me when she wants a grown-up opinion on something. She is 9 years older than I am.

When I was 16, I used to say, "I am looking forward to being 30. I reckon at 30, you know who you are, you know what your limitations are, and you are comfortable with them." I was 30 a long time ago, and it is true that I had pretty much made my peace with what I was and what I was not by that time.

What I only recently came to appreciate is that it is one thing being comfortable with your limitations. It is quite another to be comfortable with other people's recognition of them!

Yesterday, I was having a discussion with my line manager about a difficult project that I am working on. I said that I felt that part of the problem was that I am not politically astute. I have mentioned before my tendency to naievete in dealing with people. Also, because of the lack of boundaries in my life, I tend to speak to clients the way I do to everyone else. Some clients really like that - they feel they are dealing with a "real person". Others presumably find it unprofessional - whatever that means - because my boss responded to my remark that there had been "feedback to that effect". And that was when it got weird.

I know that I am not politically astute. I know that I take everything at face value. I know that I am naieve. I know that I have neither the head nor the stomach for corporate politics. That I am not skilled in the art of detachment and the professional facade. That I take it all too personally. It has come up before, usually at my instigation. But when my line manager said those words, my instant reaction was that I was hurt. I wanted to defend myself. To deny the very thing I had just said myself. How daft. I had to remind myself that I had fed him the line - he was simply agreeing with my judgement of my limitations. As my manager, it is part of his job to know my strengths and weaknesses and to support me in both.

So I guess I'm no so grown up after all. Blast!


Harold Jarche said...

Sounds like you're perfectly suited to being a freelancer - you're the genuine article, and that's what clients want (or at least that's what they finally figure out they need after having being burnt by those slick operators).

Anonymous said...

Strangely enough, Harold, I spent 11 years as a freelancer in South Africa. It gave me the freedom to work around my young family.

When we moved to the UK, I didn't have any contacts here, didn't have the reputation I had built up in Cape Town, so I had to get a "proper job". That was 8 years ago, and I still haven't built up the confidence that I understand the British culture and ethos well enough to go it alone...