I Have Something to Say
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my dad. Strictly speaking of the positive parts of our relationship – I oscillate between admiration and envy of my dad. Ever since I can remember, my dad has been professionally successful. For most of my adolescence, he was a SVP at Hewlett Packard. The same month I went to college in Chicago, my dad moved to Geneva, Switzerland to manage Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. He’s kind of a big deal.
In some ways, he’s lucky: he’s a white male, born in the United States. Being heterosexual and cisgender, and able-bodied didn’t hurt either. He also entered the tech field in the mid-1980s, a time when the industry was just getting started but had enough momentum to hire a lot of sales people. Once he had his foot in the door, he was a part of an industry that grew exponentially. On top of that, my dad worked very hard. Extremely hard. He travelled every week for almost twenty years. He has a focus and drive that I’ve never recognized in another person I know. He also has a calm demeanor and relatable charisma that makes it easy to work with him.
The way I’ve looked at my dad for most of my life is he had an almost perfect recipe for success in the business world. I’ve been envious of this. But I also admire it and I’ve tried to learn as much from his as possible. Since college, I’ve tried to emulate his characteristics.
When I was a management consultant, it was the closest I felt to my dad. My clients were executives at his level, in similar industries. It was the frequent travel my job required that made me feel like I was embodying my father. In any job I’ve had, I’ve loved the travel. It made me feel important. But when I was sitting on the carpeted floor at my gate, waiting for my flight to board, charging my phone and working on my computer propped up on my suitcase – I realized that I was not anything like my dad. He would never sit on the airport floor. Nor should he. Nor should anyone. But I do and always will. If I can’t find a seat with a minimum of two empty seats between other people, or I need to charge my phone from an outlet on the wall, I will always sit on the floor. That’s just who I am. I am kind of a mess like that. The more I tried to pretend to be like my dad, the more stressed I became. It wasn’t working.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes me different than my dad. How did our paths turn out so differently? I didn’t always work in a corporate environment, but since graduating college, I’ve had a professional job, in an office; opportunities that should have allowed me to climb a ladder. Why didn’t they work for me? Why did they always feel wrong? Am I flawed?
I have a similar drive to my dad, but certainly not focus. I haven’t found my niche like pre-boom technology. While we have a similar sense of humor, people don’t gravitate towards me like they do with him. I blame a lot of this on sexism. I felt this the most at work. In office jobs, at least 10% of the staff was rubbed the wrong way by me. What I saw as strategic thinking and business acumen, came off as negative or angry. I’ve never had the grace that women need to be active participants at work.
But sexism isn’t the only reason my dad and I have such different paths. I’m also just loud. A little messy. My work is strong, but I don’t like arbitrary rules and if I don’t see that there is a valid reason for a rule, I probably won’t follow it. I don’t have a good filter. I swear – a lot. I make inappropriate jokes, I complain too often, and I almost always have a coffee stain on my shirt.
More than workplace misogyny, my personality, or frequent use of profanity – the central difference between my dad and I is that I have something to say.
Last month, I was texting a guy I met on Bumble, and I told him that I have a blog. He said he would love to read some of my stuff. I was baffled that he cared about it but I was even more confused about what to share with someone I barely know but am very interested in dating. I couldn’t give him the link to my whole blog, where I write about sleeping with guys, drinking too much, or being sexually assaulted, or a letter to my future husband. I didn’t know what to do, so I sent him the link to my performance at a storytelling event. It was the first essay I wrote, and it’s all about overcoming insecurities and fear. The Bumble dude said he was impressed and asked how I learned to be like that – so honest and raw? I told him that I didn’t know, I’ve always been like that, it comes naturally.
And it’s true. I don’t know any other way to be. The truth is that I’ve always had something to say, I’ve just been sharing my voice in spaces that did not appreciate it.
After I lost my job, I turned to writing. But I quickly had to decide how much of my life I was going to expose on my blog. I also had to think about what kind of language would I use. Would I use my naturally bawdy style? If I did, would it prevent me from finding a job? Not to mention the photos I’ve taken in the boudoir style. I didn’t know how professional I should keep my blog. I didn’t even have to ask myself, ‘what would dad do?’. I knew that he would never expose himself like that.
My dad is incredibly talented and very smart. And his career path was perfect for someone who did not have something to say. He enabled businesses to grow, but those businesses are the brain child of someone else. I’m not diminishing his credentials or accomplishments but I am pointing out that he’s never had something to say to the world. Or if he did, he’s never shared it.
I made the decision to be as authentic and transparent as possible on my blog. I decided to share the terrible parts of my life, my bad habits, my trauma, my body, and more. I chose this path because it felt right in a way that I’ve never experienced before. Being a social worker or a recruiter or a consultant never gave me this feeling. Writing gave me a sense of clarity, connection, and self-love that I’ve never had before. This is what it means to have something to say.
When a family member saw my storytelling video, she texted me, “Incredibly raw, real, funny, heartwarming and honest.”
When Harness Magazine published the same story as the one I shared with Bumble guy, someone commented, “It is so inspiring and I think it speak to many people about their fears and insecurities. It has definitely helped me today to not feel as alone in my struggles with overcoming my fears.”
This is what it means having something to say. Writing about basic human emotions and experiences in a way that is both relatable and vulnerable. And this is what I’ve always been good at. I’ve been oversharer my whole life. I’m too loud. Too sensitive. Too emotional. Too honest. Too much. These skills are not appreciated in a traditional work environment. Nonetheless, they are skills. My whole life I’ve thought of them as handicaps, tried to suppress them, and tried to have the skills my dad has. But those skills do not compliment someone who has something to say.
I recently saw A Star is Born, like you probably have as well. Months before I saw the film, I watched the trailer on repeat. I couldn’t wait to see it. But there was this thing that Bradley Cooper’s character said in the trailer that hit me hard, and why I kept watching the trailer.
“Look, talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that's a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you'll never know. That's just the truth. And there's one reason we're supposed to be here is to say something so people want to hear. So you got to grab it, and you don't apologize, and you don't worry about why they're listening, or how long they're going to be listening for, you just tell them what you want to say.”
That theme, of having something to say, was littered throughout the movie and it stuck with me. I have something to say. I say it in a way that makes people listen. This is why I am here and why I am unapologetically choosing this path.