By Jeanne Blandford
Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.
I had just gotten my son to the bus stop when I noticed a run in my stockings. What a waste — on so many levels. Climbing the two flights back to my bedroom I pulled them off, scoured my drawers for an intact pair, and then struggled to get them on.
I forced my two-inch heels on one foot at a time, then fought with my skirt and blazer. I grabbed my briefcase and storyboards, along with my coffee, and stumbled out the door.
Going a tad over the speed limit, I made it to my meeting with minutes to spare. Working as a communications consultant, I prided myself on being incredibly organized, succinct and punctual. That morning I had a meeting with a major client with whom I had been working the last few years creating annual reviews, corporate videos and internal newsletters.
As a consultant, I met with my clients only once or twice a week. The balance of the time I worked from my home office. I loved the freedom that afforded me. When my children were very young I could help with their school and after-school events. But as they grew, one currently in middle school and the other in high school, I began to question why I was working for a company whose practices did not mesh with my own more environmentally friendly beliefs. (During one meeting, there had been an impromptu celebration in the hall as word spread that the company had won an asbestos suit brought against them.) With each conversation I started to feel less comfortable. Not to mention the stockings and suits.
This particular day, I felt reinvigorated. My husband and I had created boards for a new TV campaign that highlighted the efforts of a company that was working with clean energy. We were so excited about it and thought the entire campaign would help bring a new perspective to the company and its cause.
Juggling the boards, briefcase and now cold coffee, I entered the conference room. Instead of the normal in-house marketing team, there sat Bob, my main point person.
With a cold, even delivery, he explained that the company had just hired a Global Communications Manager who would be in charge of worldwide marketing. Long story short, she was bringing in her own people and my services would no longer be required.
But I was in the middle of planning the yearly review, an internal newsletter and a new spot. Wouldn't she at least meet with me and take a look at the work I'd done? What I'd been able to accomplish?
No. The newly appointed specialist would not speak with me or any other freelancer.
I gathered my work and made my way home. Immediately, I took off my stockings, put on my sweats, slipped on my boots and went for a walk in the nature preserve and farm behind my home. Step by step I struggled with the injustice. All those years organizing and updating their archaic ways. How ungrateful. How unfair.
I passed through the woods over the walkway to the city-subsidized farm and nature center where I volunteered weekly. As a volunteer I ran fundraisers and did a lot of hands-on work at the farm along with special events on the property. By the end of my stroll I was breathing again. I would just have to put my suit back on and reach out to new clients — communicating this time on my own behalf.
Instead, the next day I put on my overalls and went to the farm. It was getting close to Halloween and we were planning their big fall weekend with a scary hayride, pumpkins, apple cidering and a Boo Barn my son was creating for the little ones.
Weeks went by and I was spending more and more time stuffing scarecrows and planning special events for the farm. I was in heaven.
But I missed the paycheck. With two kids going to college in less than four years I needed to get back in the saddle (no pun intended) and find work.
One day I was a particular vision — dressed in my fashionable overalls caked in mud and who knows what — when a woman I had never met approached me.
"Good morning, I'm the new executive," she said. "You must be Jeanne. I've been talking to the staff and I was told that I had to hire you."
She explained how she had been working with the staff for the past few weeks and my name kept popping up. She was new to the area and needed someone tied in to the community and with marketing and communications skills. They needed someone to raise awareness and funds for the nature center. In short, they wanted me.
She asked me about myself — my background and what it was about the nature center that brought me there day after day. After forty-five minutes of non-stop talk, we were both exhausted.
I was hesitant to accept the position. I would be making considerably less than I did as a corporate consultant. On the other hand, I could wear whatever I wanted, walk to work and on occasion play with the goats. What more could a girl want?
I volunteered through the end of the year and then in January officially became part of the staff. In my new position I was able to create programming that tied the nature center to the community. Special events and activities flowed from me. I began to photograph and write human-interest articles for the paper. This gave me a new confidence to write less clinical essays. I started writing children's books and began my first novel.
The day I knew I had made the right decision came when I was in my office and heard cheering and celebration in the hallway. I popped my head out and saw the farm director in the hall with a box of ducklings that had gone missing. Someone had returned the ducks. All were rejoicing! Especially me. I had found a new confidence and joy in working in an environment I loved with people I adored.