My posts are usually triggered by the events of my life – that in itself is no wonder. What does surprise me is that small, apparently inconsequential, events make me think of really large life themes. People stumbling in accidentally in my life, even for a brief moment, always, as it turns out, have something important to teach me.
Today I learned an important lesson from a young lady who wrote me a message on Facebook, asking to meet me. She had just graduated from the University and was looking for inspiration for her road ahead. She, as I understood, likes contacting all sorts of people whom she considers interesting in some way and from whom she could potentially learn something, asking to have a chat.
I think that was a wonderful idea – I wish I had this kind of initiative when I was her age – I might have gotten wiser much sooner. I also hope many of the people she contacts find the time to meet her and share some of their experience – it might be a nice way for them to give something back to the world for all they received before getting to where they are in their lives.
All was really well until we actually met. All was well after that too, but sadly I realised that this warm, beautiful and obviously very intelligent young woman had absolutely no vision of what she expected from our meeting. I somehow felt this was a reflection for her current lack of vision on what she expected from her own life – I really hope I’m wrong and even if I’m right I know it’s just a phase and she’ll find her way.
When I asked her why she had wanted to meet me she said that she likes my articles and that she wants to hear my story. It took a bit of effort to understand which part of “my story” she wanted to hear, and I finally understood that she had trouble finding a job and wanted to know how I found my first and second and other jobs, up until the present time. I think she was a bit disappointed hearing there was no magical recipe – just a combination of blind luck and perseverance.
There weren’t many other questions from there on, at least on her part, and she had trouble answering the one key question on my part: What do you really want to do? She even refused me, when I offered to forward her CV to a potential employer, saying the skill I was about to recommend her for wasn’t really one of her strongest.
It all ended in a lukewarm note – she thanked me and went on her way, while I was left puzzled – wondering what I was supposed to learn from this. I kept wondering after I got home, until I got a message from her, short and a bit abrupt, asking me to give her feedback on her online CV. It struck a sensitive chord with me and I got a bit annoyed for a moment at her lack of understanding of elementary interpersonal skills – like at least asking me if I have the time to review that CV, or thanking me for the time I had already given her.
I wrote back on an impulse – a polite but painfully sharp reply – making a note of all the things she had, in my opinion, done wrong during our meeting and afterwards – like her lack of research on who I was, what I did for a living and concrete ways she could have asked for my help, lack of objective for the meeting, refusal to accept help she had come there asking for in the first place and then abrupt demand for supplementary assistance. I thought all these are potential mistakes she might make in a future interview with a real employer and that perhaps my feedback might be the bitter, but beneficial, pill which will help her for the future.
She replied in a sad, obviously offended note, apologising for the inconvenience she had caused me and bitterly thanking me for the obviously unpleasant feedback.
I was left somewhat feeling sorry for not having kept my impressions to myself. Would I have been more helpful then – not letting her know there was anything wrong with her approach? Then I remembered something that happened to me when I was about her age, looking for my first job. I only knew I had to work and prove to my parents I was capable of being independent. She, at least, had an idea of what she liked and didn’t like doing as a job – I, at the time, had none.
I went to an interview with a foreign company for the position of assistant manager and I remember the potential employer obviously liked me, all until he asked me what I believed would be a fair salary for the job. I asked for a ridiculous amount of money, way above what any employer would have paid even an experienced assistant, let alone a freshman student with absolutely zero working experience. I just had a too good opinion about my skills and a huge ambition to show my parents how capable I was :). I think the guy was amused by my absurd demands, but he politely thanked me for the interview and I was almost convinced I would get the job.
I was really proud of how I’d handled my first real interview, so much so that when a refusal came, I wasn’t discouraged. I thought there must have been some misunderstanding and, when a second, similar job, was advertised by the same company I re-applied. I found myself facing the same guy who, this time around, was even more amused and made no effort to hide it. He made fun of me in a way I didn’t completely understand at first, although his sarcasm wasn’t lost on me. I had cut my hair from the previous meeting and he noticed that. He told me that instead of cutting it so short it might have served me better to die it white – perhaps it would help me get wiser sooner. The “interview” was extremely short – a few very short questions, the “joke” about the hair and good bye. And this time I wasn’t surprised to receive the refusal.
I was furious with that guy. I felt a bit humiliated. But I understood why. I realised my self image was distorted and I reluctantly had to accept my lack of experience. That was my bitter pill. I didn’t like it at all, but it did make me wiser, in a way in which white hair by itself would never have. I was a bit humbled by the experience and accepted my own lack of experience as a fact of life, vowing to myself that I would be open to learn and grow. And so I did. It made me calibrate my skills and abilities against others’ in a more realistic way and it was a valuable, even if painful, exercise in self-honesty.
Today I realised I was that guy for the young lady who visited me. I administered that nasty pill. I bet she is furious with me and will be even more so when she reads this post. Actually I want to thank her. I want to thank her for thinking that she could learn something from me and for the wisdom I know she will get from the unexpected and somewhat unpleasant outcome of our meeting. I also want to thank her for being so brave as to declare her willingness for learning. I know she will be better prepared next time.
I was her exactly eleven years ago. She reminded me how far I have come and how far I still have to go. I am by no means at the end of the road – I am constantly making mistakes and constantly forgetting how important it is to be humble and open. And there are constantly people in my life to remind me of this. Whenever I’m in danger of thinking too highly of myself and forgetting that all my skills and talents are not my God given right, but just gifts that I received, gifts to be thankful for and gifts to be shared for the benefit of others, life sends me a reminder.
I thank the beautiful young lady who taught me a lesson today. I thank Life for sending this lesson to me.