From Olive Drab Existence to Technicolor Twirl on Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen

I gave a talk tonight, entitled “Visions of the Journey: Dare to Dream.” I was invited to share my experiences dabbling in photography, writing, and blogging since leaving a 25-year corporate career in public relations in 2008. The occasion served as a catalyst to reflect on not only the past two years but earlier events leading up to it.

In 1982, as part of the largest graduating college class in history at the time and with gas lines a recent memory, I just wanted a job, and any job would do, thank you. My father was furious with me for having switched my major from business to psychology “for Christ’s sake, Margaret Ellen!” He darkly predicted he’d have to foot the bill for Katie Gibbs on top of the New England college tuition.

My dad had been deeply affected by growing up during the Depression with an oft-absent father nicknamed “Weasel” who was reportedly a compulsive gambler. The specter of the family living in a cardboard box was routinely bandied about despite the decidedly Middle Class existence my father’s profession as a dentist afforded.  I later learned he had yearned to go into medical research but deemed the economic prospects less promising and the bottom line was more important.

When I was offered a clerical position with the Capital Hilton Hotel after a week of job-hunting, I was so terrified of having to get a cardboard box of my own, I leapt at the prospect. I spent my days in a space the size of a coffin, drawing lines in a huge diary, blocking off which sales person had booked conventions into which meeting rooms. All the while, I plotted my course to prosperity and freedom. My father died a few years later and I worked even harder. By the time I was 30, I was earning double what his salary had been at the time of his death. My mental image of myself is as Rambo, scaling an enormous ladder, knife in teeth, grenade in hand, bandoleers crossing my chest, fighting the good fight to earn a decent wage.

Fast-forward twenty years and my weapons of choice were my cell phone and blackberry, or “crackberry,” as a former colleague called it. Not being able to disengage myself from either appendage or my obsession with all things work-related, I might as well have been living in a cardboard box.  Life was hardly a canvas for me and the lines I was forcing myself to color within had become increasing oppressive.

While in Santa Fe a couple of weeks ago, I met a new friend who commented that in recent years, she finds she is regularly hearing of professions she never knew existed. She said half-jokingly “Why didn’t I know about these jobs when I was growing up?”

Tonight, I was delighted to see a friend of mine arrive for my talk—our paths have diverged and we don’t see each other as often as we used to.  She too is now looking to make a midlife career change.  The icing on the cake is that she brought her nephew, who at a young age is already exploring broad brush strokes.  I’m betting he is a Picasso in the making.

For more images of Playa del Carmen, see Travel Photos

3 thoughts on “From Olive Drab Existence to Technicolor Twirl on Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen”

  1. i so enjoyed your talk last night…in between gigi’s explorations, of course. i’m always amazed with how much our paths and drives have in common. my father also died young (he was 58), and his aspirations for me and unfulfilled dreams for himself were a huge source of motivation for me to join the ranks of the professional world. the idea that he knew i had succeeded was tremendously important to me. as always, the more i learn about others, the more i learn about myself.

  2. I was so busy with my own selfish indulgent affairs that I miss your speech. But I do like your weekly publications in which I enjoy immensely. Been to Playa de Carmen love the area and people. Travel down to Tulum to enjoy the sites of the Maya ruins. Keep up the good work. Thanks Jerry

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