Some days, you just want to get real. Set aside the mask. Not worry too much about possible interpretations, impressions, judgments. Some days, you want to stare out the window and ponder. You may grin. You may grimace. You may spin yourself an imagined future.
Some days, you want to get personal, or at least, more personal in an impersonal world that requires us to pay careful attention to what we might say or do. After all, words and actions significantly impact our relationships and our livelihoods.
Generally, in our self-promotional society, where the personal and professional overlap to an occasionally alarming degree, I prefer my “separation of church and state.” However, these days, I’m of a mind to let down my guard, at least a bit.
This isn’t to say that I don’t care what others think.
This isn’t to say that reputation doesn’t matter to me.
Still, I’m in the mood to get personal. Well, more personal than I have been here, much of the time, in recent years.
In saying that, I am recalling one of our most iconic romantic comedies, You’ve Got Mail. I remember the scene in which Big Bad Fox Books has put Meg Ryan’s children’s bookstore out of business. In the aftermath, Joe Fox, played by Tom Hanks, explains to Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen Kelly, that it’s “business.” It “wasn’t personal.”
Her response, paraphrased: “Everyone says that. What does that mean? All that means was that it wasn’t personal — to you… Well it’s personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. What is so wrong with being personal, anyway?”
Now, I haven’t watched this film in a few years, and I may not have remembered the dialog precisely. But you get the gist. We all react to events personally, even if we moderate our reactions by looking at the bigger picture and taking ourselves out of the equation, at least to an extent.
And as I think about the frequency with which I use that phrase, “it’s not personal” — especially if I’m trying to put up a brave or cavalier front when faced with challenges — the fact is, everything that we experience is personal — to us. And this is surely the case for challenges that we would rather not be facing, and in which we feel we have not had a hand in the decision-making, or we lack control that would otherwise help us out.
We might say that when business conditions wipe out an entire industry in a town, or a restructure lays off departments in a longtime workplace, the “it’s not personal” label more or less fits.
That said, when we find ourselves scrambling for a new job as a result, and possibly having to re-configure our lives and our families in unforeseen ways, it is indeed extremely personal.
Likewise, issues in our very convoluted healthcare delivery systems may leave us frustrated, weary, and searching for creative solutions.
When I began this writing adventure seven years ago, I described my “daily plate of crazy” from a very personal point of view. At the time, I wrote anonymously, which afforded me greater freedom to express myself than I feel I have today. And, I was still in the throes of post-divorce skirmishes with my ex, the challenges of raising teenagers as a solo parent, and scratching to survive the great recession as an independent consultant.
My current situation?
There have been many changes in the past year — most, disruptive. Some, I look back on and now deem positive, though they were wrenching at the time. Others are clearly negative, even in retrospect. Still others are, as you would expect, a mixed bag. Oh, I have my bad days, naturally, and at least as many good days, particularly when I remind myself that the “unwanted” changes I am facing are nothing compared to situations that I weathered in years gone by. Moreover, I tell myself the challenges I am dealing with are shared by millions of Americans.
In other words, they are “not personal.”
It is this recurring line of inner dialog that leads me to this realization: While the “not personal” rationalization takes some of the sting out of tough times, the experience is personal — to me, and quite likely, to you — if you find yourself in similar situations.
So here I am. Talking around subjects I would like to address directly.
Here I sit. Considering what I can and can’t say, and how I should say it.
Here I struggle. Knowing the personal and its importance, and, that if we talk about our societal stumblings in personal terms, our stories connect us in common concerns. We build community. We collaborate in creating solutions. Simply put, we feel less alone.
Now, much as I enjoy writing on a variety of topics and will continue to do so, I would like to return to writing at less of a distance, and in a more personal fashion.
Naturally, I will be circumspect. I have clients and prospects that pop over to this venue to browse. And, while my sons are young adults, I respect their privacy as much as ever, and of course, I respect the privacy of those who may be close to me in real life.
Yet I want to speak more about that real life. I want to be worried less about the proper public face as I undertake some significant transitions. I want to speak my mind clearly, openly, and with less trepidation that it will impact my earning capacity, hopeful that it will not. As important as that is, and knowing that discretion is the better part of valor and all that — I would like to share in a way that is less detached, and thus, may be more helpful.
To be frank, I believe that everything is personal, much in the same way I have come to understand that everything is political, including what is personal. This is something I didn’t understand seven or 10 years ago. I hadn’t yet lived it in the way I have lived it since that time.
So, a few glimpses of my “real world” are coming over the next weeks and months, as I embrace a new chapter in a variety of ways, with significant changes in my personal life ahead.
I hope you will join me for the journey.
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