I asked Mom if she’d like to go out to lunch. I’d been away from her a bit, between a long weekend and a medical procedure, though we’ve talked daily. But she’s been feeling a bit neglected, so I wanted our visit today to be a bit special.
We went to one of her favorites, Olive Garden. As I looked around, I was struck by the way our clothes and our companions brand us. I saw tables of apparent co-workers, dressed well, or at least ‘business casual’, talking intensely. I imagined their conversation … about interest rates, or project deadlines, or complaining about the boss or the long work days.
I, however, was with the 90-year-old, who came in shuffling extremely slowly with her walker. We had little to say, because we’d already exhausted our usual topics. Instead of a nice knit with a silk jacket and perfect jewelry as I’d worn before, today I wore my shlumpy work-around-the-house, worn-at-the-collar grey velour outfit.
For a moment, I was jealous. I felt … unimportant. I remembered the days when I went to lunch with co-workers, when we filled our table with laughter or urgent discussion or complaints about all the stress. When I looked good and was valued by my company, my boss, my peers, my clients. I was an expert. I was respected. I influenced senior decision-makers. As I look back, it seems that I used to be important, in my profession.
A few years ago, I chose a voluntary layoff from this Fortune 50 company. I wanted to do more in community service, and supporting my mother and my grandchildren. I honestly am SO very very glad, then and now. Though my work now does not have the value placed on it by salary or corporate world, I remind myself that I touch the lives of humans. I bring meaning to real people. I make a difference in a way that my Senior Program Manager job never did. Never could.
And just maybe just a couple of them looked at a relaxed woman lunching with her aged mother, sitting in a comfortable outfit, and were just a little jealous.