There. I’ve said it—or rather written it—a shocking word in my real estate business circles, (the business I recently quit after 20 years) that most people who know me as the consummate professional would never think I’d utter, let alone open with in a public blog post.
The other night I went to a music event with some new friends and after a few drinks we got to philosophizing about how we (people) consciously and unconsciously filter ourselves in consideration of others. Swaying near the men’s bathroom and close-talking above the noise we’re oblivious of by now, a couple of staggering and swaggering men pass us (we’re two, I dare say, attractive redheads) on their way to the loo.
Redhead Barbie (not me): “I used to always worry about what everyone was thinking of me. It drove me insane!”
I reply, “People have their own reality, their own perception. No matter how much you might try ‘explaining’ yourself to some people, they’re not going to get it. They’ve got their own movies going on in their minds.”
She gets it. “Yes! It used to bug me that they were misinterpreting me. I wanted to try to convince them or show them.”
I love this stuff. “You can’t. If it doesn’t fit into their box, if they’re not ready, willing and able, it’s a waste of time. You just get frustrated. Like, everyone in town has this perception of me as this successful professional, which I am—was—but I’m also a truck driver’s daughter with a potty mouth and filthy mind. That shit doesn’t go over so well in business.”
She retorts, “People who know you, really know you, love you and appreciate who you truly are, swears and silliness and all.”
We take a pee break. The women’s bathroom has a line twenty lovelies long so we use the men’s.
Stall-blind, I shout, “I used to care a lot. So much so that I wasn’t myself most of the time. My own fault, of course, I set it up that way.”
She quips, “You’re a great realtor. I’ve only heard good things about you.”
“Ex-realtor, but see? That’s my point, I filtered myself. I was polite many times when I’d rather have been a lot more direct as in, ‘You’re house is way overpriced and is never going to sell and you’re going into foreclosure soon so smarten up.’ Instead of: ‘The market is very competitive. Let’s put our Buyer Hats on, if you had these other choices in the market which one would you choose, because really if you’re not willing to sell your home at what the market will bear, then you’re buying it back at that price… yada yada blah blah blah.”
This reminds me of a quote in an elephant journal article,
“If we fear openness and vulnerability because of the inevitable judgments that come with such characteristics, then it’s best to keep our sincerity safely buried where no one will ever find it.”
I exit the stall and wash my hands next to a bearded stoner with slits for eyes. I aim my voice over my shoulder and add, “But that’s the thing, that’s not me! That’s the perception of me I created for that role.” To Slits, “Maybe I should go into acting.”
Redhead Barbie replies, “But you were very good. And just being professional.”
“Okay, well, in that case, that was me, too. But, here’s the thing: that’s only a small part of me. The filtered part. Now, I just want to be the real me all the time. The one who goes out dancing and has a few too many drinks if I want to, even though I never want to. I want to go to the coffee shop in jeans and not have to worry about people jibing me about taking time off. I want to act silly in public if I want to, which yes, sometimes I do want to! Wait, where were we going with this?”
“Right! Oh yeah, here’s the thing: I’d rather have people not like me, not like the real, authentic, unfiltered, unedited me, than a filtered version of me. The nice me. Yes. That’s it. Sometimes, I want to swear and debate and even argue my point without if affecting how people perceive me. I’m in the wrong profession. Maybe if I’d started out the real, real me then I wouldn’t be in this predicament, but then I wouldn’t have been as successful.”
Barbie questions this, “Maybe you would have attracted a difference audience?”
“I researched all the top agents in the country – beige on beige, buttoned up collar, it’s what people trust their money with – and modeled myself after them. This has been one hell-of-a long acting gig.”
We exit the men’s washroom, Barbie’s boyfriend hands her something out of the man-pack he carries for her that contains make-up, gum, sweater/s, et al.
(Now there’s someone who doesn’t care what people think.)
I continue, “I had coffee with a man the other day and he didn’t contact me again—”
“No way!” she gasps.
“Way. But here’s the thing. Yes, it’s the first time that’s happened, well, since I was like nineteen, but it was so great because I was totally myself. I mean, I wasn’t trying to get him to like me like I normally do and I guess he didn’t.” I laugh, “So that’s the silver-lining. I was me. Living proof! I might just put on my Wonder Woman suit and find a field of dandelions to frolic in.”
She laughs and offers, “Gum?”
“Nah, I quit.”
What have I learned?
I can’t please all people all the time so I might as well please myself. Not everyone will like me and that’s a good thing. It means I’m being real. Also, even people we don’t like make the world interesting. So maybe a (not-mid) life crisis is a good thing, an opportunity to become who we are meant to be, and perhaps always have been.
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