Prior to my departure, the idea of my return to Puerto Viejo was mixed. The last time I was here, I experienced some of the most incredible growth and connection to life – a rebirth, if you will. On the opposite side, the intensity of this experience eventually began to manifest itself in a different way towards the end with my abuse of cocaine.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got back. Would I choose connection or cocaine? Had the work I was doing in Al-Anon and with my therapist given me enough of a foundation so that I wouldn’t fall into temptation by one of the most ego-boosting drugs on the planet?
Thus far, I am grateful to say that, while my trip is not over yet, I couldn’t have dreamed up a more fulfilling experience, because I have very easily chosen connection. Or, rather, CONNECTION has chosen ME as an exchange for the work I have been doing on myself (and continue to do while I am here in Puerto).
However, that’s actually not what I want to discuss today. Yes, I could write about the nights spent cooking and consuming dinner with my peeps – the incredible food and conversations. I could write about the day I helped my friend clean out her closet, which somehow turned into us dancing around the jungle naked. I could write about the short-lived but beautiful romance I had with another traveler. I could write about how the aliveness I feel is different this time than it ever was – it is an aliveness of gratitude and very deep fulfillment unlike the egotistical highs that I used to experience. But that’s not what I will write about.
For I have learned that pure joy does not come on its own, free of charge. It has a counterpart in the form of challenge and discomfort, but all in the name of opportunity for personal evolution. Today I must share the most upsetting experience I have had in a long time and how it tested my ability to shift my perspective from self-hatred to acceptance more than anything has in recent memory.
Not long before I left San Francisco, a friend of mine had sent me information about an available position at her place of business for a part-time events coordinator. She thought it would be perfect for me and, based on my surface-level observation, it was. It was in a corporate setting (of which I have had experience), it was part-time (so as not to overwhelm me quite yet) and it pays money (which I need).
Technologically speaking, I had a hard time submitting my resume via their online system (which, now I realize, was probably a sign) but eventually was able to email it to someone and, not long after, I received a response that they wanted to move forward with a phone interview.
Let’s fast forward to the day of this interview, shall we?
I am sitting comfortably in a chair outside of my friend’s house in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, The wildlife engulfs the entire house like a big hug from nature. My notebook is in hand in case I want to take notes and my resume is pulled up on my lap top. Though it has been awhile since I have had an interview, I am confident that it will go well considering how many years I previously spent in corporate environments. I know the buzz words. I am smart. I am a good listener and a good talker. I’ve got this.
My phone lights up and I hit the little green icon.
We begin with the basic pleasantries as I try to ignore my heart beginning to beat a bit faster and my voice getting higher and…why do I sound like such a valley girl? I think it’s because I am trying to match her tone, but it feels weird. Then that old, familiar feeling starts to set in and I am transported back to the last time I worked in the corporate world and how much of a ‘life or death’ perspective I had about almost every interaction.
Suddenly, who I am and what I want has no relevance and my only goal is to please this woman and do ANYTHING I can to impress her.
“So, tell me a bit about your work experience as far as event planning,” she says.
Work? What’s work? What does the word ‘experience’ mean again? Thank God I had the wherewithal to have my resume pulled up right in front of me.
“Um. Well, back when I worked at Citigroup in New York, I was in charge of all of the events for our Sales & Trading Analyst Program. After that, I helped lead a women’s initiative for the 2008 election. We threw a 2-day fundraising event in Chicago and our guests including Barack and Michelle Obama, Madeline Albright and Oprah Winfrey. At my last position as the Director of HR, my team took on the task of throwing events like holiday parties and….and also we planned the sales team conventions.”
Wait. That’s a lie. That last part was a lie. Yes, my team was in charge of the holiday events, but the sales conventions were another team’s responsibility. Shit. I am choosing to impress her over standing by my greatest value: authenticity.
“OK, great. Now, tell me about how you manage your time in a fast-paced environment.”
Blank. I am totally fucking blank.
“Um. Well, I think entering everything into a calendar is important and, you know, doing one thing at at time…but also making sure you get everything done. It’s important to prioritize. Yea. So you communicate with people. That’s important. Even if you can’t do what they need you to do, you have to tell them. I mean, you’ll do what they need you to do, but maybe not right away because. Uh. Yea, well that’s why calendars are important. You enter your priorities and so you won’t forget because I tend to forget things. I mean, not important things. But that’s why I have a calendar, you know? Like to remind me of things I need to do so I don’t have to remember. Especially if it’s fast paced.”
Oh. My. God. This is a DISASTER.
“OK. Tell me a time that you faced a challenge with someone regarding an event that you were hosting and what the outcome was.”
“Um. That’s an interesting question. HAHA! Sorry, it’s just been so long since I’ve done this.’
Stop talking, Melanie. Just hang up the phone.
“Yea. wow. haha…this is harder than I thought. Um. I’m…I’m sorry, I. I don’t know.”
I am getting nauseous again simply recalling this memory, so, for the sake of my gag reflex, I am going to spare further details. Suffice to say that it gets progressively worse and worse (yes, it actually gets WORSE). At one point I hear myself talking and it doesn’t even sound like me. It’s like my mouth is talking but every other part of me is simply bearing witness to this utterly humiliating experience.
After what seems like 3 years (but in reality: 24 minutes), we hang up the phone. My hands are shaking and I take a minute to review what just happened because this was more than just an interview – this was a traumatizing event. With all the work I have been doing these past few years and all the changes I made, it all disappeared completely on that phone call. I was thrown back to a time when I had ZERO regard for what I wanted or what I was good at, but instead spent every moment of my life trying to fit into a place where I simply didn’t fit. The only way to fool everyone (including myself) was through constant performance and people-pleasing, pretending that I wanted something that no part of me truly wanted.
After the shaking calms, I observe that I am being pulled in two very distinct directions: If an interview had gone this badly a few years ago, it would have been the most devastating experience I could think of. My whole life was about work and about impressing people. So, with this realization that, even if I had really wanted this job (which I never really asked myself if I did), THEY didn’t want ME, it is like my whole world falls apart. “They don’t want me” leads to “No one wants me” leads to “No one will ever want me” leads to “I will always be alone” leads to “I am not lovable” leads to “I am not worthy of love.” This looks so ridiculous and blown out of proportion when I write it down, but the FEELING of these words are very real.
Though this version of reality is strong…I also know that it is a part of my old story. My new self is telling me that this is a blessing in disguise. My body sabotaged this interview because this is not my world anymore. This is not were I belong. I am not being punished, I am instead receiving a gift of valuable information. The door to the corporate world is closed and it is time to fully let it go so that I can finally move on to work that is actually for me, not work that I am trying to force-fit like I used to.
With that, I hop on my bike and head to my friend’s house just down the road. I enter her porch in tears and she lovingly holds me until I am able to calm down and tell her what happened and my 2 version of feelings about it.
Just as I suspected, because she is a member of my new community who realizes that there is so much more to life than simply whatever we do to make money, she agrees with my second perspective. This interview was a gift and, while my tears are normal as a part of mourning a pat of my life that is now gone, this leaves room for the good things to come.
It has been a few days since this happened and, thanks to the people with whom I choose to surround myself now, I have been able to put away the perspective that tells me that I am unworthy and unlovable. Hell, these days all I have to do is throw a stone in any direction and I am likely to hit someone who will gladly show me how lovable I actually am.
So, corporate life as I have known it, I suppose we are truly done. While our relationship has served to get me here somehow, now I must leave you behind so that I can fully be present to the new doors that are available to me. So, here’s to new beginnings…yet again!