Unpacking my Briefcase

I had a poem in mind for dVerse Poets Pub Poetics Prompt based on my time spent working as a relationship counsellor, but then tonight’s host Stuart McPherson posed a question that had my mind wondering elsewhere. If work defines us, what does my CV say about me…

“You’ll be fine, you interview really well”
she said to me whilst offering
my redundancy
And I heard the saccharine
as the steely blade of a backhanded
compliment seeped easily
through whitened teeth
cutting me down to size

PRetty useless, a profession
that profits from lies
making mirages in a desert
of desire for perfection
free lunches are fun
til you choke on the taste
of over anxious parents
and the vomit of anorexic teens
the neuroses pumped from
a publicity machine
that I’d held the keys to
so maybe it was right for it to end

But still it hurt at that moment
as I floated in the flashback of
my employment history
perhaps I’m just not the office type
never been one for rules
last in just after 9, preferring instead to
squeeze every feather cosied
second under the duvet

And now my goose was cooked
at the sobering realisation that
I hadn’t been any other type either
from paper girl to kennel maid
beautician to waitress in a world where
the customer’s always right
‘Can I help you sir?’
or could I help myself more
by figuring out where I belonged?
Perhaps the antidote to my fear
would be found in the pages
between that day and my
uncertain future
but if I wasn’t any of those things
then who was I to be?

Ten years may have passed since then
many talents and skills chalked up
along the way, choice and opportunity
my colleagues, ambition a silent partner
So much and so little has changed
and again I find myself wondering
what now and where do I belong?
square peg or round hole
always caught in conflict
trying to find where I fit. Should I fit?
Oh well. I’ll figure it out
after all, I interview really well

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32 responses to “Unpacking my Briefcase

  1. smiles…i relate…i have been around the wheelhouse with jobs….warehouse, mens clothes, statistician, sheriff, counselor, sales man, manager, trainer, teacher, pastor, administrator…and yet where do i belong is a question that always haunts me a bit….

  2. The thing that is amazing about this poem is its universal truth. Fuck…if I had a penny for everytime I’ve been in one of these situations or witnessed them…it have about 25 pence 🙂 – I hate all those ‘stock’ sayings- and its true what you says years on- where am I? Do I accept that i’m a square peg in a round hole ( if you don’t are you being true to yourself?) You’re raising interesting questions here! AND you wrote this with family there? Amazing

  3. Awwww……bless ya! Well- I’m still up! Not sure where everyone else is tho! 🙂

  4. You know I do believe that we are doing what we are meant to be doing in this life. That what is meant to be, will be. Whether we spend all night or weeks worrying about something or not, the outcome is still going to be the same. Redundancy must hurt especially in the type of job you were in too. Sometimes we are forced to make huge changes in our lives whether we want to or not but then, sometimes they happen to be the best thing that could have happened too, maybe?
    A good write.

  5. I do wonder if anyone fits where they are sometimes. I hear such a lot of job dissatisfaction, people wishing to be doing something different; but I think if they did that for a while they’d be thinking again too that there must be something more. If you interview well, that is a plus. You can explore a lot of different avenues. Maybe at some point a particular job will really click. I enjoyed yyour write.

    • Thanks. I work for myself now and enjoy what I do but I also enjoy so many other things that I would love to make a living from too. I guess I’m just greedy as I’d like to try them all, I don’t want to choose one specific thing!

  6. Sales clerk, college bookstore, nanny, restaurant hostess/bartender, teacher, administrator… all to get me here, were I want to be… writing.

  7. Something poignant about that purse at the end, like the author, been through it all…this is the way of the world–so hard to make a living doing just what you love to do–they find a way to make you hate at least part of it.;_) That ‘back-handed compliment’ is one of the most passive aggressive put downs I could think of–well told tale of modern life in all its frustration.

    • Glad you spotted that passive aggressive bit in there, couldn’t agree more, delivered with a smile but soooo patronising, and the irony was that this woman was not the epitome of professional and hard working… But that’s a tale for another day perhaps!

  8. I can’t help but think that by the end of the poem’s narrative, ten years from the beginning, despite all the experience gained and hours laboured, nothing has essentially changed… and thus the tragedy.

  9. I can also relate so well to this, perhaps it is the fate of the poet, to always seek, always question, always wonder. Never any answers, but lots of material for us to work with!

  10. Ahh at 61 I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! I think dissension within any chosen profession is a given, to find and do what you truly love is so hard because as we grow our interest change, we become bored with where we are in life and think the job must be why we are unhappy when in truth we may just be unhappy with ourselves, our spouses, family or outside situations. but I STILL don’t know what I want to be.
    GREAT WRITE and hang in there a great interview is worth a lot more than you probably know.

  11. Luv the red purse. Looks like it could tell some tales. I happen to interview great, but, as you say, it can take you places you don’t really enjoy. And I’m wanting to do some enjoying. Thanks for the inspiration, even though I know I’ll still be doing the same. You let me dream a lil anyway 🙂

  12. sometimes it’s a long way and process to find the place where we really fit and where we want to be…i tried different things as well.. some worked others didn’t but the good thing is that we develop on the trail..and in a way find ourselves on the way…bit by bit..

  13. I can really relate to this – very well done. I feel like I don’t fit anywhere, not at any time, the unhealed wound which is my mind. At least we have that in common.

  14. I can so relate to this, Vanessa! I was a job hopper when I was young, then found my niche, and lo and behold, it was a career that by nature had me moving from place to place, company to company, and job to job. Perfect fit! (I was a commerciaal construction superintendent, and went where the next project was.) But, changing jobs is more the norm than exception these days. As for following rules; HA! Tell me I can’t do something, and step back, because I’m fixin to show you I CAN!
    Excellent write!
    http://charleslmashburn.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/somebody-has-to-make-the-gravy/

    • Ha ha ha, kindred spirits then, I’m all about proving critics wrong and doing it anyway (on a good day at least). Lovely to see you here again Charles. Will come over later, have family staying so am fitting bits in here and there but I always try to pop in and visit you.

  15. I think we often have a love/hate relationship with out jobs. I know that besides writing full-time, I do like it. But your poem really gives a great insight into the negative side. I do appreciate it because I have felt the same emotions, thought the same thoughts. You’ve turned that negative state into poetry, which is quite an accomplishment.

  16. I really like this poem. I like writing poetry, but I have always had a hard time reading poetry. I tend to lose interest after the first couple of lines. This poem grabbed me and made me want to read it. There is a sadness to it, but there is also a funny smartass in there that I really like. “I’ll figure it out
    after all, I interview really well” Awesome. Thanks for the post.

    • Heidi, I was delighted to receive your comment…. I totally agree that poetry can sometimes be a hard read, and overall I want to create poetry that is accessible and easy to digest without losing its ability to move people. If I have achieved that for you with this piece then I am thrilled. Please have a look around at other pieces on my blog, you may well find others that you enjoy, but if you don’t that’s ok too, you’ve enjoyed this and that’s good enough for me! Thanks x

  17. Interviewing well eh? Well, there’s a great skill and no mistake. You also write brilliantly and have deliniated the hypocrisy of praise with wit and intelligence.

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