I am not the calmest person in the world. My oldest friends would probably laugh at the understatement. Calm is just not a word that would have been used to describe me when I was younger, though it’s much more applicable now. Energetic, passionate, focused, or intense are much more along the right lines. Calm wasn’t something that came naturally, so instead it was something I had to learn.
If there’s one thing I learned about myself during college it’s that unfortunately crazy could also be added to the list, at least sometimes. In some of my least fine moments ever I yelled at a bunch of freshmen during the Danse Macabre Halloween tournament my second year captaining Gunx. I started more arguments with my sister during college than I care to remember, especially during finals weeks. And I had one or two crazy dramatic melt-downs that definitely didn’t need to happen, one of which actually did occur with me in the corner of my closet. I didn’t think just being in the closet was dramatic enough, though, so I brought my stereo in and turned up the music just to make my point clear. (Yes, I was *that* teenager, and no… I can’t believe I’m publicly admitting to it!)
It’s all part of growing up, right?
The other part, of course, is growing out of it. Immediately after graduating New Paltz, I went on to an Advertising master’s program at Syracuse. I will always remember this conversation I had with my neighbor in vivid detail. For the sake of the conversation, we’ll call him “Bob.” He was a creative writing master’s student, and I was an advertising master’s student (with an emphasis on the account and media classes, not the creative ones).
It was the first nice day of spring, and we were sitting on my porch having a typical semi-serious, semi-philosophical conversation that was meandering all over the place, when we landed on recreational drug use. I do not smoke pot, and I never have, but a lot of my fellow masters students did. Bob, in particular, found my choice to be completely inconceivable. By spring it had reached a point of a constant debate and peer pressure. I’m always up for a good debate, but I’m not someone who is easily pressured.
Bob: Come on, just try it. (I know, it’s a way cliched line. But I swear, he said it!)
Me: No, I’m good. Really.
Bob: Why not? How do you know you won’t like it if you’ve never tried?
Me: *shrug* I haven’t really missed it in my life up to now. Why bother?
Bob: Seriously. Just once.
At this point Bob just sort of watched me for a second in silence, so I continued.
Me: I really don’t see any point to it. I don’t want it, I really don’t need it. Anyways, why does it matter so much to you?
Bob: I don’t know. You just seem so uptight all the time. You’re always on a schedule. Always worrying about something or working on something. It would take the edge off.
At this point I actually had to think for a minute before I answered. How could I explain this in a way that would end the subject, preferably for good? I’d always had a vague idea in the back of my head about this, but for this was the first time I really articulated it.
Me: You think I don’t know that I’m super crazy neurotic compared to the rest of you? Yes. I am uptight. I care about my grades. I care about my classes. And I like being that way. I operate better under high stress. I like constantly having a project. I like pushing myself. I really really don’t want to take that edge off. I like how my brain works. I like how I work. I get things done and I get where I want to be. I wouldn’t be at Newhouse right now if I didn’t have the drive and the work ethic that you’re calling uptight. I like the way I am.
I had never really thought about it like that, until Bob pushed me into defending a choice that is absolutely quintessential to who I am.
I like being in control of my life. I like always being busy. This was a part of my personality that led me to yell at a bunch of freshmen one tournament, but I was completely appalled with myself the minute it happened. The highest compliment I ever received from another frisbee player was that year at Syracuse. The two captains of Fox Force 7, the Syracuse women’s team, told me they loved having me on the team because I was so calm. I never yelled, I never got upset with the newer players, I never argued with the captains. I always kept my cool and I did my best to keep everyone else calm also.
After that tournament in New Paltz, I recognized there was a problem with how I approached things that I was passionate about, and I worked on finding a new balance in my life.
To Bob’s point, yes, I was still intense. Yes, I was a little neurotic, especially when it came to my graduate work. But in the theme of growing up, there was no more losing my temper or get upset. No more meltdowns. Instead I learned to take a deep breath and smile.
I learned how to find some calm, even when everything around me seemed crazy, and I learned how to do it without losing the edge that gave me so much focus in Newhouse. This year at Zimmerman, I find myself happy to have both the calm and the focus, especially in the last few weeks.
No one wants to work until 10:00 at night. No one wants to pull the same competitive report 8 different times. I certainly don’t want to spend 9 hours working on a project that I already know is going to be scraped or see massive revisions before I even start. And at 10:00 at night, working on the third version of a competitive that I already know isn’t going to show the sort of data it needs to, it’s really tempting to scream in frustration.
So I take a deep breath. I smile and nod at my supervisor, “yes, of course I’ll re-pull the data.” Then, in the midst of my resigned annoyance, I realize how completely ridiculous life is sometimes. I’ve prepared hundreds of thousands of dollars in plans, that the client told us ahead of time they weren’t going to go through with. We still had to present the plans.
I’ve spent hours sorting and analyzing data that we already know is skewed and won’t deliver measurable results. It’s so absurd that it’s funny in that crazy I-haven’t-slept-in-68-hrs kind of way, where you find yourself laughing way too hard at a joke that isn’t that funny, but you just can’t help yourself. And that’s usually what I find myself doing. Because at the end of the day, I’d rather be laughing like a crazy person than screaming like one.
“At the end of the day, you just got to say it’s alright.” -Great Big Sea
I love my job, but everyone has those moments, right?
But even if you don’t admit to it here, I’m 97.3% sure I’m not alone in the whole laugh like a crazy person, love my job thing. I’m a planner so you know that statistic has to be accurate. Yeah…