Amy Roberts: There’s nothing figurative about me, quite literally
On occasion, usually when I’ve exasperated her to the point of exhaustion, my mother will say to me, “You are just like your father.”
This is never meant as a compliment. It’s something she exclaims in a moment of frustration, when she can’t get me to understand her viewpoint. The comment is often followed by an eye roll, or a wave of her hands, indicating the conversation is over. I’m as hopeless as he is. At times, my father will also accuse me of being just like my mother. This is generally reserved for those occasions when he’s told me to bring a coat, I don’t because I’m sure I’ll be fine, and five minutes after we arrive, I start whimpering about how cold it is.
According to my parents, I’m the perfect blend of both of their worst traits.
But aside from our shared habit of rarely being prepared for the weather, I don’t take after my mom all that much. My personality, sense of humor, and communication style are straight from my dad’s chromosomes.
Our similarity is perhaps most obvious in how we interpret communication with others — we are both very literal people. If my dad is in a pool and you ask him, “How’s the water?” He will respond, “Wet.”
I have always assumed I was a bit more abstract than him, that I allowed some room for casual interpretation or metaphor. But now, I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s true, at some point we all turn into our parents. If it is, I officially crossed the marker last week.
I recently signed up for a course on professional development. In theory, it’s supposed to help you identify what you want out of your career and show you how to get there. In reality, it’s more of a group therapy session for a dozen people currently working their way through a midlife crisis. We’re all trying to figure out what’s next. For some, there are thoughts of risking it all to start over and pursue a long-suppressed passion. Others are trying to determine their professional growth potential; do they have what it takes to be the next CEO? And some don’t want anything more, they just want to know that’s okay. They’re seeking confirmation there are others who are content and fulfilled existing on the ladder’s middle step. Mediocracy by democracy.
I’m not sure where I fit into this mix, but I have found solace in realizing I’m not the only one who wonders what I’m doing with my life. I am, however, apparently the only one who has ever interpreted (and answered) a questionnaire so literally.
In hopes of helping at least one of us in the class be less dysfunctional, our instructor handed us a paper with three questions. Upon doing so he said, “There are no wrong answers. Reply in your most honest and authentic voice.”
The questions were:
1. What do you hope to accomplish? 2. What do you see as your most toxic trait? 3. What are you most proud of?
My responses were:
1. To have a dual income household and live alone. 2. How badly I want to domesticate a penguin. 3. That my ex is no longer my type.
Upon reading them, the instructor assumed I was trying to get a laugh. And re-reading these answers now, I can see how that might be his conclusion. But at the time, I interpreted the instructions of “honest” and “authentic” responses quite literally. Just like my dad would have.
Maybe I should have considered the context and replied to each question as it related only to my professional life. But that wasn’t the instruction. And while I might not have any more clarity about my professional future, if nothing else, this course helped me realize that honesty and authenticity are always the right answer.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.