Continued from previous post…
Looking back, the corner office and all its trappings could be summed up via the old expression: be careful what you wish for. You’d gotten the carrot only to find out you didn’t like carrots. You’d grabbed the brass ring but it hurt like hell holding on. Climbing the ladder you hadn’t realized the rungs below would disappear until it was too late. There was no stepping down a few lengths to adjust, catch your breath, and assess the view. You had to keep climbing or plummet, which is exactly what happened. This was not to say certain ambitious and notorious colleagues hadn’t greased the rungs, expediting your fall; they had.
Came a time there wasn’t a safety net. No cushy job after the severance. No friends to catch you, even those you’d helped on their own ladders to the top. You try not to be bitter. What good would it do? Resentments were like taking poison and expecting others to suffer.
Enlightenment didn’t prevent you from occasionally trolling these pricks. Waves of resentment rolled in now and again, like the king tides in Marin, defeating you. Maybe you turned to the Internet, desperately trying to find an outlet for your vitriol. Mercifully, mostly, you never pressed send.
You remember the day you crossed the one hundred thousand dollar mark. When you were 30 years old, and recently married. You took Sarah out to celebrate, sat across from her in the restaurant, maybe even held her hand, speaking about the future as if it were a gift. If you ever were in love with her it was then, when nothing felt impossible. That night even drinking too much seemed fine. You don’t remember if you and Sarah made love but it hardly mattered. Intoxicated, the two of you. The next morning hangovers were pleasant. Lazing together in pajamas, drinking coffee, reading the paper, gazing at homes in the real estate section, day dreaming about the fantastic tomorrows both of you would share.
And yet, even then, you knew money was most of all a yardstick for your ego. Titles would serve the same purpose. Copywriter. Senior Writer. Associate Creative Director. Creative Director. Vice President. Group Creative Director. Senior Vice President. Executive Creative Director. Rungs in the ladder. Notches in your belt.
Perhaps after achieving success, as was accused, you became complacent. It’s possible. You had made compromises, believing certain situations required it. You must wonder about that now.
You were most content when your work got noticed, won awards and attracted people to you. One campaign in particular ran the table at all the award shows, garnering praise around the world. It would become the agency’s show pony, and you rode it proudly. The best whore in the whorehouse and you were its pimp. The man. Waiting for an elevator at work, a group of marketing students gathered behind you. You heard one of them excitedly whisper to his mate. “That’s him!” He was talking about you. “No fucking way,” the other guy said.
Being revered was beyond anything you’d ever experienced, more gratifying than your promotions and trophies. And it had come unsolicited. Out of the ether! For what seemed like the first time, you’d been noticed for greatness not flaws. No longer were you the fat kid punched in the gut and crucified on the diving board. You were special, with proof. You’d waited so long for that moment had fantasized about it. Comeuppance. By then the fantasy was less about smashing your tormentors and more about gaining respect and validation. You had no idea what it would look like until that afternoon by the elevators, when the world shifted, ever so slightly, favoring you.
You chased that feeling like the drug that it was, madly looking for it in every promotion, every raise, every accolade. It was never enough but the next one would be.
Relationships and family took a back seat. Any idiot could find a mate and have babies. Friends were transient. Parents weren’t there. Finally, you had something you could control. What you craved was conditional and directly related to your accomplishments. Your vocation became the most important thing in your life. You drank. You got high. But it was just a byproduct of success or a panacea to failure. Finally, you had a calling.
You were chasing windmills.