Monday, October 4, 2010

relief for a control freak

I wasn't always like this, and it's good that I remember it.

I remember when I was in my twenties and I swore I'd never, ever become so anti-social as my parents. I was punk rock and partied every chance I got. How could one ever decide to say no to a social gathering? Now I know. When all energy is spent during work hours trying to navigate the social fabric of a large organization, the last thing I find myself interested in is dealing with more personalities.

I remember staying up until 4am as a teenager in Buenos Aires. After all, that's just the culture. Dinner is eaten at 9 or 10pm. Lateness is a compliment - 30 minutes is perfect. Early or punctual, and you're regarded as an outsider. And the famous saying is "mañana, mañana." Again, in my twenties, it was natural for me to stay up until bar time - and try to push bartenders to stay open later. I scoffed at my parents and older friends who retired at midnight (or earlier!) to the quiet of their graveyard-like homes. I also swore I'd never need cover-up for under-eye circles or a blow dryer to pretty up my hair, much less any kind of "product" or preening.

Combine the two, and I've got to be up by 6am for an hour-and-half routine of showering, making coffee, putting a lunch together, checking my personal email (it's not allowed on work computers - thank god for the iphone), doing my hair, placing the make-up, and donning the professional work clothes I chose the night before. (God help me how many times the bus is late as I am!) Anyone who knew me before these days has laughed belly-over at the fact that I'm actually becoming a "morning person," while not joyous in the morning I am teaching my brain to actually be congnizant before 10am. So, this leads to enhancing the first point - ugh, people after work hours - and to an early bedtime. At first, because of the steep learning curve, I was like a teenager and required a full night of 8 hours. Then, I adjusted a bit, and could function on 6-7 hours. But now, I'm in a new position (executive assistant - what do they do? "execute!") and again I suffer without a full 8 hours of sleep. This puts me into bed by 10pm - assisted by magic little OTC blue pills.

It didn't use to matter if I had a smear here, a stain there, a forgetfulness over here. But somewhere along the lines - after my days in the non-profit but before grad school, maybe while studying for the GRE - I decided that I couldn't live without some kind of striving for perfection. It's always been inside me, perhaps a bit dormant. My father always tried to instill in us the objective of perfection - that we would never be so, but that the act of trying for it was good enough. In fact, it was perfect to aim for perfection. "Fail to plan, plan to fail." "Proper planning prevents piss poor performance." I also read in a book somewhere, and was confirmed by several dominants with whom I've engaged, that submissives are the biggest control freaks ever. It makes sense in a way. They/we aim to please, strive to fulfill our dominants' needs, want to be better and look better to reflect on them, want to clean the house better or serve the best and most formal way (if we're service subs), want to take as much pain as possible (if we're S&M subs), want to get every little action or position as perfectly as possible (to avoid - or reduce - a punishment, which we may or may not seek anyway), etc.

It's very interesting to me that my colleagues don't know this side of me. They don't understand that even if they tell me XYZ meeting isn't a big deal at all, it means the world to me to get it right. That they say ABC report doesn't mean so much because GHI agency won't really read it - I'm still compelled to complete it perfectly. This can be a hiderence if I don't control the control freak. For instance, boss man tasked me with writing a paper on a certain budget possibility. In the middle of writing it, the woman who previously held my position stopped by and I asked her, "when is it enough?" Of course, she reminded me of what I knew in grad school. "At some point you have to stop researching it and write it. You'll never know everything. You can't. You're too new and you're not omniscient."

So, here it was. A big meeting today. I'd been put in the position to coordinate it. The Commissioner was there and someone tried to introduce us - although we'd been introduced twice and I'd bumped into him in the hallway several times - and he said, "Oh yeah. I already know her. How's it goin'? [something he says EVERY time I see him] I hear you're doing a great job." [The little sub in me rejoiced. Or, perhaps, the girl on the border of X-generation and Y-generation. I'm told my generation and younger seek more validation in their work than previous generations.] "Well, thank you. That's nice." I had nothing more to offer or comment. I was a bit taken aback. My big boss isn't one to offer much feedback at all, thus, I'm only assured that I'm doing a good job by the fact that I'm still in the position that I'm in - would have been transferred if I wasn't working out to his standards.

But then the mistakes. The mistakes came in rolling over the day-long important meeting. One representative wasn't present, although I thought I'd communicated clearly that she was supposed to be there. (Although this doesn't count as a mistake too much as people had told me how problematic she'd been in the past.) Then, the missing last page of Mr. Y's presentation. I went back to the office after the meeting and there it was, the communication from the Commissioner's chief of staff to omit that page. Whew! I had to forward it to him, humbly, just to point out the fact that I was, in fact, not in the wrong and did not neglect my duties, but that there was a missed communication in the end. Same with a following presentation. A page was missing. I have yet to dig up the email communication on that one, but I'm pretty set in knowing that it wasn't my failure.

And that's all new to me. In the good ol' days, I could have let it roll off my back. But in this new spotlight, I feel ever more compelled to make it right, make it excel, make it outstanding. I don't want to meet expectations, and I don't just wan to exceed what people think I can do, I want to knock their fucking socks off. Not that I'm aiming for some superior rise up the ladder, because frankly I don't think I want to be an executive - I'm too lazy. But I want them to think I can gel in the funny moments of the secret downtime between them. I want them to know I can pull anything off and do it superbly.

Sigh. Who is this new person? "Who has kidnapped my sister?" My sister asked. All of this newness even boils down into my dirty sex life. I've been seeing ....


and no editing.

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