What’s your legacy? What kind of legacy have you created so far? What would you like your legacy to be? Did you ever want to be an artist? Or sing in a band? Or drive a race car? Most of us dream of exotic intoxicating careers that we want to do before we call it quits.
At the age of 12 I knew I wanted to be a musician in a band, traveling the country and playing gigs to thousands of people. By the time I was 14 I was playing guitar and singing to small groups for a few bucks. By 15, I was in my first band. By 17, I was starting to travel for gigs in other cities. By 20, I was on the road full time, By 27, I was done.
By the age of 27, I’d done what I’d dreamt of doing as a child and I didn’t want to do it anymore. I’d lived in hotel rooms 50 weeks a year for 7 years. I’d played night clubs 6 nights a week and traveled, sometimes 500 miles in a van with a couple of the band mates, to the next gig on our “day off”. I lived with four guys (one who ended up being my husband for 11 years).We never stayed anywhere long enough for me to make friends, and most of the women I got to know really only wanted to meet the guys in the band. I was tired, lonely, and never wanted to see the green shag carpet of a Holiday Inn ever again. I was dreaming of . . . a regular job.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade that time or experience for anything. I grew up in that unusual culture and it defintiely had an impact on who I am today. But in an odd twist of fate, I did what I dreamt of doing when I was young and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next.
My “Dream Job” became a 9 to 5 job, with a 401k, benefits, and holiday pay. I could have girlfriends and go to movies in the evening, and have weekends off. This was my dream job fantasy. You can imagine, once I got a real job (and believe me, getting that first job with a resume that had only “chick singer” in the experience section was not easy), I was a little sad that it wasn’t as fun or glamorous as Mary Tyler Moore made it look in her 1970s comedy. That was really my only reference point for what it was like to work in an office. My goal at that time was to make $30,000 a year. I thought if I could make that much, I’d be able to have a nice apartment, make my car payment, and take a little vacation once in a while. I took me 3 years to get that far, but I did, and I also progressed with my human resources career.
I started out as an HR assistant and within a year I was given an HR generalist job. Everyone said I would NEVER get that professional HR role. I was too old. I didn’t have enough experience. I didn’t have a degree. The list went on and on and I never paid attention. I worked hard, listened to what people said, used the vast people skills I’d acquired working in the band and I looked for opportunities.
As I’ve written before, I also had the little voice sitting on my shoulder telling me I didn’t deserve this and I wasn’t good enough to have it. The Imposter Syndrome took root big time and made the journey harder than it had to be, but I’ve learn how to get through that. What became an issue is the gender inequity I experienced and saw happening to very talented women and it made me angry. As that anger grew, I knew I needed to do something about it. I couldn’t address it while I was in the corporate situation I was in, so when that ended I teamed up with my like-minded friend, Jae Lynn Rangel and formed Ask Ajna.
My third dream job. It would really be easy to say, “I’m too old to do this”, but the truth is I’m more energized and more of a risk taker than I’ve been in years. And the great thing – Ask Ajna is probably not the last dream I’ll chase. I’ve been encouraging my dear friend Kathy to look at getting into local politics. I may start actively supporting women candidates achieve their dream of being elected to a public service job. I may decide to teach something.
I hope my legacy inspires others to follow their dreams, no matter how many dreams they have or how often they change. When I was young and still playing music in St Louis, there was a band that played in a club down by the riverfront which had four women at least 65 to 80 years of age. They were pretty good musicians and played those nasty blush-inducing songs. Honestly, they were raunchy songs, but they could get away with it. They packed the nightclub and they were great fun to listen to. At the time I thought, “Now that’s the way to end a career.” Who knows? Maybe there’s a gig waiting for me down by the riverside.
Photo Credit: Gravemann Studio, East Alton, Il, Harvest 1973