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Aisle Seat: Finding Your Bliss When Life is Amiss

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

By Naomi Serviss / New York City

Diehard fans

of HBO’s megahit, “The Sopranos,”

may remember when

Tony experienced a profound epiphany

during a psychedelic trip.

His bloated face

crinkled with laughter watching the sun rise.

He enthusiastically proclaimed

repeatedly, joyously:

“I get it!” “I get it!”

What exactly did he get?

Radical acceptance of his murderous habits?

A cosmic thunderbolt

of self-awareness and shame?

Maybe a pledge to refrain from overeating?

The realization that psychotherapy

was for the birds?

Postulate away, no answers were revealed.

I, too, have had an

“I get it!” thunderbolt or two

but without pharmaceutical midwifery.

After years of searching for my life’s purpose,

I gracefully accepted my limitations.

I’ll never learn to tightrope walk

and that’s okay!

Apparently, my struggle

for a meaningful existence

doesn’t hinge upon what I do for a living!


My inner judge was shushed,

my compulsion to contribute


was deflated.

Who cares

if I’m never a renowned artist,

heart surgeon or Olympic figure skater?

I’ll never conduct Mozart’s 40th,

memorize Waiting for Godot

or nab a MacArthur Genius Grant.

If I don’t ever shimmy

into my skinny jeans again,

c’est la vie.

My values haven’t changed,

but my once-shaky core has stabilized.

It’s been a rocky road,

pockmarked by bouts

of depression, anxiety,

a “little” disordered eating,

you know--the works.

And of course, don’t let’s forget

the ever-mutating virus, for extra discomfort!

Mental and emotional distress shapeshifted,

running amuck in my malaise.

Gratefully, my sense of humor

helped save me from the brink.

That and the unconditional love

of my husband and kids.

If my theater of-the-absurd life

wasn’t cause for levity, nothing was.

While on the hunt for a purpose-driven existence

I wended my way through

a potpourri of vocational aspirations.

Some highlights:

As publications editor

for the New Jersey National Bank’s

inhouse employee newspaper,

I wrote a lengthy feature

about women executives in the banking industry.

It was a deadening job

in a windowless office

whose walls I plastered with

New Yorker covers to distract from

the hospital-beige paint.

I was also the designated treasurer

for the Employee Social Committee.

Full disclosure:

Math is not my strong suit.

Don’t quiz me on multiplication tables.

I majored in English and Journalism

at Temple University.

Economics and equations gave me the willies.

Mr. Harvey Fleegler,

my 10th grade algebra teacher,

shamed me into crying

when I gave the wrong answer

to a blackboard problem.

Cheltenham High School

was a purpose-driven institution,

teachers were humorless

and pushed overachievers to a fault.

In biology class we had to dissect frogs!

Whose brilliant idea was that?

Many a freshman nightmare burbled

with vengeful amphibians with tiny scalpels.

During the late ‘60s,

Vietnam was shaking and waking

the high school student body.

A strict dress code forbidding

culottes, miniskirts AND granny dresses

seemed absurd.

We questioned authority

and were reprimanded

with suspensions and worse.

The best thing about the school

was its 35-cent brownie,

a generous square of fudgy decadence.

Circling back

to the New Jersey National Bank job:

I assigned myself an article

featuring women banking executives.

One woman had just been promoted

to vice president

and made for

a tight, albeit boring, feature.

The issue was completed,

the papers were stacked in my office

ready for delivery among the employees.

Only, there was a sticky problem.

Turned out, it was common knowledge

that the aforementioned executive

was having an affair with the bank president. 


Once word got out,

the kibosh was put on distribution.

I took a few surreptitiously.

It was disappointing,

but my competitive nature was sharpened.

The National Association of Bank Women

was sponsoring a writing competition.

About women executives in banking.

I had already submitted the issue

before the guillotine fell.

Already determined to get out

of that suffocating job,

that censorship prodded my resignation.

Good timing, since my husband Lew

was fed up

with reporting for the Trenton Times.

Also, it was in Trenton, New Jersey!

Armpit of the East!

I interviewed

for a quasi-public relations director position

at a foreign exchange student organization

recently based in D.C.

Turns out there had been

a wee bit of shady shenanigans

prompting the move

from its original Michigan location.

Of course, I didn’t learn that

until after I ditched the joint.

The best thing about that position was:

my office faced the National Cathedral!

The weirdest thing was:

I had a series of secretaries,

including an exchange student named Bent.

And a young woman named Brenda.

I never tired of hearing her answer the phone

in a southern drawl:

“Naomi Freedman’s office.”

What did I know from having a secretary?

Too bad about my boss,

who was a sexual predator

decades before Me, Too,

outed the rat bastards.

That was then, this is now.

Life is good, could be better, could be worse.

I no longer mistrust gut feelings.

Toxic relationships are cut off at the butt.

Good health is quality of life currency.

As for the writing competition I mentioned….

My story won.

But seriously folks,

it's not about the winning.

It's about being present in the game,

no matter where it leads.


Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including

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