By Naomi Serviss / New York City
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
“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
SOMETHING MEANINGFUL to the world
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.
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.
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
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.
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. Whoops.
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!
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 BroadwayWorld.com