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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!


Eureka!


My inner judge was shushed,


my compulsion to contribute


SOMETHING MEANINGFUL to the world


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. 

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!


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 BroadwayWorld.com

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