I recently received a Facebook “friend” request from a former colleague whom I hadn’t seen nor spoken with for several years. Perhaps a decade. He also sent me a message saying he’s “so happy for what you [I] have become, knowing yourself [myself] and getting to where you [I] want to be.”
I am happy and thankful for those kind words. Yet I wondered — Is it what I have become or is it more of coming back to who I really am?
All the 16 years I spent in the corporate world where this former colleague and I met were years of pretense. Of fitting in. Of being someone I wasn’t — only because it’s part of the job and comes with the territory. Of looking for attention. Proving myself. Seeking for approval and appreciation — that I didn’t get from Mom and Dad.
And that’s the only side of me, the shadow side of me with which my friends and colleagues interacted. Poor them! 🙂 Oh, I was such a bitch and a witch! I was fierce and feisty! My mantra was “I’d rather be feared than be liked.” Looking back, I wouldn’t even want to work for me! 🙂
Once, I was answering a lifestyle magazine questionnaire. One of the questions was, “What is the one word that best describes you?” Searching for the appropriate answer, I asked a colleague, “Ano ba ako, mataray o masungit? (What am I, bitchy or grumpy?)” Without even thinking and without batting an eyelash, he replied, “Pareho (Both).” 🙂 I even took pride being labeled as such. Now, I cringe when I recall my “corporate heyday.”
And I feel sorry for those who put up with my mean and condescending ways. Those who became the recipient of my inner conflicts and unresolved issues — if only because they had “no choice” as, rightly or wrongly, it did come with the territory.
Yet, I am ever grateful for those who merely chose not to level with me because it wasn’t a good use of their time and energy. A very few who were able to see beyond the façade — those who extended compassion and understanding, knowing it was only a defense mechanism.
One of them is John L. Hall, who was at the time, Vice President for Oracle Asia-Pacific Alliances and Marketing. I was reporting to John when I was responsible for the South-Asia Region of Oracle’s Alliances and Channels business.
The offer that almost made me go back
In 2002, two years after I turned my back on the corporate world, I was offered the position of Executive Director for the IT Association of the Philippines (ITAP). It was a newly created position, and I was even the one who drew up my job description.
Seeing the line-up of programs and activities of the organization, I honestly got so excited initially. They were civic and socially oriented more than business. I thought it was my way of giving back to the IT industry. And I was grateful that despite the image and reputation that I had, there were those who chose to see through me and valued my strengths and skills that I could bring to the table.
I met up individually with some of the members of the board who were CEO’s of the leading IT companies. I attended a board meeting for which I donned a pantsuit. Not a regular formal business suit but a more casual pantsuit. I tell you. Wearing it felt so weird. So uncomfortable. So not me! 🙂
On the day that I was supposed to sign on the dotted line, I told Cynthia Romero-Mamon, who was then the president of the association as well as the Philippines office of SUN Microsystems, that I couldn’t get myself to accept the offer. I was honored and grateful, but I explained to her the discomfort that I felt when I had to dress the part.
Cynthia looked at me and what I was wearing — jeans and T-shirt — which at the time became my regular outfit. With much appreciation, she reached out to my hand while reassuringly saying, “I understand. What you’re wearing now, that’s you now.”
“It was never you.”
In 2004, I met up with John, my former boss, at his office at the Oracle corporate headquarters in Redwood Shores, California. I recounted this incident to him. To my pleasant surprise, he negated Cynthia’s comment. John looked me in the eye and told me, “Nadine, it was never you.”
Those words left an imprint and continue to resonate with every cell of my being. They spoke no less than the truth about me — then and now.
It was never me.
So, to those “ex-friends” requesting to be “friends” once more, be it through Facebook or other media, thank you, but no, thank you. And this is why I chose and will continue to choose to not respond or to decline any request. Not that I owe anyone an explanation –because I don’t.
It was never me.
It is no longer my world. My interests and whatever else kept us connected then are no longer part of my life and reality now.
It’s not that I’ve changed or that I’m a different person now –although it’s understandable and easy to see it that way.
It’s really, and it’s only that I’ve woken up. From a very deep slumber.
It is no longer my world. It is no longer my reality. It is no longer my truth.
I’m not saying that with any feeling of shame, guilt, embarrassment, ickiness. Not even denial — although I did go through that phase.
Over time, I spent years and thousands of dollars in therapy and counseling, books, workshops, and other tools to heal myself. To arrive at a place of having made peace with that chapter and all other previous chapters in my biography.
And that sense of peace comes from coming to terms with the fact that all those were part of my journey. They were part of what I needed to learn. They led me to where I am now.
And when relationships have served their purpose or have reached their expiration date, we just let them go with much appreciation in our heart and joyful anticipation for what lies ahead.
(Besides, I created my Facebook account, not for the usual social interactions for which Facebook was created and intended. I created it for a page for this blog site, for this virtual center for healing. And I explicitly stated that in my Facebook account/page.)
Everything is a choice
I am grateful for all that I experienced and went through.
I, like the rest of us, made the choices, unknowingly and unconsciously, given where I was in my life, given the circumstances, and given my level of awareness that was indeed for the record: I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t aware! 🙂
Would I have done it any differently?
Absolutely not! If I did, my life would most certainly have taken a different direction. And those other different possibilities are no longer relevant.
What matters now, what truly matters are the lessons that I’ve learned and the growth opportunities that have made me wiser, balanced, and integrated.
And most important of all, it is the dark, unawake, and unaware periods of my life that have led me to come closer to the Divine. To come as close as possible to the Divine that is within me. It is what led me, not to who I have become now, but to come back to who I really am.
It is in darkness through which light shines.
And if that is the place that my ex-friend refers to as “getting to where you want to be,” then yes, I am a very happy camper! And I sure hope and trust that he is, too — as with everyone else! 🙂
- Apologize not
- From the Corporate World to the Healing Arts
- Of get-togethers and reunions
- The end of friendships
# # #