Saturday 7 March 2015

Asserting Your Worth to Yourself

It's Seraphic Singles Saturday, but first I should explain to confused new readers from Pewsitter that this is not a Catholic news blog. You want my take on Catholic news, you go here or here. This is my fun blog, a spin-off from my old blog, Seraphic Singles. It's mostly for girls, and I aim to build up, not to tear down. I posted on R*sicagate only because (A) it was time for all good bloggers to come to the aid of the party and (B) I hate pretending I know less than I do. Meanwhile, the Scandal Domet is a cracking good story if singularly unedifying.


So to address Single Life, I will go back into the past and ponder my skinny, twenty-something self working at the Passport Office. I was a failed Single, which is to say that I had married badly and was utterly miserable although vastly relieved to be "Separated". Nevertheless, I was going through the first divorce in the family since 1950, and the first divorce in the Catholic side of the family EVER. So although on the outside I was an athletic and attractive young lady in a suit (size 2), on the inside I was a terrible mess.

And into the office came a member of my high school graduating class, whom I will call Moonface.  And Moonface delivered the knockout blow to my self-esteem.

My high school, occupying a historic convent, was primarily for clever Catholic girls. We were being trained as the women leaders of tomorrow, or so it said in the school board catalogue. The school had a proud tradition, and we were even told that just having its name on our resumes would help us in life, etc. The founder of the order that nominally ran the school was presented as an Elizabethan proto-feminist CEO.

I loved the building and the tradition, but I hated the emphasis on the the Women Leaders of Tomorrow, and I felt that the subjects I was good at weren't considered as good as Math and Science. When students won prizes at Science and Math competitions, teachers beamed and there were loud fanfares. See? Girls CAN do math and science! When I had a story published after a city-wide competition, there was a faculty room scandal and studied silence. Of course, the story was a creative-nonfiction about the nastiness of a teacher, but try explaining that to me then. The point is the school was all about future professional success, preferably in male-dominated fields. And, as my mother pointed out, that is why parents sent their daughters there.

Anyway, so there I was at the Passport Office, feeling like a complete failure at the age of 26, which  felt similar to how I felt when I was failing math class at 16, when Moonface walked in with her passport application. Moonface, I soon found out, was in charge of operations of multinational company X in country Y, which is why she needed her passport renewed. And Moonface looked around the office and then looked at me with an amused smirk and asked, "So this is what you do?"

"So this is what you do?"

Actually this was only 8 hours of what I did, and I have never been so well paid per annum, before or since. Before work I lifted weights and ran the treadmill at the YMCA. After work I went to the boxing gym, trained hard and hit men before returning to my bachelor flat to study Italian, Latin or Greek and read about the ongoing wars in former Yugoslavia. But that's not what I thought to myself. What I thought to myself was, "I am soooo embarrassed. I am such a failure. Oh, I want to die. Oh, floor, open up and swallow me."  

I don't remember what I said to Moonface, but I don't think it was, "This is what I do, but it is not who I am." Nor was it, "Man, I love this job! When 5 PM rolls around, I'm out the door and doing stuff I love." Nor was it, "This is what I do now, but thanks to this good entry level job in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 20 years, I'll be running the Canadian Embassy in Rome." And that is too bad because if I had said that to Moonface, I might have believed it.

"So this is what you do?"

If this were a movie--or maybe if I were a man--Moonface's taunt would have inspired me to action, to begin planning my career trajectory so that I would be running the Canadian Embassy in Rome in 20 years (i.e. two years from now). But unfortunately it was real life, and I lack a manly sense of "I'll show you!" so actually I was just disheartened and lost pride in any sense of achievement in my job. I mean, yeah, it paid well, but so what? It wasn't like being in charge of operations for X in Y, now, was it?

"So this is what you do?"

What lessons can I wring from this rather depressing story?

1. Women can be bullies. Men can be bullies, too, of course, but from the age of 14, I have encountered many more female ones than male. And although my battles over the counter included one with a Nazi sympathizer, this is the worst, the most long-lasting thing, that ever happened to me at the office. So be prepared, and don't let the bastardettes grind you down.

2. When someone beats up on you, don't join her. She is the loser, not you. Why Moonface decided to have a go at me that day, I will never know.

3. I know this is trite and unfair and nigh on impossible, but don't compare your worldly success unfavourably to that of other women, let alone to that of men.

4. Nobody can do as much damage to you as you. When a new passport system gave me (and others) overuse syndrome which threatened to turn into carpal tunnel, I didn't lobby for promotion away from the counter. I just gave notice and quit. That was imprudent, and my decision was indeed influenced by Moonface gazing around the office, smirking and asking me, "So this is what you do?"

5. Your value lies not in what you do for a living nor in how much money you have nor in how much other human beings respect you but in the fact that you are a beloved daughter of God called to specific tasks that He will help you find. THIS should be the focus of women's education, but if you weren't raised that way, then it is up to you to learn and believe it. 

I am still working on that.


  1. Interesting post, and relevant to me as I am very "feminine" in my talents (that is to say that I was never good enough at -- or interested enough in -- maths and science to even think about a career as a doctor/engineer/accountant.)

    Law and politics? Well, my psyche and psychology are too "feminine" (read: uncompetitive) for that as well.

    I have sometimes thought about my former high school classmates who have become aerospace engineers or medical students or marketing executives and I have reflected that I have not reached such a level of worldly glory, but in my work as a musician and music teacher I get paid reasonably well, I enjoy what I do and I'm my own boss. It's not bad, and it will fit well with a life as a wife and mother, if ever that should happen.

  2. I love Seraphic Saturdays--also Traddy Tuesdays, and I look forward to Art Wednesdays. But your Polish posts are always a treat too! What about Polish Mondays or Fridays, Seraphic?

  3. Do you know, I was planning to begin "Polski Piatek" this Friday! I was too busy. But perhaps tomorrow I will have a "Polski Poniedzialek".

  4. This might be one of my favorite posts of yours, Seraphic! I guess we all have a devastating comment echoing in our head that can drive us crazy if we let it (I definitely do). A hearty "AMEN" to point #5.

  5. I would love Polski Piatek, Seraphic! I think your posts about Poland/Polish are really inspiring. I speak Swedish (mother tongue), English, Japanese and French (although my French is slipping...). Recently I've had a strong urge to learn Polish because of your posts and because my boyfriend is Polish. I find it a very beautiful language and that hello (cześć) has more consonants than most acronyms is hilarious.

    What are your methods for language studies? How do you keep a language up? How do you keep motivation up? The last one I find the toughest. I had a strong interest in Japan before, but after having lived there for one year I lost interest in everything Japanese. I can't decide whether to focus on Japanese, which doesn't motivate me, or start learning Polish, which I feel passionate about at the moment.

    That is some fodder for future post!


  6. I would go with passion. I don't know why it would be important for you to learn Japanese, but I can certainly see why you would want to learn Polish. I highly recommend the book "Fluent Forever" for study tips. To keep a language up, I read it every day, I made and study flashcards, I try to listen to it most days, I write letters and stories in it and I go to a night school class.


This is Edinburgh Housewife, a blog for Catholic women and other women of good will. It assumes that the average reader is an unmarried, childless Catholic woman over 18. Commenters are asked to take that into consideration before commenting. Anonymous comments may be erased.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.