Please forgive the obnoxious length of this post. It’s 4:00am and I stole most of it from an article I published in June, 2016, on LinkedIn. At this wee hour, it seems applicable to where my head is right now.
I’ve been engaged in recruiting for ORT America’s Annual Meeting. EVERY SINGLE TIME I utter the words, “Annual Meeting,” I feel like this: CLICK ON CARTOON SOUND EFFECTS for accurate representation of my opinion regarding the title/label, “Annual Meeting.”
If I had my druthers, I’d never call anything I’m deeply passionate about, or other people are supposed to be inspired by, “Annual Meeting.” I’d call it:
As you’ll see below, I am not a fan of labels. I’ve also started writing shorter articles, but I hope this lengthy post (that I’d shorten if it wasn’t 4:38 AM), relays to you what I really think of uttering the words, “Annual Meeting.”
I really dislike labels. When someone asks what I do, or who I am, I almost always dislike my answers. My responses are usually, “I’m a fundraiser,” or, “I’m divorced,” or “I’m J and C’s Mom.” When I ask who you are and what you do, I hope for more than two or three words. As it stands in our society, labels and an individual’s outer image are inextricably connected and hold a hefty weight. How we choose to label ourselves and put ourselves out there, leaves a mark, but is it accurate? I don’t think so.
I recently attended my first strictly Orthodox Bar Mitzvah for a friend’s son. A few weeks ago, my friend suggested that I wear a long skirt to the service, as I’d be more comfortable being dressed like the other women, in accordance with Orthodox Jewish culture and tradition. She was very kind, but as she advised me, I could feel myself rebelling against the idea of following such rules.
On the morning of the Bar Mitzvah, I dressed modestly, but chose wide leg slacks, rather than a skirt. To be honest, I looked like a twin sister of Bea Arthur as the character, “Maude.” I didn’t love my outfit, or even like it, but I sort of appeared, Jewish-ish, (whatever that is), even though I wore pants.
As I walked into the women’s section of the shul, a nice woman asked if I wanted a prayer book, and so, I took one. I asked if I should wear a head covering. The woman responded, “You’re wearing pants.” When I heard her utter those words, I knew I’d made the wrong wardrobe decision. She continued, “Are you married?” I told her I was not. She then asked, “Are you Jewish?” When I exclaimed, “Yes, I’m Jewish,” she told me I didn’t have to wear a head covering because I’m not married. She also told me not to feel badly about the pants debacle and that next time, I should wear a skirt. She was lovely.
I started thinking of labels and of the image I’d put out there that morning, but what I hadn’t shared with her. Had I been honest, I’d have told her, “I’m rebellious against wearing a long skirt, but it’s really no big deal, and I should have had more respect for you and your house of worship. I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” I could have said, “I was raised Jewish, and feel most Jewish when I pray with my feet, but you may not think I’m Jewish because I don’t have 100% Jewish genes and we may disagree on specific political and religious issues.”
Okay, okay. I know most people don’t want to hear these lengthy, honest answers, but when I label myself, “Jewish,” there are assumptions and perceptions, but how do we correct these inaccuracies? How many of us are inquisitive enough to ask more questions?
I admit, I’m inquisitive to a fault, and perhaps that’s one of the most accurate labels I wear. My interest in people is what propels me to love them so much. While I’m not usually so rebellious as to not wear a skirt in shul, I don’t think the nice woman at the entrance of the women’s section labeled me as “A rebellious, stubborn woman who should have had more respect.” This would have been an accurate label on that day. Instead, she knew I was “Jewish, unmarried, and made a mistake.”
I find labels most prevalent in business, and they’re chock full of rules, expectations and “shoulds.” I don’t really subscribe to that type of thinking, but I go along with the image and label that is expected of me, depending on the occasion.
My resumé is diverse and usually makes for an interesting conversation. I have followed an atypical career path. Today, when I present as “Fundraiser,” or tomorrow, when I present as “Trainer,” or in a few weeks when I’m an, “Emcee,” how do these labels and images encompass all that we really are, and especially at our core? Aren’t we interested in going deeper?
What if we stopped submitting resumés, and started submitting, “Truthés?” Here’s what one of mine might look like:
Pamela Klier-Weidner. People Lover and Inquisitive Seeker
Legally, my name is Pamela Klier, but I kept, the Weidner, because I didn’t want to confuse my kids by having a different last name after my divorce
Objective: To listen, demonstrate love and tolerance, communicate the truth, guide people, and allow the cream to rise
- Lover of people and the direction/s they really want to go (which is the basis for everything, I think)
- Inquisitive (that too, but also have a sense that if you aren’t comfy, I’ll shut up and respect your comfort level)
- Super fun (if we aren’t having fun, why are we doing it?)
- Perfectionist (not proud of this, but truth is truth)
- Periodically stubborn (don’t love this about me either, and sometimes I’m right to be stubborn. Other times, not so much)
- Creative risk-taker (this usually pays off, or at least it has historically)
- Non drinker or drugger (no judgment: if you can do that without impending doom, fine)
- Weak at accepting compliments
- Compliment giver, and almost always means them
- Very generous which is periodically caught up in people pleasing, but this is improving
- Not entirely at peace with physical appearance, especially when it’s humid and coif is out of control. Working on accepting physical appearance, and working harder on it not mattering as much
Yep. I would consider hiring someone who gave me a “Truthé,” in a hot minute.
I realize and respect that labels, stereotypes and images present a level of safety for us and that the appearance of and/or acceptance of “Truthés” is not likely to exist, except in my own head, and now, in this post.
So… if you seek to help repair this world through education while we engage in creative and collaborative idea sharing, please join me at the Sheraton Grand in downtown Chicago on March 18th, 2018. In fact, come on March 17th at Pinstripes, for our “DAY BEFORE THE ORT Day of Collaborative, Visionary Genius.” I’d be delighted to play a friendly game of bocce ball with you, as we get our creative ideas prepped and flowing before the next day. (I am pretty good at bocce ball. You’ve been warned.)
I love ORT. I love the 138 year history, its stories, the students, families and communities who have needed, benefited from, or still need ORT educational programs.
We need at least another 138 years. We need you.