I bought a new cell phone yesterday, and found myself putting deep thought into which protective cover to select. I’m drawn to bright colors, and instinctively grabbed one with a bright blue design. After a few moments I began to trade my spunky cover with a grown-up clear one. My boyfriend blocked my hand and grinned at me: “C’mon, Jamie, get the one you want. You don’t need to be professional all the time. And if you do, just take the cover off.”
In my year-and-a-half at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder, my self-image has changed. I no longer feel like I’m dressing up to go play banker. I’m no longer surprised by the level of authority my customers and coworkers grant to me. Somewhere along the way I grew to see myself as a professional; I came to believe the myth I’ve worked so hard to weave.
But, as my moment in the Verizon store revealed, part of me is in no hurry be a Real Adult.
There’s a natural dissonance with any major change, and these little moments make me smile. But they also make me realize that I never want to lose the piece of myself that loves brightly colored accessories. The fact is, I’m going to have to fight to keep her. That piece of myself is also the piece who, while interviewing someone who we hope will become a new employee, gets completely distracted by a man in a Santa suit and exclaims “Hey, look! St. Nick!”
After the interview, my Buzzkill Coworker made it clear that she disapproved of my “unprofessional action.” She also doesn’t like that I wear a Northface fleece jacket above my pink Ann Claiborne heels or use the word “bummer” when working with customers.
I’ll grant that my professional identity isn’t flawless. The secret? I don’t want flawless.