Month: August 2011

OPI: Other Professional Interests

So I am using this blog to also break out of my favorite hobby: avoiding. I learned this so well during my dissertation–find something more compelling to investigate; call that long-lost roommate from Presidential Classroom (dude, really); compare reality tv blog posts about housewives; find randoms on Facebook (clearly, I had to deactivate); or focus on other professional interests. Problem was, during the dissertation, I would start to think of all these different career interests but then would become increasingly stressed out thinking about what I had not done. Needless to say, this cycle was not working well for me. Then, in an instant it was all over–I successfully defended, submitted my revisions, and sat tirelessly by my email in hopes of learning that it had been uploaded into the magical land of dissertation database (ProQuest). Even reading this is painful–really, this was my life for like 7 years?! And let me be honest and say when I wasn’t worrying about it being uploaded, I was worrying about getting it finished…then worrying about NOT getting it finished…then worrying about everyone asking me WHY it wasn’t finished…then worrying that when I did finish, it wouldn’t be finished because someone was going to steal my topic! *panic*

[deep breath]. Relax, Lesley-Anne. We got it done…one page at a time, one transcription at a time (N=720 minutes), and one correction after the other. Although the process was quite painful, it was interesting how I found my reward. I painted my nails. Now be clear, I was entirely too broke to get them done at a salon (my next blog post will delve into my other OPI: Professional Bridesmaid-ing). I was reminded of this recently when my little sister who recently got married, treated us to a lovely pre wedding spa visit to Red Door. It was very humbling to think that a quality mani & petti costs nearly $100. Although it lasted for nearly 2 weeks, I was definitely humbled that this is a regular exercise of maintenance for some. Although I found that to be an exceptional experience, I started to reflect back to my dissertation avoiding space by looking at all the beautiful, seemingly successful other women at the salon getting their nails done and wondering what their OPI was…and then got envious at the thought that they were independently wealth or had married rich…a growing OPI of interest.

I began to think about when I treated myself to a spa trip prior to a life milestone…and then it dawned on me…I had but only for other people’s life milestones (aka weddings/bridesmaid activities). What about me?! What about my life milestones?! So to avoid the recent-grad-depressed-economy blues, I quickly changed gears and thought about when I had painted my nails a bold color and finally started to smile again. It was for graduation hooding nearly 3 months prior–but my mind couldn’t forget thinking also about how I had such other major life engagements going on but had put myself on the back burner. Regardless, I recalled how I felt in my cap & gown with my nails painted…I felt glamorous, beautiful, confident, smart, sassy, professional & ON. It’s like in serious times of stress, here I go, to my handy-dandy OPI collection. I even have those little bottles for designs which I have had to scale back as they often get too much attention…I get carried away and forget that my profession is not ready for “all that.” It was a wise woman who told me “never be distracting,” which is a nice way of saying “tone that down.”

I am obsessed with polished nails and I’ve finally figured out why. I think it has a lot to do with being polished. I remember my first job. I worked at Long & Foster Real Estate with a million dollar broker, the fabulous Annette Potts (may her husband & son RIP). I have so many memories of Annette: success, beauty, class, family get away vacations, family run business, catered holiday gatherings, Mercedes, and a perfect pooch! I loved Annette and really appreciate her being one of my first memorable role models. She & Mom are friends; she sold my parents our family home. I was about 15 and was breaking into the business! I was so empowered by her & was mesmerized by her lunches to Wendy’s–pita’s & frosty (diet of champions). She wore St. John suits all the time and had the kindest presence. She affirmed that you have to pay to play–you must look successful as well. You must be polished. She had the credentials, clients, property, life, physique, and overall lifestyle that reflects the caliber of Northern Virginia suburbs. She never gave me any breaks and really pushed me. I will never forget how important I felt when I became an initial “set up” assistant–I would go to the residence, use the lock box, enter & walk through the empty property to ensure everything was ok, and place signs where needed. She trusted me & made me feel confident in myself. She introduced me to my first OPI: entrepreneurship.

I thought there was nothing more fabulous on earth than to be my own boss, running my own shop, and living my dreams. And let’s be real here, it so wasn’t about always balancing the book & ensuring the break even analysis is ahead of schedule–what rocked my socks so hard was how she looked doing it. I became enthralled with the essence of success. I wanted painted nails. The only reason Dottie never really did the painted nails is because she has chemical sensitivities which steer her clear of fragrances, nail polish, hair products, etc. However, all of our leading ladies had painted nails: Aunt Ora, Aunt Joanne, Aunt Linda [aka Dr. Linda Cloud], Lynette Pair, …the list goes on and is way more extensive than this and I promise to add to this as time continues. But what’s important is that stayed with me. I also think about the other significant women in my life, who have left such lasting impressions with their painted nails: Dr. Carol Camp Yeakey (Washington & Lee Faculty), Dr. Cheryl Apprey (UVA Faculty), Dr. Ellen Scully-Russ (GWU Faculty), Dr. Valerie Sweeny Prince (HU Faculty–her nails might not have always been painted but they were definitely long & beautiful), …again, an extensive list of fabulous-ness that will grow over time. They taught me the power of the hand, especially when your nails are painted.

I felt I had arrived with regards to being “polished” about 3 years ago now. I became a professional TA (teaching assistant) for multicultural education. In such regard, we worked very closely with some of the nation’s leading students around conversations of inclusion, diversity, and multiculturalism. I will save this conversation for another day as there are *so* many lessons stemming from multiculti. I just want to talk about painted nails. The curriculum was designed to be peer-to-peer; students (undergrad/grad) would take the course and if successful, could apply to be facilitators. We had facilitator trainings prior to class in which we discussed what was coming up, and the necessary content around teaching this to a group of students. I LOVED our facilitators. They were so open & energetic; they would also push back. The long & short of polish and how I really began to rethink this whole notion of OPI was during one session I presented. Of course, the nature of my conversation escapes me, but I remember looking around this day and seeing quite a bit of polished finger nails. I cannot say that I credit myself for this “polish movement” but I will say that it made me feel as though I had left an impression on them. I felt like so many young women were painting their nails–I do recall having a few women mention to me after class was completed that they always noticed my pink nails. But me being the social scientist became immediately irritated with myself. It’s not enough to help the women feel as though it’s important to paint their nails but how important it is to evolve into a polished professional..especially one who is female & independent.

Is this an oxymoron? Am I suggesting that a women’s worth can be measured by her degree of OPI? Yes. I do actually. I think we all have the potential to have various professional platforms. My personal problem is not only do I want to pursue them all, I want to have polished nails at the same time. I think we, especially women, have the power to bring to the table what is missing–especially since it’s been so male dominated for quite some time. Something I will put out there now is my ability to cry at the drop of a hat. No lie–I hit a dear today (8/29/2011). And instead of being freaked out by the impact of hitting a living animal, I was worried about the deer!! So what if I have feelings? So what if I care about people? So what if one of my strongest abilities is my sense of caring and nurturing (please see Nel Noddings)–bringing that to the table isn’t a bad thing, however it’s seen as womanly and therefore inferior/unnecessary and goes undervalued in the workplace. I have made the decision, America, to bring that back! What’s wrong with polished nails? I enjoy being feminine, delicate & assertive–it’s great! And what I will tell you, is people listen sometimes even more intently when you have polished nails. I acknowledge I play the game by having polished nails, but be clear…OPI has more than 1 meaning. I just struggle with the selection, being patient in letting my nails dry, and not picking at the chipped enamel (it drives me crazy). Those are also the lessons in life I am grappling with right now: being patient, allowing whatever is supposed to happen, happen, and being okay with imperfection. In the meanwhile, I’ve also begun to learn how to journal…Rome wasn’t built in one day nor can I expect to advance all my OPI’s overnight. I just need to get them out of my brain and on to paper.