The Same as People Who Aren’t Different

Me and Hubby, Allen

I started writing a different story, one that shares some of the funny experiences I’ve had on my travels. But as I began writing, something else emerged. Perhaps this is the story that needs to be shared right now. Tune in later for my adventures down the rabbit hole of world travel.

Thanks be to the gods, my life has been full of wonder and more fun than Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. When I think of the people I know, who have lived orderly, safe existences, I breathe a sigh of relief that my family was quirky and dysfunctional, and that I grew up in colorful, integrated neighborhoods. It has given me skills in life that would be sadly missing otherwise.

It’s rare now that I meet ordinary, stable, church-goin’ folk, except for waving “hi” at my neighbors. The only people I can even remotely relate to are the couple next door. They are Hindus. I immerse myself now in the world of spiritualists, Religious Science members, Theosophists, metaphysical people, philosophers, poets, artists, musicians, writers, dancers, psychics, healers, and such. But, there was a time, in the 1990s, when I decided that I was through with the insanity of the metaphysics biz and sought out a “real” job. That’s when I met the rest of America. What an extraordinary shocker that was.

Although I worked as a marketing specialist for a supposedly benevolent, nonprofit organization that proclaimed ‘people before profit,’ I soon discovered that their motto was far from their practice. I was disillusioned by the double talk of saying one thing and practicing another. That, however, was not my main eye-opener. It was the super nice, decent, family oriented, church-member people I worked with. That was the giant ‘aha’ for me.

Oh. sure, there were a smattering of others like me, and we quickly found each other. There was the belly dancer Wiccan, the daughter of an avant-garde artist married to a race car mechanic, the woman whose husband manufactured race-car parts, and the Jedi-wannabe atheist.

Even though I tried so hard to disguise myself as one of the crowd, as ordinary, everyone knew that I was, ta-dah!——DIFFERENT!

Oh Noooo, the ‘D’ word. A death sentence to most of the people working there who strove to fit in, be like everyone else, and only shine in corporate acceptable ways: ambition to move up the corporate ladder, me first, expensive status symbols such as big, black SUVs and designer clothes, boats, vacation homes, knowing the ‘in’ people or celebrities, and such.

Acceptable lifestyle was having a minimum of bachelor’s degree in business, having a family with children who took dance lessons (only for females), played soccer, baseball, and/or football. Basketball was considered just on the edge of acceptable and hockey was suspect. The children had to go to the ‘right’ schools and be civic-minded.

Membership in Kiwanis, Rotary, and other such organizations was a plus. Masons were out. I don’t remember ever meeting anyone who was a member of Moose, BPOE, or Sons of Knut.

It was important to be a church member, but it had to be middle of the road Protestant. Catholics were acceptable but considered just on the rim of the circle of trust. Jews were simply not talked about one way or the other that I remember. Wiccans, or ‘witches’, were greatly feared.

One must live in a tract home or better. Apartments were definitely frowned upon. Condos were okay, but not OKAY. Mobile homes were for those who would never make it inside the cult of okayness. At the office, our gray cubicles were decorated on birthdays. There was always cake and other sugary treats, and a group sing, as if anyone really cared.

Not that any of this is horribly bad; it’s just formulated from a mindset that emphasizes sameness to fit in—not that that’s is horribly bad, either. We all want to fit in with our   chosen group. This sameness, however was different from the sameness that I was comfortable with. My brand of sameness emphasized more variety and acceptance of differentness. It reminds me of a line from one of my favorite movies, “What’s Up Doc,” with Barbara Streisand.

“You’re different,” said Howard to Judy.

“I know,” said Judy, “but I’m trying to be the same.”

“The same as what?” asked Howard.

“The same as everyone else who isn’t different,” replied Judy.

Anyway, back at the ranch, er, my job, we sat in grey, padded squares with gray desktops wrapping around three sides. Our lateral file cabinet under the desk was grey. Our ergonomically designed, adjustable chairs were grey. The carpet was grey. Our computers were grey. Even our mouse pads were grey. PCs with Windows of course. Macs were way too cool and groovy hippy odd.

To brighten things up, the cube-drones dressed up their boxes with photos of kittens, family, inspirational sayings, plants, and other assorted foo-faws. The more creative cubes were filled to overflowing with stuff to help their inmates forget that we were galley slaves.

This became a problem for management who issued an edict that cubical decoration should be kept to a minimum and could not be visible over the top of the cubical walls, nor be displayed on the outside walls.

We went to creative meetings and were encouraged to “think outside the box.” Yeah, right! Anyone who did was immediately relegated to the neutral zone in the circle of trust and treated with suspicion henceforth. What they meant was to think outside of your box and inside of theirs. It was NOT okay to be different, creative, or break any rules. No Macintosh sledgehammer ads for them. No, it was which picture would be better to say the same thing that failed last time. Endless hours of meetings. Groan.

To be employed there relegated us to the status of drones. More and more work with shorter and shorter deadlines were piled upon our weary shoulders each quarter. Fewer people were hired to do that work and it was distributed to the remaining slaves.

I was originally hired as a graphic designer, toward the end I was designer, copywriter, database manager, and video ad director/writer/editor/miracle-worker. One Asian woman described it as like being in a Chinese prison camp. And yet, we had—YEAAY—team building days when we would go to someone’s house or a place away from the building and do team building exercises, write our ambitions for the company and do ‘meaningful’ things like place them in balloons that were released into the wild. OOOOH! Then there would be BBQ or hot dogs.

After our day of play(?), we would still required to meet keep up with our work. That meant we were expected to make up the mandatory time away by working overtime with no extra pay for us salaried people. Hourly people were rarely allowed extra hours but received points off on their reviews for not meeting deadlines.

Salaries, of course, were minimal for the drones and exorbitant for the management. This was normal. They believed this to be the American way. Give the drones pizza once in a while and they won’t know they’re on the mucky end of the stick. They’ll be happy to dedicate sixty hours a week for the good of the company.

The most illuminating thing about the people I met there was that they lived in a cloud of fear and suspicion. Gossip, accusations, vendettas, greedy competitiveness, and being afraid of nearly everything was just a part of their normal way of living. It was sad to watch and even sadder to realize that this might be the way most “normal” people live.

Whoa! I had been living in a bubble. A loony bubble, sure, but at least most of the spiritual/metaphysical/pagan/agnostic people I knew before were of a mindset that we are all one at our core and should look out for each other. They espoused the belief that cooperation, honesty, and generosity were the right ideals to live.

So what if my “abnormal” friends talked to dead people? Who cared if they wore crystals around their necks and consulted the lines in their hands for guidance? In retrospect, it seemed absolutely wonderful that they blamed their failures on the stars or past-life deeds. I realized how kind, resourceful, peaceful, and joyful they were compared to the people I worked with.

I wanted OUT!

I wanted to go back to that weird world that I belonged in. Normalcy was definitely not for me.

I could go on with more, but I think you get the point by now. I was miserable. It was sucking at my soul day by day. Still, I was caught in the dreaded loop of thinking I needed the job, the regular salary, the benefits, the 401K. I thought that I had been away from my private practice as a healer, intuitive, spiritual teacher too long and wouldn’t be able to survive the year or more it would take to build my business back up enough to support me. But I was slowly disintegrating in. Each day was an effort just to get out of bed. I returned home exhausted, nibbled some food, watched mindless TV then fell into bed.

I circled every holiday on the calendar and planned vacation days around them to stretch them out. But the time off was never enough to recover from the heaviness that surrounded me at work. My energy  leaked out like a punctured oil can, dripping and oozing onto the ground. I knew I had to leave but tried to hold on just a little longer.

Well, as I know now, the universe will find a way to get the message to us when we need to change. I started seeing empty shopping carts everywhere. They intruded into my vision wherever I went, on the streets, in parks, on lawns, everywhere. Now, I know that empty shopping carts are common and around all the time, but I never noticed them before. Now they caught my attention. Was it a message that my life was empty? That it should be full but now I had abandoned my abundance of spirit? That I needed to do something NOW!?

Perhaps.

In the six-months preceding the demise of my corporate life, every time I would lay out Tarot cards for myself, the dreaded Blasted Tower card came up. This card means that you haven’t followed your destiny, your path of highest good and have ignored warning signs. It means do something now or the universe will step in and do it for you. Often this results in a dramatic shift that leaves us feeling abandoned, rudderless, and bewildered. This is the card that heralds a drastic, dramatic, sudden change that is ultimately good but feels really bad in the moment.

So what happened?

I got fired for misspelling the name of one of the VPs in an email. An email, I might add that was approved by my supervisor to go out. But in corporate America, the buck stops at the lowliest worker. When my cheerleader wannabe supervisor told me I was fired, it felt as if the sun had come out. Angel choirs were singing Allelujah! I remember smiling and saying, “Really? Great!” I was escorted out the door, boxes of personal stuff in hand. I turned in my ID and key card and was FREE! Spartacus would have been proud.

And, you know the best part of this? Not only did I collect unemployment but I received checks in the mail from past students and clients I had given services to on the agreement that they would pay me when they could. My business started booming right away. I made more money than I had when I was chained to my keyboard in the grey cubicle.

It was marvelous!

Life since then has been a party. No matter how bad things get, I have something worse to compare it to and what I thought was so awful becomes just a minor itch. I have returned to the banquet of life and am free to eat myself into blissful oblivion.

When I think back on my “why” of existing, it has always been to help others live empowered lives. I started that as a child and am still doing it. Everything I do reflects that. How could I have ever have thought I could be happy in an environment that tries to kill every ray of light, whose very existence depends on sameness, order, and subjugation of independent spirit?

My favorite spiritual teacher once said that some people are like eggs. To be liberated, they only need a tap on the head. Others are like coconuts. They need to be slammed against rock several times to be free.

I guess I was a coconut.

Thanks for listening. What about youy about your life experiences, opinions, ideas, and beautiful wierdness. Leave a comment.

Namaste,

Anita

Thanks for listening. I would love to hear from you about your life experiences, opinions, ideas, and beautiful weirdness

Namaste,

Anita

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About anitaburns

Confetti Head: My life of change, and color, weirdness, and fun. From the colorful days of Hippie, to all night rocker parties, to married life, contemplation, meditation, and more. My life has been blessedly full and rich. Anita's Real Food: I have loved cooking since my first Easy Bake Oven when I was four. I bake, cook, invent, share, and eat. Enjoy my Real Food Blog. Astrology Learning and Secrets: LIttle-known facets or a deeper dive into the wonderful world of Astrology
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6 Responses to The Same as People Who Aren’t Different

  1. Ashley Maher says:

    Oh Anita,
    This had me screaming out loud, laughing. If the New York Times put it on their front cover, they’d have thousands writing in and saying, “YES! That’s my experience too!” A brilliant and accurate reflection of what a gray and spirit-snuffling world the “conventional” world can be.

    I too had a stint in my 20 years of God-knows-how-getting-by as an artist where I succumbed to my fears and sat in a cubicle exactly as you describe. In a short period of time, I earned boat loads of money for two of the most smarmy, white collar petty criminals you could imagine. The calendars on their walls had photos of different guns for each month, the only bathroom reading material was MAXIM, they talked about America go into Iraq as if it was a Monday night football game, and mocked me mercilessly for my different-ness …all while (no lie) pasting a special star with “GOOD JOB!” and “YOU’RE #1” on my pay envelope because I was bringing in 4 times more than anyone else on the floor.

    You and I probably did the same dance steps out the door the day we left our respective jobs. The interesting thing, though, was that i learned a lot from telesales that helped me with my own artistic hustlings and in a weird way, I couldn’t help being fond of those two reactionary conservatives. I still bump into them sometimes and they always ask fondly / semi-sarcastically, “How’s the MUSIC?” followed by asking if I’d ever like to come back.

    Oh the glory days of the corporate world…. and you are right … at least we know there is always something worse out there than this…. HAHAHAAA!

    Oh, you are the best. You really made me laugh today!
    Love,
    ashley

    Like

  2. Tanya Smith says:

    Ashley sent me your post (fellow blogger here) and I have to say it is perfect. I could not have summed up the corporate experience any better. Actually this “sameness” seeking ideology seems to be penetrating all sorts of areas. You only have to look at mainstream music; there are many cloned blonds in tight clothing making millions of dollars …Here in LA shopping has become a bore. Chain stores everywhere, little variety. Most movies made use a predesigned fail proof formula that they rarely divert from. Every single magazine has the same cover – sex and scandals YAWN…Can we not do better than this? Are there no more rabbit holes to explore? Thanks for taking the time to put it into words. X T

    Like

    • anitaburns says:

      Hi Tanya. I agree. It takes a keen eye and a little sleuthing to seek out the unique and different. It’s here, even in L.A. but hidden behind the blaring sameness. I’ve always been one who is a little out of step with the fashions and fads. Well, I shamedly admit to buying a pet rock when they were the rage. But generally, I seek out what is unique over what is popular. It can be done. As for shopping, I really find it a bore. I dread shopping although once upon a time I navigated the land by shopping malls. Now, if I shop, say for clothing, I go to places like Idyllwild, the back corners of San Diego’s Old Town, thrift shops are marvelous and I loe retro stores. I used to really like Banana Republic before the Gap took it over and ruined it. Every time I see one now I get a little grumpy. I could go on and on. News, celebs, ditto: YAWN. Although I have to admit to liking Adam Lambert. Brave enough to be talented and different. My tastes in music are definitely not in line with the popular. I really like Tracy Chapman, for example. And because I’m a geezerette, Janice Joplin is still my girl. Liked her then, like her now. I don’t understand the blond Pop princesses. No real talent, all sound the same; all look the same. I can’t tell them apart. Anyway, thanks for your comments, fellow blogger. What’s your blog address?

      Like

  3. James says:

    Dear Anita,
    I am loving the Chakras Gone Wild cd. I recently came across this site by Joe Vitale and thought something along this line might be worthwhile to you and Allen: http://www.milagroresearchinstitute.com/iloveyou.htm
    As someone who has just quit his slave galley job, and thinking of being an intuitive reader again, I can’t tell you how much I related to this article. Please keep me posted on sound healing classes.
    Thanks, James

    Like

    • anitaburns says:

      Hi James. Thanks for your comments. I love it when what I say has meaning for others. Follow your dream. It’s a hard road but a wonderful one. Thanks for the article link. I will pass it on to Allen.

      Like

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