Forget running to the convenience store with a note to buy your mother’s Pall Malls. Forget rolling around in the way, way back or playing kick the can in the middle of the road until the porch lights flickered on. Forget swimming unsupervised and sweating in the car while your mother ran into the bank. Forget never needing to account for the ten hours a day you spent without supervision, cell phones or other means of communication, whole days when no one knew exactly where you were. Forget all those things. The one thing that truly stands out to me about being raised in the 1970s is this:
The hesitation to praise, promote or otherwise indulge my own abilities.
Kids today, including my own, steam through life towing their very own cheering squad behind them. From the moment they are born (Great job making your way through the birth canal, Jack!!) to their experiences in school (Everyone’s a Winner!) straight on through to adulthood, they are constantly and consistently praised for achievements, both real and exaggerated. They get a medal for showing up; they get a medal for being born.
I did not grow up that way, nor did most of my fellow Gen Xers. No, I did not have to walk to school uphill in my off the shoulder Flashdance sweatshirt or through the snow without my Capezio shoes, but it was generally expected that I not just show up, but that I do the work, and that I do it well. If those conditions were met, then praise was parsed out. I won’t say sparingly, but certainly not as lavishly as it is today.
To give you an example (and forgive me, Mom, you know I love you): in my junior year of high school I belonged to an organization called DECA. As part of this program, I competed in various disciplines at progressive levels. When I was 16, I won a spot at the regional level. I won a spot at the state level. I competed on a national platform, and I placed 4th. In the nation. My mother’s response was this: “just think, if you’d worked just a little harder, you could have placed 3rd!”.
She was thrilled for me, of course. She was proud of me, I know. I don’t hold anything against her or hold any grudge (plus, it makes for a great story). My point is, that kind of thinking, the attitude of you show up and do the work, that was part and parcel of growing up in the 70s. You were expected to do, to do well, to do your best, to work hard. Some times you were acknowledged or praised. Sometimes not.
Us 70s kids were born and raised before multi-hyphenates became a thing. I am both floored and flummoxed by the ease at which younger generations are able to attach words and titles to themselves, the ease at which they are able to confidently call themselves “X”. Truth be told, I am a bit envious of it as well.
What this means is that the notion of deserving something is a difficult one for me to ingest, even as an adult. While I am inwardly thrilled when something good happens, the notion that I ‘deserved’ it makes me uncomfortable. It is just how we were brought up way back in those Happy Days. You didn’t flaunt, you didn’t brag, you didn’t exaggerate or pretend. The problem with this deep-seated tendency to down play is that when I am acknowledged for something, even something that I have worked for, I have a difficult time finding the right balance between justifiable pride and arrogance; it is a fine line to walk.
For all my leftie, pink-0, liberalist leanings, I hold a very old-fashioned view of myself. I blush at the very notion of calling myself a writer. When I joked recently about it being a big deal to change my work status to include the word ‘writer’ on my Facebook page, I wasn’t kidding. Recently I had to write a short bio and it took me a painfully long time to decide whether to use the sentence Dina is a writer.
In the way, way back of my 1970s mind, there are certain criteria I must meet to call myself a writer, criteria which I haven’t yet met. Honestly, and you can go ahead and laugh here, there is still a small Cinderella part of me that thinks that a Fairy Publishing Godmother is going to happen across something I’ve written and whisk me away to the land of book deals and movie rights.
The problem is that my self-imposed criteria will never be met without a hefty dose of self promotion. I don’t mind the work. I am used to the work part of it. But I bluster and bluff when it comes to getting my successes out there. I worry incessantly that I appear to be merely fishing for compliments. Social media makes it easier, but I still sweat over whether or not something sounds too boastful, too full of braggadocio, too full of myself. If I told you how long it takes me to hit ‘post’ on a tweet or a status update which is acknowledging something I’ve done, you would laugh.
So, how does a product of the 1970s update her thinking? You would think that between the writing and updating a status or a tweet, that the latter would be the easy part, right?
If it is, you were probably born a lot later than me.
How do you walk the line between pride and hubris? How do you comfortably promote yourself and your work?