When I was in eighth grade, I traveled from my small, rural West Virginia town to a conference in the state capitol. I don’t remember too much about it, except that on the morning of the last day, a female accountant spoke to us.
She was petite, with a nice black suit, short hair, and sharp pretty eyes. And she said, “Hi everyone. I’m an accountant. I went to Glenville College, which is not a great school, but its what I could afford. I was about your age when I realized I needed to get myself out of the holler, and get to college—any college—or I’d end up like the rest of my cousins, twirling around a greased pole at Bubba’s Dew Drop Inn.”
I was flabbergasted. That this professional woman was talking to a group of 13 year olds about greased poles was flummoxing, but beyond that it was the first time I can remember an adult speaking to me not as a child, but as a peer, and actually telling me the truth. I didn’t need good grades so I could get into college, I needed to go to college so I could make my own decisions about who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do.
As a 13 year old with more baby fat than curves, I could never, ever imagine myself pole dancing, and even at that age I had an inkling that the ideas in my brain were more valuable than my ability to perform according to the standards of some artificial sexuality. On that rainy April day in the basement of a Days Inn in Charleston, WV, that straight-talking accountant planted the seed that would motivate me through adulthood.
To sum it up, she made me realize that you don’t pursue achievement for its own sake. You achieve so that you have the independence and ability to make your own choices.
I’ve been thinking about this story lately. Though I have a great job, I sometimes wonder when I will get to the point where I truly do feel independent and able to make my own choices. Would I reach this point if I started my own business? Do I need to reconsider my business model? After all, an office job is just as transactional as a strip club; you’re selling part of yourself and the management keeps a lot of your profit.
It’s not that I’m afraid I’ll have to fall back on my sexuality, it’s that I’ll be in a situation where my independence is compromised. You know whose independence isn’t compromised? Dita Von Teese. She created a business out of her sexuality, and between her lingerie and makeup lines, and her acting and performances, I’d say she’s got a pretty solid business model. We’ve all got our resources, whether it’s banging curves or an analytic mind, but its up to each of us to parlay those resources into the kind of life we want.
Emily is the winner of the Bullish Blogger Scholarship. For her very first Bullish post, click here. Follow Emily at @ebrowndowntown on Twitter.