Years ago, when I left the Rocky Mountains to enter a doctoral program on the West Coast, I was at the top of my game. I had been teaching adjunct at a community college (with a Master's degree... I had lower expectations then, I was happy). I had been performing on stage regionally, receiving top reviews. And I had a private studio full of students, turning away new ones because I didn't want to extend my schedule, and I didn't need the money.
I was content. But RocketMom was restless. And, there was a part of me that wanted to return to school for a PhD. I wanted to publish, and research, and perform. Most of all, I wanted to research, to pursue the things that kept me up at night. And so, we headed west.
In graduate school again, I was at the top of my game, independent, driven, fearless. Then... I graduated. A brick wall.
That was what I got for not conforming. I wasn't the right kind of PhD it seemed. I didn't fit into the neat divisions of departments that make up a University. So, 150 faculty applications later, with greatly diminished self-esteem, and self-worth, I stepped off the carousel, deciding that I hadn't gone to graduate school, and jumped through fire, to be a perpetual job seeker. Somehow, even in the midst of the depths it sunk me to, I realized that that search was beneath my dignity.
Finally, I have gotten some validation, enough at least to restore my sense of worth, my strength and energies, my passion.
Today I spoke on the phone with the CEO of a company that I might hire to do some subcontract work for me, someone who incidentally, when last I saw him at an industry conference a couple years ago had essentially dismissed me. It was the same thing, I knew, I didn't fit the mold of expectations for someone doing what I said I was doing. I can't fault him... he simply underestimated me. By then, I was used to it. But forgive and forget. Today is another day, and I honestly believe there is mutual benefit in developing a collaboration. So I called, and we talked.
It was a dance, of delicate maneuvers, testing each other. It was fun, being able to observe a bit, even in the heat of it. Negotiations are a fine balance between appearing strong and in charge, and being soft and patient. If you're too weak, you lose (for both of you) but if you're too aggressive, you risk offending, and you lose (for both of you).
It's like a date early in a relationship. You want to seem appealing, almost to the point of aloofness. But if you come across as arrogant, it will be your last date. How do you express interest without desperation? That's the balance you need in corporate negotiations. I think I struck that balance today. It was good to be the party with something to offer, rather than the supplicant.
I feel like I'm on top of my game. This game, I like playing.