The Boutique Shop

4 years ago

In lieu of another excerpt from the never ending novel I’m trying to finish – I thought I’d give y’all an update on what I’ve been doing the past few, um….months?  Wow. Time. I digress to mention how it flies here, just in case there really is someone listening. (My two dads…?)

I high tailed it back to my hometown as soon as my unemployment ran out. I figured it would be best to hunker down in familiar area for the winter, rather than roam around job searching like a frozen zombie in Chicago – not that I’m complaining, it’s even colder here.  And I do love Chicago – it’s just that I don’t know the underground. You know, the back roads, the dives, the familiar haunts. Those people and places that you can go to for help – or for cheap drinks and free food. The light rail is a new thing, a bit of a scary new thing – and I cannot even consider being homeless in another city. Seriously. When you’re this close to poverty, you begin to appreciate those tiny luxuries. Like a hot bath after showering for weeks on end.  Or a really good cup of coffee after drinking the free, shitty coffee at the hostels. Or a really good glass of wine after swizzling mad dog from a bag-wrapped bottle. (Kidding.)

I was also thinking of the future. How am I possibly going to publish this thing without any money?  Even a kickstarter requires SOME kind of cash to put in motion. And I had none. Zilch. Plus, I had to file my taxes. So, there’s that.

So here I sit. Trying to figure out why I can’t get a decent job anymore, and when I do get a decent job – it turns out to be …well…something more than meets the eye….

I was ecstatic to have just landed a job for a local consulting firm.  Very exclusive. VERY expensive. “Boutique” is the word that was floating around the very posh, artfully designed office. I was excited. The principal of the company, a woman near my mother’s age, had been in the coaching business for 30+ years.  I was drawn to her. Drawn to her success. Probably, because I immediately connected the similarities:  She went to the same university as I did. She has a background in theatre and entertainment – so do I.  She has a teaching undergrad – so do I.

The only thing that was different, were our advanced degrees. I chose a more technical path – whereas she chose an artistic one. Incidentally, the differences between an MFA in Theatre Direction and an M.Ed in Educational Tech may be vast, but both are grounded in art and design. Creating coursework to inspire and motivate is SO similar to creating theatre to….well…inspire, and motivate.

The other differences I noticed were becoming very apparent, very fast.  She uses a traditional mode of coaching, or teaching.  There is the very evident structure of Performance-based Instructional Design (Learn/Practice/Perform/Get Feedback), but I felt what was lacking, certainly, was the assessment piece. Her follow-up to clients is vague, and one-sided – traditional in the sense that “You, as the student, have now received the information…here, have more information.  There, you are now learned.”

Her “teaching” begins with breakfast, where she can casually observe and interview her executive level client.  After that she heads to the studio for a videotaping session. This is where clients are able to see how they react and gesture and speak, while she interviews them on such things as “What are some of the innovations and new technologies you are excited about in your work,” or something like “Please discuss your organization’s five year goals” etc etc.

There doesn’t seem to be any method for true assessment. (In the back of my head, my teacher brain was screaming – hey, I recognize this stuff…  I know how to do this!!  I CAN DO THIS!!!)

Except, I think she heard my brain.

One moment she was “coaching” me to look my best, to dress my best (“We are client facing.”) , encouraging me to keep learning (“You will get it.”) and the next moment, the next Monday, in fact, I could do nothing right.  It seems, after a brief “Interview” of my background, and my family, she determined that I was no longer a viable candidate to support her.  (I only told her about my step-family, I did not tell her about my biological family, why should I?)

I have no doubt that I am continuing to work there on “borrowed” time.

Of course, it was also the same week I was left on my own for the first time. The previous assistant having now moved on….and gleefully so, I might add.

So, in a matter of three weeks, she had turned from a welcoming and coaching employer – to some kind of “Devil-that-probably-owns-Prada.”

I should mention, there were a couple of key incidents that may have contributed to her sudden change of heart.

  1. She runs a “virtual” computing environment, from the “cloud,” and I was told to explore it. So I did.
  2. I haven’t been receiving my mail, so I had a couple pieces of important mail delivered to my new office.
  3. Someone called to confirm reservations at a new restaurant called “Coup d’Etat.”  (I shit you not. The switch hit after this call.)

Stay tuned for more on my “week from hell” last week….





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