Passing the torch

Perhaps the best part of my job is the opportunity to mentor “young ‘uns” in the organization.  My career path hasn’t followed any prescribed path – mostly improvisational dance with loads of energy*.  Despite no serious attempt on my part to “advance”, i’ve done pretty well.  Especially considering that i was voted “Most Likely To Be Found Dead in a Gutter” in the informal poll of my high school class. 

Got this from one of the members of the local “Junior Engineer-Force” council last week:

SUBJ:  Opportunity to Influence the Minds of the Young

As part of our monthly meetings, we try to give members a sense of what it takes to make it as a successful employee in the organization, and what to expect from a variety of career paths.  We’ve hosted members from organizational senior leadership at our meetings for informal chats.  I’m trying to be selective about the people we ask so that we don’t just get “the line”.  I feel that your frankness in these matters makes your perspective particularly valuable.    Typically they are around a ‘brown bag’ lunch on the first Wednesday of the month.  The next opportunities are March 4th, April 1st (seems fitting) and May 5th.

Needless to day, i chose April Fool’s Day for this particular event.  i look forward to warping impressionable young minds.  And free cookies…

Beyond the workplace, i also coach and mentor my own spawn.  The Girl has been buried under a ridiculous workload as she careens toward the end of the semester and is trying to knock out enough credits to secure her dual major.  With massive reading/writing assignments, final exams lurking and classroom presentations hanging over her head, she’s been operating under pressure and sleep deprivation**.

This afternoon she called on her way to class – dreading giving her portion of a team presentation.  She’d been up most of the night, and seemed a bit rattled.  Rather than just cheer her on, more guidance seemed in order.  So, i dug deep into my slacker psyche and pulled out one of my favorite tactics for presentations/performances:

focus on your intro and your closing!  if you open and close strong, you’re more likely to make them forget everything in the middle.

Which is a lesson i learned in 5th grade.  Clarinet*** solo.  This is the first year i’d been playing, mind you, but the music teacher told me she wanted me to do a solo at the Spring concert.  i said “whatever” when she gave me the music.  And promptly ignored it, never practiced it, and never bothered to get together with the music teacher to let her know i hadn’t bothered… 

On the day of the Spring concert?  We’re all on stage, and i’ve completely forgotten about the solo.  She has one kid do a trumpet solo.  Then we go on with another painfully executed ensemble number.  i’m in shock when she calls my name.  In front of every student, teacher, janitor, child molester and rat in the elementary school.  Finding the piece in the back of my music folder, i strode confidently up to the front of the stage.  Shitting my pants****. 

She started playing the piano accompaniment – which i’d never heard before.  i can barely read music – i’m 10 years old.  So i just dived in – i sight-read the first line of the piece, playing it when it seemed like a good spot.  i repeated this phrase – getting stronger with repetition – until the music changed.  And i just stopped playing.  Rather than run off the stage, humiliated, i dodged it…. by looking over at the piano teacher and acting as though i was waiting for her “solo”. 

When the phrasing sounded about right again i dropped back to the intro phrase, and just repeated it until the merciful end.  i knew i screwed the pooch.  The music teacher knew i screwed the pooch.  Perhaps 10 adults in the audience were writhing in pain during this event because they’d figured it out… But the rest of the school was just tired of sitting there, throwing spit balls or excavating the inner reaches of their nostrils.  And no one really cared…

Faking it.  The next best thing to actually preparing…

And for my next trick, i'm going to look competent!

And for my next trick, i'm going to look competent!

* Before i burnt out and gave up on my plot to take over the universe…

** Unlike her mother, the kid has high standards.  She isn’t comfortable turning in shitty papers, or operating at less than “stellar” when it comes to her writing (Arabic or English).

*** Yep.  Clarinet.  There go any remaining “cool” points i may have scored with my readers (sigh).

**** Figuratively speaking. No, i wasn’t *THAT* kid…