Friday, February 18, 2005

A Displaced Life

This morning I was in the kitchen of my office adding cream and sugar to my second cup of coffee of the day when our office manager walked in to do the same. She's a really nice lady who was hired not long after I was, but the two of us have rarely had the occasion to really talk much and get to know each other. I like her and all but we just don't know much about each other.

Of course, there are certain things one deduces from the simple daily interaction that one has with others. I have made assumptions about her character and personality based on the usual things: the way she dresses, speaks, and behaves, but it had not occurred to me that she may have done the same regarding me. Since we met, I have regarded her as a very earthy, pleasant, and open-minded woman. She doesn't seem like the typical New Orleans middle-aged woman, but I never looked into it. She certainly has a more West-Coast air about her.

When she walked in, we said good morning to each other just as we always do when we cross paths in the office, but then she said something that made me do a double-take. She asked me, "So Luke, what's an out-of -the-box guy like you doing in accounting?" I actually had to pause to take this in for a minute before I could respond. I asked her what she meant, and she said that I didn't seem like an accountant exactly. Then I knew what she was talking about and I almost couldn't believe it. This is one of the single best compliments I've ever received, whether she meant it to be or not. She wanted to know why I am an accountant.

This comes as a compliment to me not because I think that there is anything wrong with being an accountant. Somebody has to do it. The problem is that while my good friend Scott has fears and insecurity regarding the measure of his intelligence, I harbor similar feelings about how cool I am and the way that others perceive me. The one thing that I wish to fight for in my existence is to never be seen as, or to feel like, a total square. Unfortunately, they don't come much more square than accountants, or at least in the general public perception of accountants (which isn't too far off I'll admit.)

I told her that when I was in college and thus presented at age 18 with the decision to plot the course for the remainder of my life, I was more interested in the arts but knew that the school of business was the more practical decision where matters of future financial security were concerned. I told her that most of my friends majored in the arts or liberal arts, while I became an accountant, but that I still spend my spare time indulging in the arts rather than the further study of my profession (a fact that I have acknowledged will be the reason that I will NEVER be a very good accountant.) Throughout my college career, and still today, I have been jealous of my friends who spend more time embracing anything resembling art rather than financial statements and tax returns like I do.

I don't know what led her to notice this about me. I wish I did, but the fact is that it doesn't matter much. It could be the fact that while all of the other guys in the office are wild over sports, I spend all of my time talking about movies, what books I am reading, or the latest album that I'm crazy about. It could also be (and I hope this isn't it) that she can see that I am not truly happy doing what I'm doing. While that fact is quite true, I hope I don't walk around wearing it on my sleeve for all to see. It's a good job and I don't want to give anyone the impression that I'm not grateful for it and the future opportunities it may provide.

But maybe it's time to start thinking about some change.