I was an odd ball child, really not far from who I am today. I was adventurous. I mostly played outside. When I was gifted with a pretend kitchen to play with, I turned it into a store marked by my Playskool cash register. I counted money. All the time! I made lists. All the time! When I felt serious about planning my next big thing, I would use all my strength to lug our household typewriter to the game table in the basement and sit, feet dangling, and small, pudgy kid fingers pressing larger than life keys toward my future.
At 5 years old, I was selling my own work of illustrated short stories door to door. Then makeshift versions of what I thought were easily understood recipes. Then napkins. Then anything else I could find including and almost entirely limited to all the things I wasn’t supposed to be selling.
For example, my sister had recently whirled her life into a 180 decision away from getting married and toward a new set of plans to serve a church mission instead. So naturally, my mother helped her organize a garage sale as a fundraiser. We were hours into this exciting (to me) event before my mom realized that this entire time she had been negotiating prices with stingy neighbors, I had been lugging loads of my own books and toys from the house to a basket I set at the entrance of the garage with a tiny cardboard sign that read “50 cents”. Short of change, people kept handing me dollar bills and five dollar bills taking their fair share of my childhood in arms and walking away, and I was entirely convinced that if I could just move my little body faster – filling the basket over and over and over again – I could be a millionaire by the end of the day and spend the rest of my life living in Disneyland. LIVING, I say!
After I had been found out, I was grounded to remain in the house for the rest of the day and “think about what you have done,” which didn’t mean a whole lot to me at the time because reflecting on what I had done made it that much more confusing as to why I was being held back from my life as a millionaire! Just think of the possibilities! Eventually, I had some level of understanding that selling wasn’t bad but selling my things was bad. So naturally, I got a job.
Yup. Now 6 year old Caz was knocking doors selling from Olympia magazine – a magazine that stood as the eternal source of crappy school fundraiser items like cookies, those popcorn tins with three varying flavors, wrapping paper, jewelry, and paper weights. I would make $2 from every purchase which was a whole lot more than I was getting from my hardbound Dr. Seuss books, so I figured I was really making it in life. I didn’t take into account that I was only allowed to roam the streets within a one mile radius and knock on doors of people I knew, which just so happened to be a lot, but not enough to eventually become the glasses-wearing, secretary-looking smart grown up person I so aspired to be.
As I grew older, what I wanted to be became more and more defined.
By the time I was 16, I had my thick-rimmed glasses and the pencil skirt required for what I only assumed was the underlying point of the musical, How To Succeed In Business (aside from coffee, which would come later in life), so naturally I talked my mom into giving me a humongous bedroom in the latest house we would be building and what I wanted more than anything in that room was – an executive sized desk, seating for my “friends” (aka clients), and a queen sized bed.
Because every good girl gets what she wants, I scored exactly that and was even upgraded to dual bookshelves, an entertainment set with old television, and my very own selected art for my walls. I had the ideal setup!
In that same year, I scored my very first personal cell phone and landed my first job as a contract web designer for an Embroidery shop owned by my seminary teacher. So naturally, I bought a Mac which became far more about the dawn of iTunes and alien-looking Harmon Kardon speakers than it did about artfully designing websites (which I still did, despite how much more boring it was than starring at iTunes screensavers all day).
I was on my way again! What 16 year old could honestly say they owned and payed for their own $2,800 computer (yes, that’s what it cost me at the time), had an executive desk that stretched 7 feet in each direction, still rocked an old PC desktop and owned an IBM ThinkPad for the soul purpose of displaying digital photos (yes, I had already taken digital photos at this point in my life) as the first ever designed “digital frame”, and had my own MP3 player (this is before iPods folks) that boasted a whopping 256k of memory!?!? And what 16 year old could say at this point in their life that they had successfully profited in a business that moved quite easily from hard work to contract and consultation work?
Truth is, what I wanted in life and how I thought about those nerdtastic things are the very reason I became so successful in life overall.
Naturally, I couldn’t stop there. It is in our human nature to want to continue to do more or be better. So I dreamt of being the philosophical, well-read college student with her own apartment. DONE! I dreamt of working in a full time, salaried position while finishing my MBA. DONE! I dreamt of not just having a room with an office, but having a two bedroom home where I could have my very own room JUST for an office. DONE!
Over the last decade, there’s one thing that always amazed me as I eavesdropped and people watched from various corners of the world. I envied the person that stepped onto the train or walked through the park, cell phone to ear, concentrated fully on what was most obviously a business call. Wow! I wanted to be that person so badly. The phone was always my arc nemesis. I had tried. I had genuinely thrown myself into the line of fire only to discover you could hardly even PAY me to make phone calls. I loathed the phone. I was terrified of the phone. I spent the better half of a five year phone-centered career praying through every ring, “Do not pickup! Do not pickup! Do not pickup!” In fact, that very mantra was the only way I ever learned to be successful as a school counselor as I confidently made 250 phone calls a week knowing that 90% of my students would never pick up the phone. Score!!!
This was all until recently, when it occurred to me after most of a decade of starring in aww at business-centered men and women charged by extreme self confidence amplified by cell phone conversations that often went something like, “No. No! Let me tell you what we’re going to do and that’s how we’re going to do it!!! We’re going to…” and never whimpy sort of sing-songy thoughts like, “Well, I think… maybe… ok…” that this is me! I have made it! One more step up that self-imagined corporate ladder has brought me to be the kind of person that simultaneously styles my hair while I answer half a dozen voice messages I receive from my team first thing in the morning before swiping through time sensitive questions over making coffee only to then house myself confidently at my desk while my computer rings me into my first meeting of the day. Three hours later, I get off the phone and I’m happy about it. Happy!?!?
I don’t know whether it is the ability to speak over gaming-style headphones and through a computer screen that gives me enough mental dissonance to not go into a complete panic attack over the fact that I am, still, somehow, on a phone conversation or if it is that I genuinely enjoy what I do and love the team that I have that propels me through these self-important and certainly inspiring conversations I have day after day. Whatever it is, I don’t care. I’m here and I’m back! I’m back to that person held up in my own, simple, little office without having to share it with a bed that I also sleep in. I’m back to having my music in the corner and a couch for my “clients” (I mean friends!!!). I still have glasses. I now own FOUR pencil skirts. And I have mastered the business phone call. #ThanksObama #blessed #prayerhands and all manner of cliche Internet hilarities that are well deserved.