Every day at work, I climb aboard the elevators and for four floors, I get to look at myself in the reflection off the highly polished brass elevator doors. Depending on which elevator I ride, I get a different, and often bizarre reflection thanks to the distortion in the grain of the metal—kinda like a funhouse mirror.
But almost every day as I’m standing there looking at myself, I wonder, “How will people perceive me today?” At 34 years of age, I find myself pretty much in the same spot, professionally, that I was in before I went back to college. Oh, I make good money, but do I demand respect from my co-workers? I don’t feel that I do-and I blame my reflection for that.
I have a young face. I’m not tall. I keep my hair fairly short. I don’t have a deep voice. I exercise and stay in good shape. I don’t wear suits or stuffy button-down shirts all the time, eschewing them for chinos and golf shirts whenever possible. All in all, I have a youthful look—a look that isn’t terribly well-respected at my age and at the level that I feel I should be at professionally after having worked in the corporate world for 13 years. In fact, the only thing about my appearance that gives away my true age, is my gray hair, which I keep in check with some carefully applied gel that gives my hair a wet look and does a good job at hiding the gray.
But some days, I’d give all that up just to have people approach me with respect for who I am and the experience I bring to the table, rather than just as some young guy who they can probably get to help them out. I’d like to have people look “UP” to me when they talk rather than looking down at me because they tower over me. It’s true, tall men are generally more successful in the corporate world, as are men with deeper voices.
I think what it comes down to is that I’m just not taken seriously, and that bothers me. True, I don’t walk around the office with a frown on my face and a look that says, “I’m too busy to be bothered. Go away!” but that doesn’t mean I’m not smart and capable.
So where is this coming from? I think it’s a mixed bag of things going on right now, including my need to find a new job before my current one is phased out; my wife interviewing for a new job where any bump in salary will put her close to doubling mine, etc…
Am I too young for a mid-life crisis? Maybe it’s a pre-mid-life self-pity marathon and I just need to suck it up and move on.
Self pity is more fun.