Revenge of the Nerd Ch. 58byrpsuch©
"Who are you?" Jen asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Straight A's two semesters running? And you lost about a week and a half when you were sick and more time when Jeff's father had his heart attack. You're a serious damn student. What happened to the hottest girl this campus has ever seen?"
I smiled. "She upgraded to a multidimensional personality."
"Impressive. How did Jeff do?"
I chortled and gave her that what-do-you-think look.
"I thought he had a huge load. Didn't that give him any trouble?"
"Not with getting grades," I said. "But I didn't exactly get to see as much of him as I wanted. And he's working over the break, so I only see him at night or on weekends."
"It so sucks to be you," she said with as much insincerity as she could muster.
I leaned my head back, put the back of my right hand lightly against my forehead and adopted a slightly pained look on my face.
"One does what one must," I said in an almost ethereal voice I had heard often enough to mimic with precision. "You know, Noblesse oblige." I think I mixed in a little Katherine Hepburn on that.
Jen started to laugh. "You should have been an actress. I'm sorry you're having problems with your mother, but you are damn funny."
We had gotten together a lot over the winter break. Rich and Jeff worked during the day, though Rich had saved some of his days off to be with Jen while she was on break. Jeff didn't have days off to save.
"It's not all her. I think a lot of it is my father. He seems to want things just so and she doesn't put up much resistance. I wish I knew what he was planning."
"Maybe he has reconciled himself to this happening. He might just be trying to position it the best way he can for his business."
"You're such a Pollyanna," I said with exasperation. Maybe I should become an actress. I seemed to have a different tone and expression for each sentence.
I didn't understand this from Jen. From Sunny it made some sense. She liked to try to find some good in everyone. From Sandy it would be expected. She was quite a bit like Jeff, assuming the best of people until they demonstrated they were not to be trusted. Jeff, at least, was developing some skepticism as he saw people misbehave.
Jen responded to my body language.
"You do know him better than I do. People can change, you know."
I made a doubtful face.
"I know this girl who used to think of nobody but herself. She was into status and prestige and control. She used people all the time. She took advantage of people. She really didn't have any friends.
"Then one day she meets this strange guy."
"Stop," I said. "I've heard this story before. This is that classic: Cinderella's step sister and the beast."
Jen spit laughed. "And she had very little sense of humor. To make a long story short, she's even been seen doing nice things for other people without asking for anything in return. And you don't think people can change?"
I thought about it.
"Well, humans can change. My father on the other hand -"
"Do you think anyone would have said the same thing about … this girl?"
Jeff has noted on numerous occasions that humor can ease the discomfort and apprehension enough to lead to serious discussions of difficult issues that would otherwise degenerate into a struggle for personal power. Whenever he said that I told him he was wrong. Humor makes people lighten up.
I had pressed myself to finish my requirements so my final semester would be courses of my choosing. I didn't know what to choose so I kicked it around with Jen.
I asked her about what she had learned over the summer as well as what she had learned from her courses. I relentlessly pressed her for details.
"You know, Ashley, maybe I was wrong. You have me take a boatload of courses and teach over the summer for the sole purpose of being able to give you an executive summary."
It was tongue in cheek, but there was also a measure of seriousness in her accusation. Well, I had one freaking semester to figure out what I wanted to do and learn everything I could. I would take any help and any shortcut I could.
Don't get me wrong. I liked Jen and enjoyed spending time with her. But, I had set my eyes on a goal and I was damn well going to accomplish it if I could ever figure out what it was.
I spent time with Sunny over the break as well. I liked her and she was fun to talk with. I asked her to help me figure out what to do. She wanted to know what I wanted to accomplish.
"What is it you want from a job? For example, I know how much you enjoy finding just the right presents for people. In fact, I don't know that I've seen anyone better at it. If your goal is to be able to work to make people happy there are a lot of things you can do.
"If your goal is to try to save the planet there are a host of jobs that fill the bill.
"If you want to make the world more peaceful, there are many ways to pursue that, not the least of which is education.
"What makes you happy?"
I shrugged. "I never thought of it that way. I guess I can't and wouldn't want to try to make Jeff a career."
Sunny smiled at that. "A husband can be quite a time-consuming avocation."
"I liked working with kids, the little I did with Jen. I like working to make things happen where I have an idea how to use what power I have or am perceived to have. And I got such a jolt out of seeing Jeff wield his power pretty much out of nowhere."
Sunny had a wry smile.
"I think I know, maybe knew, Jeff best and I didn't see that coming. It was a complete surprise," she said.
"Yeah. He's made my life a lot more difficult. I have to do so much more thinking."
"You poor thing," Sunny said."
"I want to do something to make things better. I don't know what that is yet, but I want to help."
Sunny shook her head from side to side, still smiling.
"You're pretty surprising yourself and it's a delightful surprise."
With all the people who believed in me I thought it a distinct possibility I could wind up believing in myself. On the issue of career, however, I had narrowed it down to almost anything.
Sandy gave me the most Jeff-like advice.
"Make a list, well, it will have to be a multi-column list, you might want to put it in a database, maybe something like Access or maybe just Excel. Anyway, put down the stuff you like to do, the stuff that makes you happy, the stuff that doesn't make you unhappy and what kinds of careers they would be useful in.
"You also want to put down the things you are good at even if they don't make you happy, in fact, even if they annoy you a little. Sometimes they can get you such a good result that it's worth taking the psychological hit for the big win.
"Maybe you could visualize yourself doing various things and imagine what it would feel like."
She looked at me and laughed.
"You're ready to scream, aren't you?" she asked.
"Just start to write stuff down. Review it now and then. There's a good chance something will come to you. I think that's what makes up intuition. You subconsciously collect a lot of information without knowing what to do with it. And eventually, your subconscious starts to recognize some patterns and finally you somehow just know what you're supposed to do or how you're supposed to act."
So, in the time I spent alone during the break I started to do an inventory.
I like to make people happy. Well, some people. I like to put thought into it. If it were easy, anybody could do it.
I like to be supportive. More accurately I like people supporting me enough that I would gladly go out of my way to support others.
I liked getting my way. I used to like getting my way because it was my way. I guess I still did some. But I especially liked getting my way in situations where I knew what to do or how to do it. I liked the idea of meeting up against institutional or irrational resistance and turning it around.
I thought about how effective Jeff had been, so far, in getting our way with my parents and wondered if all this way getting had a common theme I could learn to use.
After I mostly abandoned my imperious approach I discovered I had good interpersonal skills and seemed to know instinctively how to persuade people.
Armed with all this information it might have been a good idea to go to a career counselor.