I became popular in my 50s.
This may sound incredibly silly and shallow; unlikely, even. But there you have it. I, who was the most unpopular teenager imaginable (and very little is more important to a teenager than popularity), achieved and gloried in the popularity that I achieved in my 50s—the liking, the appreciation, the respect, the “known name”—all at the office where I worked.
I was at that time, and had been for many years, an administrative assistant for a large office. At its height, the office consisted of 105 workers, both permanent and temporary. There were considerably fewer employees at the point when I retired, but I was still responsible for tending to the daily requirements of a large number of people of varied ranks and classifications, who were quartered in two separate rooms. Along with this came responsibility for all the attendant office machinery, supplies, and even office social activities. Additionally, I was frequently co-opted to assist with work for the human resources office, which had no assistant. Suffice it to say that I was incredibly busy. But there is no better personality fit for an administrative assistant job than that of a caretaker personality with OCD tendencies, and so the work suited me to a tee.
And I did a bang-up job. I can say that without qualification, especially as I know how badly I was missed following my retirement (as attested by the many desperate e-mails, phone calls and texts I received assuring me of that fact.)
But what the work also gave me was the aforementioned popularity. Because I took care of the needs of so many individuals, from ordering them that exactly-right mechanical pencil to knowing whom to call for every minor or major disaster, I was both widely known throughout the agency, and greatly appreciated. The copy machine jammed? I knew how to clear it. Someone needed a database programmed? I was the go-to person. The restroom next door to our quarters overflowed beneath the wall and disgustingly soaked the carpet? I knew how to get help. We needed to arrange an employee baby shower? Talk to me, I’d get the ball rolling.
People, I learned, are genuinely grateful for and thankful to the person who helps them out of a jam, who smooths the path along the daily grind, who pulls their behinds out of the fire, who says, “Yes, I’ll help”, or who knows (when the answer is unknown) how to find information. They value a smile, a helping hand, a pat on the shoulder, a kind word of encouragement when they are slumping over in despair. They respond positively to the person who makes their job easier–or at least bearable.
In the 37 years of my career at that office, there were very few people with whom I could say I failed to get along or who did not like me; perhaps a half-dozen, in all. In most of those cases, it was because I called them out on inefficiency or downright slacking: the woman who gummed up a brand-new copy machine because she failed to take the cap off the fresh bottle of toner when installing it; the employee who sat in another employee’s cubicle, knitting, instead of doing her work. Those people despised me, and I wasn’t too fond of them, either. Happily, I can say that I outlasted each and every one of them, and achieved something which none of them had when they left our office: Popularity. Appreciation. Approval. Friendship. Respect.
Karma is a bitch, the saying goes, but (returning action for action) karma can also be a kind and caring mistress. The popularity, the liking, the acceptance that escaped me in my teens was bequeathed me in my 50s. And I was, and am, incredibly grateful for that brief and shining moment in the sun.
Wishing a happy and fun Administrative Professionals Day to all of my compatriots in that field! May you be truly appreciated!