Prescription: Work for the Man

Written by Vera Struck

I’ve played all my life. In the sandbox, on the baseball field, in my fort. Later, on ski slopes, hiking mountains, the Board Room and in my studio. And of course, in the kitchen and the bedroom. Lest you think I’ve had it easy, I assure you I have not. And that brings us to today’s story.

I’ve had two distinctly different careers as an executive throughout my adult life. One from each hemisphere; finance from the analytical left, and art from the creative right. It wasn’t a smooth transition back and forth between the two at first; however, within months I was able to go from a boardroom full of Junior Brahmin Business Magnates into a studio full of ideas, plaster and canvas, slinging paint with the best of my fine art colleagues.

The cognitive shifts required to move from one to the other became effortless. In fact, within years those shifts, their dissimilarities and distinctions began feeding each other in a curious sort of way. The good news was that my financial clients loved and bought my artwork, and certainly my business acumen allowed me greater opportunities than most of my artful brethren.

It’s the bad news that almost killed me. I got cancer from the materials and products in my industry. Also, the parasites, sycophants and vermin seemed to travel the “cognitive shift wormhole” with me; and after three decades it took its toll. Again. The first time was no picnic. Read Full Circle, my mother/daughter story of how I survived a terminal diagnosis with courage and humor. (Coming out soon.)

I was sick, almost bankrupt from paying off ten years of medical bills from two wars with cancer, and exhausted from moving between two worlds that suffered from what became, in the end, unhealthy relationships to each other. I also was suffering from a year of intuitive indigestion that the economy was sinking, our resources heading for depletion and that Michael Moore would have increasing material for the next few decades.

In late 2008, I sold my home, my thriving corporations and most of my stuff. I paid off everyone, packed my bags and headed North to be near my daughter, at last, and to begin my journey towards net zero sustainability.

The questions for how to heal from the ailment of increasing ennui (social, political, financial and environmental) and disenchantment with American life are far more difficult. Who is the Doctor for a broken heart? Is there a cure for the aching feeling I have that we are headed for the worst of economic, financial and political times?  Am I employable by someone else after 30 years of being a serial entrepreneur? Specifically, can an ordinary American live a conscious, sustainable, life at 55?

I was hopeful. However, that hope did not last long. I was soon to learn how invisible women our age really are here in America. Invisible not only to men our age, but also to employers, sales people, youth and the healthcare community.

A recruiter added, “This is strictly off the record, but I’m telling you, no matter what you do they have software that digitally finds your stats. You’re age, your health and credit status are part of the key indicators used for elimination. Not to mention Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google. Honestly, wouldn’t you rather just get married?” Being a feminist whose income has always been greater than my partner’s and never one to have looked for a meal ticket, I found it hard to restrain my emotion.

We live in a very different world from that of my parents generation.

Ninety days later, I was coached and shrunk to a raisin. One of the expert’s parting words to me before I left the South to find work, a home and a sustainable life near my daughter were, ”Just get a job, get laid and everything will get sorted.”

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