Many years ago, I had a panic attack at a Ford dealership.
I was dropping off my car for repairs, and I had to fill out an intake form. One of the blank spaces on the form was labeled: “Employer.” This is what started the panic attack.
The day before, I had given notice at my first “real” job out of college. I had worked up the courage to quit after a year and a half of being unhappy at this job. I had decided to take a leap, go overseas for a while, and then pursue my dreams of writing and music.
At that moment, my fears weren’t about money or security or benefits. My fears were about appearances. It was all about my ego. Until that day, when anyone asked me, “Where do you work?” I had an answer. Never mind that I was miserable. I’d proudly say, “Ogilvy and Mather.” I loved saying that. I loved the raised eyebrows and the quick nod they’d give me. I loved the little noise they always made — kind of a three-note trill. “Oh-oh-oh.” It was the “approval jingle” of parents and college professors. I lived to impress these people. And “Ogilvy and Mather” sounded so impressive at the age of 22.
So, as I stared at the space marked “Employer,” I came face to face with my newfound unimpressiveness. I was terrified. I was insignificant. I had no idea what I was doing.
And on that day, at the Ford dealership, for the first time in my life, I wrote the word “Self” in that box, and that has made all the difference.