She walked into the office and sat on our group of desks. Late twenties, glossy brown hair in curls and start-up glasses that finished her face with a strength of knowing what she was doing. Smart casual which was acceptable around management and clients. Her title was Producer and even though it was actually just a fancy way of saying ‘project manager’ in the thick of the new media bubble in 2001 it felt like something more. She wasn’t always at her desk or handing out work to us and when she wasn’t around I imagined she was out with clients giving them assurances and listening to their needs – oozing confidence, self assurance and a contentment. It was probably the first woman in the work place that I’d seen as a role model. It just all fitted together, a freedom to move between teams and act as some kind of creator of ideas and putting them into action. Ever since I worked at that place that feeling of role model never left me, even sixteen years on and now much older than she was then, I still aspire to be her in that moment. Something in the back of my head that whenever something reminds me of that desire for career and success a small flame would light and the idea would surface that I could be that person but in my own form. My own way and my own ingredients.

It was a crazy place. Full of buzz, music of the new millennium flying across the office getting people working at the limit voluntarily. Come and go as you please. Management keeping themselves to themselves for much of the time until a company wide motivational speech of how well the company is doing and then off to disappear, busy by their absence. Work would just come in, land on your desk and every confidence you would just get on with it, understand and deliver it back. Push scooters to float between one team to another at the other end of the fourth floor that we occupied. A large plasma screen hanging above the cafe table and chairs area when flat screen was pretty new and where we watched, in silence, the towers fall on BBC News that September.

It wasn’t the height of my career in a progressional sense but for work, life, finance balance the scales were bang in the middle. I was in the middle of my twenties too and I still just about had all that confidence that came with it and optimism in life. Life was good and times were fast.

In that time very few people knew about my gender thing and the odd weekend out in the very same city had only just started. I had only just started exploring myself outside the confines of my own thoughts. There was no way that I was going to be getting a promotion to becoming a ‘Producer’ and try out that life, I was freelanced in for a start and without being that type of female employee the whole recipe just wouldn’t have been the same and in that frame of mind I was in back then, hidden, secret, afraid – guilty and ashamed it was never going to happen.

I was dazzled by that role model but not enough to do something about it. The whole idea of dealing with gender identity back then just seemed a fantasy. When people get older they often say about the things they wished they had done in life – a lost moment. I have few regrets with some of the decisions I made in life. I chose the right movement in my career, at the time, when I had left university and moved on to the next big company when it felt right. I told Maddie about my gender identity issues and it eventually ended our relationship. I regret that something so special had to end, but I had no control over that other than the revelation itself – things were just as they were, fact. I regret few experiences in my life, even if some seemed crazy at the time, but that ‘Producer’, that person I saw some kind of role model in for less than a thin slice of cake of a reason still from time to time haunts me just a little.

I have moved on with my interests. My writing and attempts to change career, my progression as a musician and my needs to have an interest in whatever job I do that is more than just a frivolous shell of a facade of ‘seen to be dashing between clients and teams looking important and happy’. Yet, this week, when I came across a job for a ‘Producer’ within the very same industry that I have been so desperate to exit, came up on the screen all those feelings came flooding back. The idea of the confidence. The idea of doing something slightly different. Perfect hair and the right clothes. Some kind of contentment. For that moment I felt those same feelings from back then but also with some kind of wisdom from age that for a moment I felt, ‘regret’, ‘if-only’, ‘why didn’t I’ – ‘too late’.

The job, at least from the description, was in itself just a shell of the job that the Producer did back in the early noughties, but I applied to the agent anyway – but it had been filled. I questioned myself with everything about what I wanted to do. I mean what were these feelings, was it a viable way to move on for work and a career or was it just some rose-tinted view of a time that passed so quick and would no longer feel the same if acted upon now? Was it just like a bar I was going to for a drink to only find the place was empty and the owners had long since gone? I mean within about six months or so of me leaving that company back then I had found out they were another victim of the crash and all employees given their P45s and only the name remained within the parent company. It was sad. It was gone.

May be it’s a long lost idea I had, a dream of how I would move on with my life and how I would start in another outward gender and now I’ve let so much time pass on that I should just let the past be the past and come up with another way to inspire myself. I have other role models – more substantial ones and as far as gender is concerned, well, all that I’ve achieved in recent years have been through my own ideas and my own confidence. May be my role model is me.

Until next time,

Hannah x

4 thoughts on “Aspire

  1. I’m not sure I’ve ever had any role models really. There have definitely been people who had traits I briefly admired and wanted.

    I do remember deeply admiring strong women on film like Sigourney Weaver and Helen Mirren, and generally liking being around strong women in real life. But I don’t remember ever really feeling comfortable enough with myself to really find anyone, real or imaginary, as someone who I aspired to be. Maybe it’s like, you can never ever hope to be that so don’t bother even trying.

    I’ve had careers I’d love to have pursued, but not felt able to. But I guess this is the same thing as being the person you want to be, some of it is other people will make it difficult for you, and some of it is you need the strength and will to be it despite of other people. I know there are things I could have done in my life if I’d been stronger, but I wasn’t and I’m strangely okay with that.

    I could have been happy in a completely different career, one of the many I’d jumped at when I was younger. But maybe because I like my job, I can still pursue these more creative interests in my free time, and I don’t even care who sees or likes them, or if anybody does. I’m not going to be a famous musician, singer, song writer, director, actor or author, but I’m definitely okay with that.

    Mainly, I think, because there is a real chance I will get to be the full me. Not some watered down acceptable to bigoted society’s version of me, but all of me.


    • An excellent comment, Robee. I know what you mean about not particularly having role models. I think I only discovered who were mine many years after they’d had an effect and only now becoming aware of who they might be now. It does feel good to be aware of them and in a strange sense bringing to focus what there is about myself that is original and not based on role models. I can also understand the draw of strong confident people.

      I guess when it comes to careers, we can be, or experience, every career and there has to be some kind of acceptance of what we’re unlikely to do. And as for fame, we all know at a certain age that “The fame thing, it isn’t real.” (Notting Hill). I think it’s possible to be creative without the fame and be content, fame is just a drug that can go with it.

  2. That’s a fine piece of intelligent writing Hannah, as always. Those were busy and interesting times. I can recall my own feelings from those days, quite different experience from what you are describing, but I was in a different industry and had a young family. I suppose some who knew me then but don’t now might occasionally recall me and think I threw so much away, wondering perhaps what became of me.
    I look back on those days from the perspective of the life I inhabit now and remember the impossibility and enormity of the gender thing. It was a big hinderance to achieving so much in my life, but at the same time dealing with it and moving on has been the best thing I could have ever done. I passed through an invisible curtain, wondering what might be waiting for me on the other side. Rather inevitably it was just a normal life full of the mundane however it has been and continues to be an adventure!

    x Deborah x

    • Thanks, Debbie. A rather poetic reply to say the least. I hope though that those important parts of your family, in particular your children are still with you. I remember when you were going through the changes and how well you had come through it compared to others. I guess there will always be change and loss as well as gain. Hope all is well with you.

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