A Story of Becoming Unimportant
Several, well actually many, years ago we left the security of nondescript university positions (we hope the modifier is placed correctly) to devote all our professional time to Think Pint, the human resource consulting company we had been horsing along for nearly two decades. Simultaneously we moved 2000 miles to Rattlesnake Gulch, an area in which we did not have friends or contacts. It all felt right and good as the feely types would say. Warm climate, different geography, new faces, and free from constraints of the past. What a marvelous, challenging, exciting opportunity for self-fulfillment. We were actually experiencing issues and concerns about which we had written, taught, and counseling others for years. We felt confident we could pass the transition test and excited about the transition process and what could be learned from it.
Six months later we were still mucking about in the transition process, confidently telling ourselves that it would take time; probably more than we had estimated. We knew that, of course, because as counselors we had reassured many others in the past. Nevertheless, it was time to quit kidding around and develop a hard hitting marketing campaign! We obtained a list of the 100 largest employers in the Tucson area, developed solid promotional material for our consulting business and made scads of contacts.
After six months of unimportant whirlwind activity we took a breather and looked over what had happened. Nothing. Essentially, we sunk without a ripple. Worse, actually. Proposals we prepared and mailed in response to requests seemed to disappear. At least no one acknowledged receiving them, even when we made follow-up calls. We were stood up for lunch appointments, and overnight marketing trips turned out to be based on fraudulent invitations.
This is the point when we acknowledged that a few contacts of any kind might be good for our mental health. The homeowners association in our small neighborhood was becoming more active so we volunteered to do an occasional newsletter, mostly as a means of making connections. A good way to start was to interview our neighbors and write brief profiles.
They were interesting and likable people. Alert and aware, they appeared to have done well at whatever it was they did before becoming neighbors. At first it seemed the main thing we all had in common was living in the same neighborhood. But soon it was clear that some residents of this instant neighborhood (the first of the 32 homes was less than 18 months old) had significant amounts of discretionary time. They recently experienced retirement and the life changes entailed took them out of whatever main currents they had been in, leaving them in some sort of psychological vacuum. People responded differently. Some drifted peacefully, others explored the new environment searching for whatever it might offer, and some looked for an escape back to the main stream. A few splashed about exuberantly, making the most out of the change.
We concluded that many of us were experiencing a similar affliction; to be more specific, we were in some stage of becoming unimportant. It was not long until we shared our diagnosis with a few friends at the Friday evening neighborhood-pool-side-cocktail-hour-and-lying contest. We agreed that to survive life as it had become and regain reasonable levels of satisfaction, it was imperative to learn to deal with becoming unimportant. The suggestion has a vein of sense to it, but becoming unimportant was essentially a one-liner at a pool side gathering.
To our surprise, “becoming unimportant” continued to be a convenient hook. People could hang their bag of concerns on it, step back, and say, “That’s it! Becoming unimportant is exactly what is getting to me, and I don’t understand it or know what to do about it.” The recognition brought a sense of relief and individual war stories describing different roads to becoming unimportant.
Part of our own plan for dealing with becoming unimportant eventually involved relocating. As our time in the neighborhood came to a close, it was instructive to observe how others worked out their own unimportant plans. Two enrolled in school; a few returned to their previous lines of work; some developed new occupations; some became active in organizations, personal development and enjoying the new found freedom to think and read. A few chose to move on, and divorce was the first step in coping with unimportance by another.
Most of us probably gained a healthier respect for becoming unimportant by sharing our experiences with others. Does becoming unimportant hurt? Sure; to some more than others. But yes, initially it can be confusing, disappointing, upsetting all of which are psychological uncomfortable and potentially painful.
So, that is the story of how becoming unimportant became an issue addressed by the Think Pint at Charbonneau. Following our relocation we dropped “Charbonneau” from the address and continued to use the simpler “Think Pint”. Regrettable, looking back; such a classy name. Still, even Think Pint often requires a word of explanation, the easiest being,”We can’t afford a think tank, so try a pint.” And so begins a conversation.
After a number of false starts and seemingly good ideas disappearing as fast as they surfaced, two ideas endured. First, the Pint staff thought it would be useful to develop some unimportant discussion material. Second, after considering several formats we settled on a collection of unimportant short pieces. Recently we reworked some of these becoming unimportant pieces and developed others, all of which are being gathered in the Think Pint web site under the heading of Becoming Unimportant .