My first job, at age 12, was as a billing clerk. I was so eager to impress the boss with my speed that I made mistakes. Now, at age 60, I still rush, whether to impress or for the fun of it--to my detriment. Yet despite constantly reminding myself to slow down, I can't seem to.
I was a researcher, working for a world-class scientist, Neal Miller, on the seminal research on biofeedback at the most respected research center you've never heard of, the Rockefeller University. One time, I was asked to build a computer to do a particular task using just wire, semiconductors, and a circuit board. (This was 1970.) I just couldn't figure out how to do it, felt embarrassed, quit, and escaped to an intellectually less demanding job--running rap groups with inner-city kids. I still only do what comes easily to me. Maybe that's good, I dunno.
When I was a lecturer at the University of California, Davis, I was chatting with the department chair and, without thinking, said, "I really like New Yorkers because they're so direct." I later heard that he, a California native, was offended. I don't know if that contributed, but despite outstanding teaching evaluations and student protests, I was not rehired. Today, while I try harder to be tactful, I still end up too-often offending people. I can't seem to remain vigilant enough.
I was a columnist at Kiplinger. As long as I just submitted my how-to column without comment, all was fine. When I started suggesting that I write on broader topics and how Kiplinger.com might be improved, they let me go, saying they didn't have time to deal with my suggestions. U.S. News hasn't officially let me go; they just aren't calling me for projects like they used to. My boss said I am perceived as high-maintenance: too many suggestions, too much pushback on their edits of my work. You'd have thought that, by now, I'd have learned to keep my mouth shut. I just can't. No matter who I'm talking with, I cannot resist offering ideas for improvement.
And now there's KGO. Management has never given me any criticism and indeed, when the boss called to say he'll be replacing me after my March 20 show, he insisted there was nothing wrong with my show, that I was a good performer. He simply wanted to replace me with someone else. So here, there's no lesson that I'd fail to learn.
I wonder whether the lesson in all of this is to accept one's basic nature and, per Hamlet,"There's more in this heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy."