It sounded like a simple email request from my brother: “Early next week, would you please sign the attached form and fax it back to my office with a copy of your resume.” OMG, I thought, “my WHAT? “ My heart sank as I desperately searched all the documents on my computer, repeating to myself, “Resume, resume….you must have a resume somewhere. Who doesn’t have a resume?”
Well, I didn’t. It turns out I had “resumed” (as in, took up again, or continued) quite a bit over the last two and a half decades, but one thing that I had not done was create a resume. There was no reason to. I had not actually looked for a job since 1983. So, while I was proud to be asked to be on the Board of Comforters for Cancer, the wonderful charity that my brother and teenage nieces created after my sister-in- law passed away, my brother’s simple request for a resume left me feeling a bit nauseous. Realizing that my evening would be occupied with the monumental task of rethinking my life, I made a big pot of tea and sat down at my computer, attempting to create something professional.
Two and a half cups of tea later, I had created a pitiable piece highlighting the three real estate attorney positions that I have held since 1983. The most recent of those jobs was working for myself doing conveyancing work; another, for my family’s real estate firm. As I finished, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. My resume was a half page long. I handed a copy to my daughter, who was home for her usual Sunday visit (she was actually visiting our free washing machine and dryer). “Wow, Mom, you’re really much better than you appear on paper,” she sympathized. It dawned on me that at 25, her resume was more interesting than mine. “You really could elaborate on that Temple Sisterhood Presidency,” she suggested, trying to be helpful.
“I need to make this better,” I thought, which lead to a “Please help” plea to my husband. In a flash, he jumped over to his highly organized chestnut colored briefcase on the kitchen table and seemingly without effort pulled out a copy of his own resume, no less than four pages long (Pahleeze…). “Take a look at this,” he said, “Maybe it will help.” I proceeded to spill what remained of my of tea (accidently, of course) all over it.
I took the wet mess up to my office to peruse his accomplishments. There was “extensive experience” and “market capitalization.” There was an addendum page on “Leadership” and “Negotiations.” I was so impressed by this man who is my partner: The very same man who took out the garbage, fixed toilets, opened the mail each evening while sipping his Johnny Walker Black. This was the very same man who often fell asleep on the couch next to me in the evening. He was also this amazing professional. “Wow,” I thought as I read his resume, “This is really disturbing.”
I was perturbed because Mike and I graduated law school together. We passed the bar together, got our first jobs at big downtown law firms within days of each other. In our early professional years we literally walked the same path to work, from our condo in the North End, to a café for a coffee and a Glorious Morning muffin, then to work for about ten hours until we walked home together through narrow streets lined with Italian bakeries. Now he had four pages of accomplishments seemingly jumping off the paper. Me? Not so much. I wondered, “Could I have been he?” “Should I have been he?”
Being forced to face my professional accomplishments on paper, or lack thereof, was a jolt of reality. It truly never really bothered me that Mike and I took different paths; that I chose to work part time and be the primary caretaker of our children. Until I faced that sad, half empty piece of paper, I never thought about the fact that it would be really hard to fill a section entitled “Professional Accomplishments” if I did not make that a priority in my life.
As I finished up my resume and shot the crumpled pages of Mike’s damp resume in the circular file under my desk, I thought about a Woody Allen line that Mike has made his own: “I’ve worked really hard to work this hard.” And he has. My path has taken me elsewhere, and my life has been filled with experiences that just don’t fit that well on the stark white of the resume paper.
The list of professional accomplishments on my resume left out everything that was important to me — the relationships I’ve nurtured, the friends made, the time spent raising children with purpose and integrity. I was not able to list “drove to Portsmouth, Rhode Island for son’s three hour track meet” or “visited Dad in nursing home” under Professional Accomplishments. Nor was I able to list “learned to read torah for son’s bar mitzvah” or “drove downtown to bring daughter extra key when she locked herself out of apartment” or “spent two hours in the car just talking with teenage daughter” or “perfected mom’s chicken soup,” or the million other little things that have made my life meaningful.
And so: If my resume is short, that’s ok by me. After all, resumes don’t often list any of the really important things in life.