I have said that sentence — “This is all bullshit” — at three crucial junctures in my life. Of course, I say it daily, if I happen to catch any political news, but that’s more of the benign, observational mumbling sort than anything else.
The times I’ve called BS have been distinct, with their own unique tones, meanings, and contexts: one from utter dejection; the second, utter depression; and the third after removing the shroud that caused the first two. Funny how punctuation can change everything.
As a 28-year-old college government professor, I was hopeful and excited to engage my students regarding or county’s institutions that shaped the world. And then came the red tape. Leadership who seemed less academic and more administrative. I got more emails about compliance than I can count.
As I observed the ways they cut costs here, and protected revenue there, the sad realization hit that they were just as concerned about money as any business. I wasn’t in a place of higher learning; in fact, I wasn’t sure those existed any more. Seemed more like a company whose product and brand was the collegiate experience.
Cue: the first utterance. It ended with a “.” – it was a declarative statement.
Not only had the luster worn off the subject i so dearly loved as an academic pursuit and hopeful profession, the 2016 election added a steaming load onto the pile personally and socially. And, as I started to see beyond the veil in other aspects of life — like, learning the price of being a “Top # [insert career]” for a top Dallas magazine was, in fact, not hard work or quality, but $5,000 —the depression which caused the second utterance crept on. It ended with ellipses.
But, I put on my waders and a arm-length plastic glove like Laura Dern’s character Dr. Sadler in ‘Jurassic Park’ and kept plugging along.
To combat the jaded feelings of working for some company, I decided to invest in Myself Inc. — using my law degree & personal connection to race and gender relations, I picked up a career as a diversity and inclusion consultant. It gave me the freedom to create while being attached to the subjects I love, and offered a personal catharsis (when you’re a biracial, bisexual, pretty-yet-athletic girl who was raised by Christian conservatives in Texas, then did some serious mind-expansion in college… uhh, you come away with unique & beneficial & sometimes-dissonant perspectives).
And it was operating from my place of independence that led to the third utterance. And – wow – what a freeing one it was.
You’ve probably heard Kurt Vonnegut’s quote: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Or maybe you’ve seen the one from George Orwell that goes: “He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.” Or the Peter Principle. What about the advice to “fake it til you make it”? The themes tying those platitudes together is exactly what’s propping up everything: this is all a big con game, and when you learn to play it, you’re golden!
When I stood behind those lecterns, I felt like a total fraud. But I had sought the role. So, I put on the mask of a professor, and had the script down pat — voila — I’m a professor. I watch friends with kids dole out mandates and advice, as if we weren’t the same little idiots less than half our lives ago. And the same has proved true with consulting. I’ve seen people at some of or nation’s largest and most-popular corporations doing their best to act the part, and having no idea what they’re actually doing. How else could I receive answers like “I don’t know” and “We’re not really sure” to questions ABOUT PEOPLES’ JOBS. Like, (leans in and looks around), this is your only concern, for which they pay you handsomely, and you just… don’t know.
Heck no! Nobody knows! We’re all just doing our best, shilling BS until we’re found out! Say it again, one final time, with laughter and an exclamation point!