Lifting the Talking Veil
I talked constantly in the corporate world. The sports industry was competitive. I talked to match its aggressive nature and fast pace. I strived to have the next best idea, the next best line, have the last word. Talking was in direct correlation with the value I felt. I was young for the positions I held. Talking hid my inexperience and self-doubt. Every meeting. Every interaction. I talked to be seen. My speech was unabating and necessary. It was a veil, a manufactured second layer of skin to get me through the workday.
I talked fast and interrupted faster. I thought this demonstrated my efficiency. I approached the amount of words spoken per minute with the same zeal as my fifth-grade typing class (like the original Peloton leaderboard, I typed my way to the top with the most WPM. ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ erupting from my fingers). A point came to mind during a conversation, and a countdown was initiated. If the idea wasn’t spoken into life, it would detonate inside me and be lost forever. There were few explosions. I always said my piece.
Listening was a second priority; an inferior action. It was better to talk. Talking was tangible. It received immediate attention. Listening went unrecognized (it wasn’t verbally recognized, therefore I thought it wasn’t appreciated). I climbed the corporate ladder as I climbed higher in my twenties. My talk-more, listen-less ideology was working. I was being recruited for jobs, everyone paying and promising more than my current situation. I was successful by all traditional makings of the word earning respectful job titles with reputable companies and above average financial security.
What I didn’t realize was my incessant talking masked more than my inexperience, it hid my true calling. It silenced my passion for writing which was screaming from the depths of my stomach, dying to surface. All the talking left no room for reflection about my work. In my first five years out of college, never once did I ask myself if I enjoyed what I did. My overtalking paved a way to overworking in a career that wasn’t for me. Outside I was talking, I was advancing at a high speed; inside it was a slow burn.
I hit a breaking point. I ended up in the hospital because of a stress-induced migraine. Migraines hammered into my life a year prior. After multiple doctor’s visits and a CT scan I wish to forget, I was prescribed medication to manage it, including an anti-depressant. I wasn't one for medicine, (especially medicine for a problem I created), but I followed doctor’s orders. This migraine was different, though. It stole my breath away. It disorientated me to the point of terror. My neck lost its foundational strength; my hands becoming bookends anchoring each side of my head. Light was unbearable; the faint glow of the street lights was as harsh as the midday sun. The medicine wasn’t helping; and, in the depth of the night, Ben took me to the emergency room. Curled into myself on the locked gurney, the IV delicately dripped healing fluids into my body. The stinging subsided and shame filled its place. How did I allow this to happen? I looked at Ben and burst opened with tears and peppered breathing like a damn finally succumbing to persistent pressure.
Ben and I returned from the hospital. He left for work. I took a mental health day which meant I answered emails from my bed, the curtains standing guard against any natural light. To ease the embarrassment of my current situation, I wrote about it. My words grew in size. My sentences dived diagonally toward the bottom of the page as I tried to keep up with my out-loud words. My talking was out of control.
In the year to come, I worked to minimize my talk. It was a hard habit to break. I had to find value outside of the amount of words I contributed. A conversation with a colleague or superior became an active work zone - no speeding, no interrupting, keep alert. The less I talked, the more I unlocked feelings and thoughts about my surroundings. The industry’s temperament did not match my own. It was a disheartening and freeing realization all at once. I was good at my job, I was good at constant chatter, but it wasn’t good for me.
It’s been five years since I exited the corporate sports industry. I am migraine-free in a freelance career. My worth comes from a variety of places; none of which is how quickly or how much I talk. The veil has been lifted.
Photo by Rose Colored Creative