“And this was the day we visited the Louvre,” my psychologist friend explained, as she flashed what should have been vacation photographs before me. “And this,” she paused, “was just before we took the cruise on the Seine. What a beautiful trip!”
I looked in confusion, shaking my head. “But I can hardly see anything!” I proclaimed. “You’re showing me the negatives.”
She caste me a suspicious glance. “Sometimes you can see things from the negative you can’t see from the print,” she explained. “You just have to shine the proper light on it.”
Did she have some type of psychologist trick up her sleeve, or was she just joking?
Ultimately, she was to prove herself correct. But the situation, which demonstrated that to me, was anything but a vacation.
My own “journey” began a few years ago when I had been an Aerospace student at a local university. My first professor, who had been aware of my previous degrees and airline industry experience, recommended that I be appointed an advisor to the Aviation Department upon graduation.
The initial Advisory Committee meeting, held at the college’s Aerospace Center and attended by all of its committee members, became the catalyst for my own, multi-faceted contributions, entailing airline trend discussions, course and curriculum redirections based upon them, lectures, student employment recommendations, textbook writings, and a series of aviation museum research trips. In all, I wrote some 20 titles and devoted several hundred hours to the program.
Able to combine my aviation, teaching, and writing experiences, I continued to contribute to the department, despite a four-year expired appointment letter, but enthusiastically awaited an updated one. Fueled by passion, I was paid with fulfillment. Yet, despite having been requested to express my continued interest in serving and to submit my resume, along with a list of my first-time accomplishments, none materialized.
The professor, who obviously had access to department-related information, learned that I had not been reappointed for “unprofessional” reasons, but he was asked, in confidence, “not to tell anyone.”
The decision sparked a series of anger sessions, self-doubts, and insecurities, as I questioned myself. What could I have done wrong? What could I have done differently? Was it something I said? If I had worded something differently, perhaps the outcome would have been favorable.
But after I diffused the emotion several days later, I was only left with the stark reality of my dedication, achievements, and contributions, and the alleged unprofessionalism of my actions could not have been further from logic, reasoning, or truth.
Perceived performance unprofessionalism? Were they kidding me?
Rearranging these seemingly unrelated puzzle pieces, I was able to determine the true reason for the reappointment denial, and this painted a picture of lies and deception, hung from the “judge’s” neck like a convict’s personal prison number.
Department advisors were appointed, based upon faculty recommendation in a mostly democratic process, by the Department Chair. The one in question, smooth in façade and eloquent in execution, was quite insecure, and was only assigned the Administrative Department Chair position until a permanent replacement could be found. Aware of the democratic decision process, he deliberately selected the committee members himself, anticipating the support I would otherwise have received. And the plea “not to tell anyone” was not, in retrospect, an effort to protect me, but himself, because anyone who knew of my experience and contributions would only have gagged at the claim, casting him in the suspicious light. That light shone with inadequacy—and, again, it was not mine.
In the end, his insecurity ruled him: my abilities, talents, and accomplishments, both at the university and in the aviation industry, proved too much of a threat for him, and he needed to find a way to remove me, employing the deceitful strategy. He actually believed that I was after his job!
So often sinking into our insecurities, we easily conclude that situations such as these are the result of our own shortcomings and not those of others’. But a post-emotion rearrangement of the pieces sometimes produces the opposite, or negative, image—from which the event originally developed. My psychologist friend was right: it is up to you to shed the proper light on it to see it that way. When I did, I learned who truly had the “negative” image—in more ways than one.