(I really wanted to be a writer but…)
When you start a company in the 21st century, everyone advises you to blog. The first thought is what do you write after you welcome everyone to your blog? I came up with topics I thought I had some knowledge of; from setting up a small business and setting up an online presence to working with Executive Recruiters if you are an employer or job-seeker. I’ve always liked to write and want to continue to blog but I’m running out of ideas. I don’t want to go completely off-topic and write about my vacations to Western Europe. So I am going to tell you how I started my career, not as an Executive Recruiter, but my first career as an Accountant. Remember this was the 1970s and a lot of paths, that are around today, were not often thought of back then. For example, the only time I heard of Public Relations was when The New York Yankees were going through a controversy and Howard Rubenstein said, “Mr. Steinbrenner has no comment.”
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a writer. Anyone who knows me from social media sees I enjoy coming up with funny, silly, creative, mischievous ideas. But when I was a teenager my parents sat down with me and said, “Barry, you can be a writer and starve or go into something else and make a living.” So I decided on something else; go into advertising! I would come up with slogans and asked my parents, “How does this sound for an advertising slogan for soda?” Like Don Draper on a bad day, I was told it wasn’t any good. Then my parents got to the heart of the matter; I could be a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant.
I can’t and don’t blame my parents. My grammar was average and I’m guessing you must need great grammar skills to be a writer. I did not embrace literature. After he died, C-Span showed an interview with long-time political writer and columnist Robert Novak who spoke of his love for the classics in literature. My comments about literature in high school were, “isn’t there anything more recent than Greek Mythology stories they can give us to read?” I did not travel until I worked for a few years so the idea of going to another city and trying to break in as a writer for a newspaper was scary.
On the other hand, nobody ever said, “Barry, this is America and you can be anything you want to be!” I should have been encouraged to travel but my family’s idea of a trip was to visit my uncle in Merrick, Long Island or my grandparents in Brooklyn. Once a year they would go to Miami but with the option of having the house to myself, I wanted to stay home. My father, in the apparel business, took some awesome trips to London and Rome, probably could have taken the family and didn’t and it would have given me stories for a lifetime. Reaction from teachers was mixed; I loved writing and reading my compositions to the class. When teachers asked for volunteers I looked like Horshack in “Welcome Back Kotter.” Usually the reaction was positive and I once wrote a good-spirited satire of our English teacher that she loved, read to the entire class and everyone laughed and enjoyed it. But there were times I got waaaaaaaaay too silly (sound familiar Facebook Friends and Twitter followers?) and teachers, instead of pointing that out, went overboard in being critical. I did not have the initiative to join the school newspaper, which my parents did encourage me to do. Really not blaming anyone (really!) because it probably was not meant to.
There were some greatest hits. My high school yearbook and junior high school autograph book have all kinds of comments from me that have “stood the test of time!” In junior high school I wrote two books of short stories; “The Weird Adventures of John Marshall” and the follow-up “Earthquake” which had nothing to do with an earthquake. It centered of five characters; John Marshall who was an ordinary person going through life, Mrs. Marshall who had no personality and was John’s mother, Mr. Screw, who had no sexual connotation and the name was a take-off of Mr. Scrooge, Uncle Ho who had been called a communist by some (it was a take-off on North Vietnam’s President Ho-Chi-Minh who was sometimes referred to as Uncle Ho) and Smoidelstickle Hopindinger whose name was a take-off on Engelbert Humperdink. In my junior high school autograph book I wrote, “On my graduation day, The Rascals released People Got to be Free. One day later The Beach Boys released Do It Again. So the week wasn’t a total loss.” Of course I’m much different now.
My friends would have told me if it sucked or was boring but they enjoyed it and read it. But when I tried to write more serious stories it was pathetic.
In high school I used to read the tabloid (before the New York Post became what it is today), The New York Daily News. Loved the sports section and we all read it for that. I used to doodle on the front page, “I am so bored” and “wish the school day was over.” My parents were afraid that I would be caught and suspended from the New York City public school system. I think they were overreacting. But I did take that spirit and in the spring of 1971 wrote about 40 poems on why I did not like school. Even my parents found it amusing. Some of them I put into my high school yearbook. There’s one that I’ll share with you at the end of this blog post. I can still do it from memory. Just like Roger Daltry can sing all those complicated Pete Townshend lyrics from memory, I remember this poem.
Ultimately I probably would not have been a successful writer. It’s easy to write about what you know; how I got together with my wife, why I love my dog, my travels since 1981, and memories of favorite music artists of the 1960s/1970 and The New York Yankees. It’s much harder to write about what you don’t know, don’t like or haven’t experienced.
For my career choices; I was terrible in science so I could never be a doctor. I hated law so I could never be a lawyer. But accounting….well…I took a year of Accounting in high school and I did well in it. I heard there was a need for accountants so I went to Baruch College and majored in it. There were a lot of required courses at Baruch College. If you made any kind of effort in them, you should get an “A” or “B” and since I worked hard I got “A” in Marketing, Management, Sociology, Psychology, etc. I did take some electives in political science, always got “A,” had deep conversations with my Professors but was assured there was nothing I could do with political science because this wasn’t some country where you could be anything you wanted to be. After getting “A” in a couple of introductory Accounting courses, the material got much harder. It should be much harder because this was for my profession. As I neared the end of college, my hard work in all courses got me a G.P. A. of 3.6 which gave me Magna Cum Laude honors. My Accounting G.P.A. was 3.2, which I thought was natural because the material was much more difficult than introductory courses in general subjects. When I disclosed this information to my school Guidance Counselor and on interviews I was YELLED at! After a while I just lied and my 3.2 became a 3.4. I was an Accountant for 18 years before switching careers and becoming an Executive Recruiter.
And here is my favorite poem. When you have had homework in school, you should know the feeling.
By Barry the Poet
Teacher, please tell me something
Would our planet go out of flight?
Would the sun not rise tomorrow?
If we had no homework for a night
Teacher, I’m damned tired
I’ve been up since 6:15
So when the final bell has rung
Let me go home and do my thing.
“Barry,” she replies
“You always complain the subjects I teach have no relevance in your life These subjects will be relevant to you now
Because you’re gonna do a ton of homework for me tonight”
I gotta read 300 pages, answer 82 questions
And that’s not all my sorrow
Because when I finish that, I then have to study
For the test she’s giving tomorrow
And when I’ve answered all the questions
And studied for the test I
have homework in four more subjects
I just never had a rest
Finally I finish my homework and begin to relax
But I can’t relax because I was fooled
Because now the clock says 6:15
And it’s time to go back to school
If the next day the teacher asks a question from the homework
Whose answer I do not know
She yells, she screams, she has a fit.
“You’re lazy, you don’t work, you’re a shmoe.”
Would our planet go out of flight if we had no homework?
For sure I cannot say.
Maybe the sun wouldn’t rise, I don’t know.
Because I have homework everyday
(Below is what could have been stock footage of an Accountant in 1983)
BAP EXECUTIVE SEARCH LLC specializes in placing public relations, communications, investor relations, marketing and social media professionals in mid- to senior level professionals at corporations, public relations firms and non-profits across all industries in full-time positions.
Could be stock footage of an Accountant in 1983