Framing My Professional Brand
...but appearance management has a tyrannical side
It imposes a cultural fear of the dark warping our perception of what is marketable. Even though high contrasting elements are necessary for vibrancy and detail, the rules for "professional" branding leave us with ashen grays and off whites. Darker tones, critical to capture our true self, suffer an apartheid of the soul where shame lives. And in our post-pandemic world, the shame of suffering associated mental health issues are conjoined with the pathogen.
Attempting to accurately shade our professional brand with this limited
pallet is self-defeating. It betrays authenticity and denies the value of post-traumatic growth at a critical time in history.
The Reality: Stigma is the true pathogen of the psyche' behind the mental health pandemic.
Two archaic definitions of stigma offer insight as to why, to brand with a hot iron or to tattoo the skin with a sharp stick. Remaining silent about mental health concerns, or the addiction that masks them, avoids the pain of being branded as a societal less than. Essentially, the shame of the mark.
Being scarred as deficient is not a marketable brand.
All the more reason to defy our societal dysfunction by framing perceived stigmas as potential assets. This illustrative inversion will better define my professional profile and approach.
Hailing from lower Westchester County, N.Y., where
Far from idealized caricatures of T.V. dads, many
friend’s fathers were WW II or Korean War Veterans, sometimes both. The buoyant Rob Petri and even-tempered
Ward Clever mocked our reality as very few families touched by either war emerged
unscathed. In an era long before PTSD was officially acknowledged, veterans were not
known for teetotaling. Our perception was that most or all our parents drank, with one imbibing more often than the other.
In 1967 my father had joined A.A. – a commendable decision. But, for those with raw, invisible, and unresolved wounds,
an abrupt halt to one’s medication of choice is not always wise. For those within their
He spoke of a particular wartime friend who was “…a very funny guy”, then he trailed off. When I had asked, “What happened to him?”, sparing me details, he mentioned something about a mortar round and, “…they were only able to find his boots.”
My father's Memorial Days was not boxed into a day on the calendar. They arrived often and unannounced as either no-knock warrants from Rage or pleasant drop-ins from his old consoling friend, Grief. There at the table, now nine or ten, as I listened to his narrative I was more rapt by his calm.
I recall him at the kitchen table sipping coffee and speaking of wartime friends. Chuckling, he would recall colorful characters, talk of narrowly cheating death and how others had not. As if remanded to narrate a daydream running on auto-play, his gaze was off to his right, through the wall and off into our backyard, "I was eight when I threatened my father with a frying pan to protect my mother…I remember him sitting on a curb in a drunken stupor unable to recognize us, his own children."
As the older brothers, cousins, and younger uncles of my age group began returning from Vietnam, more substances were added to an ever-growing list of agents assigned to numb the collateral damage of war.
Framing My Brand
The relevance of generational context
We Baby Boomers
In Walt Whitman’s poem, A Dirge for Two Veterans, he writes of a father and son mortally wounded in the same battle and buried together in a joint funeral. It is common for children of veterans to sustain invisible wounds from jagged memories that maimed their parents This generational shrapnel ricocheted off previous generations to find their indiscriminate mark on the next. Silently careening into society, they shade the more somber tones of our culture.
Whitman describes the funeral procession as it builds, then crescendos:
"...And I hear the sound of coming full-key’d bugles;
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,
As with voices and with tears.
…And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through…
Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive;
And the day-light o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me….
O strong dead-march, you please me!
O moon immense, with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans, passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.
The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.”
Each stanza builds to an anticlimactic resolve where Whitman concludes he can simply offer love.
Our new post-pandemic reality is aggravating latent wounds while inflicting new ones.
Many silently hemorrhage while pretending otherwise. Meanwhile, the vocal ones cry for help in ways few understand. Through inattention they will eventually resign themselves to listless desperation.
Just as Whitman served his Moral Imperative of the time, what we have we must also give them.