Back in my styling days when jobs would come and go, I took on additional work to fill the extra time I had when I wasn't on set. One of such jobs was assisting at weddings. I'd coordinated a few by then for friends, and I found a wedding planning company who hired girls to help out on weekends. It was flexible and mostly pretty fun. There was one wedding in particular where I got to be the lead on the big day.
I worked with the bride on the decisions, the venue on the details, and the team at the planning company to schedule and prepare. I put more of myself into this wedding than was contractually required of me, because it mattered to me that it went well and I had the time and energy to give.
The wedding turned out beautifully. Some things went wrong, which happens at every wedding, but the guests were never the wiser and those things were all made right to the best of my ability. I won't go into detail because at this point the relevancy of who said or did what has long expired, but suffice to say that at the end of the day, my feet were sore, my teammates and I were tired, and the bride was happy. Her mother was not.
She called my boss and described me as "the girl with the clipboard who didn't do anything." I was devastated. After all the hard work I'd done, after how much this event mattered to me, to feel wrongfully and so rudely criticized stung hard. So hard that still, half a decade and several dozen events under my belt later, I still feel disbelief when I think of her words.
Just because I didn't appear to her to be frazzled (a strength, actually - a client later called me "swanlike under pressure") didn't mean I wasn't making things happen. Standing there with my clipboard, I could have just given the DJ a cue, or sent a teammate to check on meals with the caterer, or probably both of those and five other things. There's an art to being an orchestrator and it's being aware of every person and every task all at once. She couldn't know. But she made an assumption that became her reality, and her words were carved on my little perfectionist heart.
The trouble with words like hers is that now, as I sit at my desk late in the evening after working several long all-day days, and turn the page in my notebook to see a tentative schedule I created for my second business' upcoming first promotional event, I hear those words echo. It doesn't matter that I run two businesses. It doesn't matter that I love what I do or that I work extraordinarily hard at it. It doesn't matter how much I have grown as a leader and a communicator. Because I still have to pause to ask myself, am I going to be seen as the girl with the clipboard who doesn't do anything?
But do you know why I'm grateful for those terrible words? Because in every moment that they falsely make me doubt myself, they challenge me to remember why they are wrong. I know what I'm good at. I know how to delegate what I'm not. I know how to imagine something and then make it a tangible thing that affects people in a positive way. I know what I'm capable of. And even if that one woman never knows how wrong she was about me, I prove it to myself every single day.
The girl with the clipboard who doesn't do anything? I've never met her.