accountants

Overheard after 6pm

Working late at the office.

The cleaning man is doing his rounds. 1-2 cubicles over from my desk, he takes a call.

Hello? Who is this? Who?! Why you keep bugging me?! Why? Imma come find you, ok? Imma come find you.

I’m torn between curiosity – what kind of life does this cleaning man live?!- and more than mild concern. I kinda wanna get on the phone and tell the person on the other line,

If I were you, I would stop bugging him. He is a rather intimidating individual, and while I am not an expert in these matters – I am an accountant, you know – I can’t help but feel he might actually come and find you, and know what to do with you once he did. I thought you should have all the facts before making any further decisions. Good night!

But I didn’t. I just kept working my Vlookup formulas like a boss. #excelisbae #microsoftofficeismylife Still. I wonder if I ask nicely in a week from now, whether the cleaning man will give me a synopsis of the situation, a high level update. #nodetailsplease

If only my peeps at my gangsta boxing gym could see me now. #ratchetwhat?

 

Advertisements

Punctuality: wasdat?

Punctuality. Mornings. Neither are really my thing (documented here).

Last week I had an 8:30am call with France. My French colleague was politely amazed:

Vanilla! Tu prends l’appel du bureau et non pas de chez toi! Impressionant. Alors la question est: tu es reveillée, mais es-tu caffeinée? Oui? Maquillée et coiffée aussi?! Je note ce moment dans mon calendrier.

Vanilla! You are taking the call from the office instead of your home? Impressive. So the question is: you might be awake, but have you had your coffee? Yes? What, you did your hair AND your makeup too?! I am marking down this moment in my calendar.

Pretty sure he heard my eye-roll across the Atlantic ocean.

Haven’t made it to the office before 9:15 since that day.

#canthelpit

#ireallycant

#morningsarenotmything

Accounting: my passion, it turns out. Who knew?

A little context of my journey to becoming an accountant:

I failed out of engineering in 2004. I chose to put myself back through school in 2007, in night school for a whole year as an independent student to get my GPA up from the 1.wtv it was after engineering. Graduated top of my class in 2010, and the rest is history.

But why accounting? My mother burst out laughing when I told her. She thought it was a practical joke, no way somebody as creative as me could go into accounting. So why?

Because I wanted a job security, even in the worst of recessions or during wartime (granddaughter of WWII survivors). I wanted qualifications that were recognized across the country and easily harmonized in the US. I wanted a career that I could scale up or down, depending on my family situation, and when my husband would ditch me for a younger model, I’d be able to continue providing my children the standard of life that they were accustomed to. I wanted financial independence. The only career I could identify that met all those criteria was accounting, so without further ado, accounting was my career of choice. It never occurred to me to question whether or not I’d enjoy it. I had a goal and I was gonna achieve it. Which I did.


I interned at a mid-sized accounting firm in 2008-2009. I hated it. Everybody was so stiff. The drudgery of the work, the hours (little did I know! lol, such #innocence), the black and grey poorly cut suits. I felt trapped, having chosen a career that didn’t suit me, but I felt too old (LOL!!! little did I know!!!!) to start over AGAIN, so I kept at it, miserable.

After one 60 hour week during tax season, I brought my hundreth personal tax return to the head partner for review. He had some questions about some of the data. I explained that the client was unresponsive, the government unhelpful, so I just winged it, a reasonable wild-ass guess, an example of “creative accounting”. The partner took off his glasses,

Vanilla, don’t ever use those words creative accounting ever again. We are professionals. People rely on us. Our clients trust us. What we do matters. We aren’t saving lives, we are helping these individuals make the best decisions so as to maximize the returns on their hard-earned money. That money that pays for their children’s education, sick parents’ hospital bills and their nice vacations which is their just reward after working HARD to reach their level of success. We safeguard the results of their hard work. We free them up to make the best decisions, while protecting them from making mistakes. They trust us to watch out for them. It is our responsibility to always do the best job we can, so as to be worthy of that trust. That is all we can be. Every day. With every action we do. It is no easy task being worthy of trust.

I left his office, shaken.


I recently became a CPA mentor. In this capacity, I have the duty to monitor, guide, advise and shape CPA candidates throughout their 2 years of required experience for their professional title. My first mentee? My adorable little GAB (mentioned here and here. And here. Oh and, sassily… here.) She flip-flopped a lot before committing to accounting. She told me that if she could “become anything closely resembling” me, she was pretty sure she wouldn’t regret her career path.

My team has seen me stressed out of my mind. Laughing hysterically, swearing loudly, crying tears of doubt and insecurity. I am messy and myself. I let them know what parts of my behaviour they should NOT emulate in order to be successful. I’ve never been someone’s inspiration before.

They trust us to watch out for them.


I recently helped a friend clear up the last 4 years of undeclared tax returns, as a self-employed individual. It was frustrating, painstaking and there were moments where I feared I wouldn’t be able to sort through his mess of missing information. I developed multiple scenarios, read up on tax credits I’d never heard of before, and after 3 weeks and 100+ hours, I finally got him to file all 8 tax returns (provincial and federal), mere hours before the deadline. I was exhausted, fed up, and wanted to take a 3 day nap.

My friend hugged me, right after filing and paying. He had tears in his eyes, so grateful was he to have finally discharged his debt to the country that has been so very good to him since he immigrated a few years ago, coming from a place of poverty and violence. “I could never do what you do for a living, I would kill myself, I’d hate it so much. But I am so very grateful you do it, as well as you do. I am free, now. That is priceless. Thank you.”

We free them up to make the best decisions, while we protect them from making mistakes.


On my recent trip to Oregon, one of my coworkers told me that she had been very nervous to meet me, because “we work so hard here, and we didn’t want you to find us inadequate, or not understand what we do, and maybe get us in trouble.” I tried to explain, I do not have that kind of power within the company, and besides, my job is not to get people into trouble. It is to understand what we do as a company, find ways to do things a bit better, and to protect us against risk. My job is to make sure that the people who work on the front lines, in Sales and Operations, can be free to do what they do best, because behind the scenes, I’m making sure that we are properly guarded against human error and fraud. All it takes is 1 big error or 1 dishonest person to wipe out everyone’s hard work. Our bonuses, our reputations, our value on the market, gone. It’s my job to protect all the time, money, effort, teamwork that goes into making our company great.

It is no easy task being worthy of trust.


We published our financial statements on Thursday, following a few days of chaos. I cried 3x on Wednesday, convinced I wouldn’t make our May 31 deadline. Thursday was intense. I felt like I was flying, my mind working in overdrive, pulling everything together, and then suddenly at 6pm, there I was, holding signed financial statements. A year’s work, told in a numerical story. It seems miraculous, that I can summarize one year of operational struggles, wins and loss, mistakes and inspired decisions, hundreds of employees clocking into work day in and day out, late nights in the office and emergencies, promotions, and new hires, into a few dozen pages.

It is our responsibility to always do the best job we can, so as to be worthy of that trust. That is all we can be. Every day.


I love what I do. I am so very very grateful that my cynical decision in 2007 has granted me a life of satisfaction and purpose.

Best start ever to a work trip

Other than when work sends me to Paris, which I definitely enjoy, I don’t particularly enjoy work trips. Especially solo work trips. Especially solo work trips to the USA: their politics frustrate me no end, and more importantly, I can’t handle the portion sizes at restaurants. Depending on the location, I’ve gone a week without eating any fresh vegetables because that wasn’t part of the menu at the restaurants. It’s not so much a question of gaining weight, even though I inevitably do during a week-long trip. It’s the bloating, and the constant feeling of fullness, and the icky digestion, that comes from eating in restaurants non stop. Add to that the time constraints that prevent exercising as much, if at all, as I would normally do at home, and the corresponding strain on my mental equilibrium… Work trips make me feel gross.

I was scheduled to spend 1 week in Tualatin (suburb of Portland), OR this week. I didn’t wanna go. For the reasons stated above, but also because these kind of mandates are rather stressful, and require good planning, focus and delivery. I haven’t been performing anywhere close to my normal output for the past 6 MONTHS. I might be doing and getting better, but I worried that this trip might be too much, too soon. I had never met any of my coworkers at the Tualatin office, so that meant a week of socializing with strangers. To make matters worse, my flight was at 5:30am on Monday (yesterday) morning. Y’all. I am the LEAST morning person EVER. EVAAAAARRRRRRRRRRR. 5:30am! The horror.

All in all, I felt nothing but dread for this trip.

Well.

Guess who called me at 2:50am yesterday morning, to make sure I woke up in time for my 5:30am flight? That’s right. ICB. (Yes, I am behind in my posting, so here is the abridged version: a handful more dates, and a 6 hour drive home from Boston that was one delightful non-stop conversation. He knows that I don’t cook. He knows I don’t drive. He knows I take medication for my ADD and he knows I have depression. He knows I failed out of engineering before graduating top of my class in accounting. He knows about this blog. He knows quite a bit about me, and has not yet run for the hills. What do I know about ICB? Some things, but not many, it’s true. He is a damned reserved man and I am enjoying every layer he peels back, bit by bit. I know that I feel safe with him. I know he makes me smile, so much, so often.)

So. Yeah. 2:50am. I did not hit snooze, I did not fall back asleep. I got outta bed and made my way to the airport. I made my flight. When I teased him as to why he would do such a thing, he explained that he is a lighter sleeper than me, so he figured he should put that to good use. Bruh. 93.7% of the world’s population is a lighter sleeper than me, but they ain’t calling me to make sure I make my early morning flight. Nice try.

Acts of kindness always take my breath away. At the risk of sounding like an autistic alien, kindness is not something that comes naturally to me, nor am I particularly used to receiving. Not sure why, possibly because kindness and vulnerability are siblings, and I do my best to avoid vulnerability always, keeping everyone, including friends and family, at a comfortable safe distance. That’s how I feel least threatened, normally. I’m prickly, like a hedgehog. And because I am prickly, I am not used to being cared for, even momentarily (e.g. Dynamo. Allie. GAB). I am used to clear transactions. Birthdays: gifts. Christmas: gifts. Favors for favors. But kindness? It doesn’t fit into my neat world of debits and credits. But… It fills me with gratitude. Bewilderment. Wonderment. And it makes me smile, so hard.

That ICB. Damn.

And just like that… my trip so far has been really enjoyable. My coworkers are friendly. The weather is beautiful. I’ve chosen to walk to and from the office to the hotel, a beautiful sunshiny hour long walk, each way. With geese.

My hotel is lovely, with a restaurant that has a fairly healthy menu. The portions are not toooooo crazy. I ate breakfast and supper today, skipped lunch, and I didn’t feel like I’d burst or gross.

The skies are the bluest blue. The walks are doing wonders for my mood, and allow me to see the unexpected like this totally non-ironic display of car husks.

2 days down outta 5, I am behind where I should be, but the work is going and I am not panicking. Each day is better than the previous, I am more focused than I have been in ages, and while I might not accomplish everything I should in the established time, I am very grateful to realize I am capable of delivering more than I could 1-2 months ago. Progress.

Not bad for a solo work trip I dreaded with every fiber of my body!

Phase 3 feels like humility

I had a follow-up visit with my GP last week. He was relieved to hear that my medication is starting to take effect. Moments of clarity, brief glimmers where I can concentrate the way I used to. Every positive moment encourages me to keep fighting, and creates a (shaky) momentum of hope and perseverance.

I told him how the timing of this medication was fortuitous: I am so grateful for the relief it is providing me, while remaining daunted by the amount of work and effort to dig myself out of this hole, that I no longer am struggling with the doubt that has haunted me my entire life: how much of my success is due to big Pharma, and how much is really my own? At this point, I don’t care. The reprieve from the acute state of misery and shame is good enough. If that relief can only be caused by a pill, I’ll take the damn pill. I will take all the pills. And if there are other pills that I can take to further balance out the havoc that my brain wreaks upon me, yup, I’ll take them too. Not a bad attitude to have, leading up to an (as yet unscheduled) appointment with a psychiatrist!

My GP nodded, but added,

The success is still yours, you know. The pill is helping you access your intelligence, but it cannot create intelligence. It is like digging for oil. You can have all the fancy machinery in the world, if you dig in the wrong spot, you can dig and dig and dig until you are on the other side of the world, and you won’t have struck oil. Striking oil requires there to be oil in the first place. Sometimes you have to dig just a little bit, a shovel will do. Sometimes you have to dig a long way, and then you hit an enormous well of oil and you are rich!

You have the intelligence. You just were using a shovel, and probably hitting small veins of oil. But if you want to hit all of the oil you can access, taking the pill is like investing in the proper machinery for oil exploration. What a pity it would be if you never found the oil because of a refusal to consider all the tools required for the job, hmmmm?

Put like that, my lifelong dislike of medication sounds a lot like pride. Too proud to admit I need help. Too proud to admit that while I’ve been given a gift of intelligence, I struggle to reach my potential on a daily basis. I would rather jeopardize everything than accept that I have an innate shadow in me, one that requires medication to keep under control. It has taken something of this magnitude, a depression that almost blotted me out, to strip me of this notion. And I can’t even claim virtue in this new found humility: my exhaustion has become so paralyzing I no longer have the energy to cling to this pride. My depression has truly broken me. Stripped of all my defenses, maybe now I might grow up?


This hasn’t been a particularly good week. I’ve had some productive moments, but never quite recovered from my Monday paranoia episode. I’ve slid back into old habits: crying at the slightest provocation (but not uncontrollably! progress!), and overwhelming tiredness. Concentration is pretty weak, only the easiest of tasks can I do, and not many each day.

Tuesday morning, after I finally made it into work, I told CSD of my Monday kuduro paranoid meltdown. He looked a little freaked out, “yeah no, that isn’t normal. I mean, I think we all experience thoughts of that nature from time to time, but not that intensely, to the point that it disrupts your life and can result in very real negative social consequences. Intense. I hope your waiting time for the psychiatrist is not too many weeks, it would be good for you to get the help you need.” Agreed. (I’ve been put on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist at one of the local hospitals. Waiting time of a couple of months. I am not deemed an urgent case, since I am not inclined to self-harm and am still employed. Lucky me.) Later that morning, CSD, who outranks me but doesn’t work in finance, invited me to crash a meeting at work. During the meeting, I’d been distracted, checking my phone too often, really hungry and needing to pee. #professionalAF I contributed a bit, when I wasn’t considering what I would eat for lunch.

At the end of the day, I received this from CSD.

This made me so very happy – CSD is a smart shrewd cookie. His praise means something, and compliments are not easily given. But at the same time, this saddened me. I know what I am capable of, and am not even delivering 5% of what I could. He was impressed when all I did was show up, because that I was all I was able to do on that particular day.

But.

Whereas in recent months, that knowledge of my under-performance made me wanna take a shame-nap, now I want to get better. I want to reach a level of health where I can deliver the impact I know I can give to the world.

I’m willing to work on getting healthier, even though this is gonna be a bitch. I’m daunted, but determined. I’ve accepted that it is going to be months before I am ok. Months of sub-par work. But, goddammit, imma dig till I reach that oil reserve. It’s waiting for me, and if I don’t, nobody else will, and it will remain unused forever.


Recap of this recent battle with depression:

This is true love, part 2

I have the best team ever, right? Right. My darlings. They keep me going when nothing else does.

For the 2nd year running, my little GAB surprised me on Valentine’s day with a deluxe grilled cheese sandwich. Grilled cheese… with BACON.

I was so overwhelmed, I hugged her. #professionalheartemoji

It was delicious.

Yesterday (Feb 15) I showed up to work, around 9:30 as usual (#earlybird), and as I walked past GAB’s desk, she looked at me with reproachful eyes.

I was SO sure you’d show up with chocolate today.

Oops.

So like any good manager, after getting such direct feedback, I addressed the situation.

Last night:

Little GAB looked quite touched when I gave her her Lindt flower stem.

#dreamteam


Do y’all remember Nene? You should. He’s cool. He sent me this. #goodtiming

View this post on Instagram

Cheese wins @funnieronline

A post shared by Shitheadsteve (@shitheadsteve) on

Where is the lie?

The Imitation Game

After class on Monday, Teacher explained that the key to improving in kuduro was to never miss a class, “It’s like math class in university, you know? Miss one class, and you show up at the next one, and you’ve completely lost, with no fucking clue what’s going on.” Everyone agreed, missing math class was the worst. I stayed quiet: I knew that saying “yeah no, I actually have no idea what you’re talking about” wouldn’t go over well, perceived as being attention-seeking, or showing off.

But it’s true, tho. I actually have no idea.

All through Cégep and University, for all non-calculus math classes and all accounting classes that did not have “participation” marks or group projects, I didn’t bother attending class unless I found the teacher inspiring. For the most part, I found my teachers insipid and incompetent, my classmates annoying and frighteningly stupid and the whole experience a waste of my time and a trial to my patience. So I’d buy the textbooks, skip class, and teach myself the content of the syllabus, sometimes more if the topic was interesting. I’d attend the review class before each midterm/final and write the exams. Twice that I can remember, I was approached by teachers, so offended by my behavior that they promised me they would personally see to it that I failed. I’d laugh at them, “You can try. You won’t succeed, sir.” I graduated University with a 4.13 GPA (between A=4.0 and A+ = 4.3). I never got below an A- in my undergrad, and I challenged myself to never finish out of the top 3 in any acco class, and top 5 in any business class. I won an award at graduation for the best GPA in accounting.

I always knew my transcript was a thing of beauty. But it is only this week, after Teacher’s comment, that I realized just how unusual my story was. Sad, too.

When I was very young, my parents had me tested for autism, because I had some odd quirks. Refusing to speak when spoken too, easily overwhelmed, bigger meltdowns than typical toddler tantrums. Ultimately, I was deemed to not be autistic. The doctor concluded I refused to speak when spoken to whenever I felt the person speaking to me was not saying anything worth responding to. Ask me what sound a cow made? Silence. Ask me if I was hungry? I’d answer. This was back before the notion of the spectrum or Asperger’s was a thing.

I had difficulty integrating in social settings (e.g. kindergarten woes). In Grade 5 I transferred from a French immersion elementary school to a local French school next to my house. Despite excellent marks at the previous school, I could barely string together a sentence in French. My new school had a very homogeneous population, all Québécois families, except for 2 anglophone families (including mine). Because of my mother’s intense tutoring, I immediately started scoring the top marks in all the tests and homework. The kids resented me – the anglo new kid that couldn’t speak French to save her life, being the top student. A rumor started: I must be cheating. The rumor spread like wildfire, such that the younger siblings of the kids in my class would point at me in the schoolyard during recess, “tiens, c’est la tricheuse” (“hey, there goes the cheat”). Coupled with the fact that I busted my knee and was in and out of the hospital for all of Grade 5-6 and STILL getting top marks… the rumors persisted. I didn’t have enough command of the French language to defend myself, nor did I understand how bullying worked. It was so unfair. I was busting my ASS at home to get those grades, under Sergeant Mama, and these punks were claiming I was trying to get something for nothing, just because I was different and didn’t fit in?!

As I grew older, my mother set out to train me, explain me the rules, so I could mimic socially acceptable behavior: someone smiling without showing teeth = polite not genuine smile, probably pissed off. Don’t ask personal questions, it’s perceived as invasive not friendly. Touching people is not affectionate, it is considered a lack of boundaries. Interrupting is not a sign of interest, it is considered rude. Speaking too rapidly or in too loud a voice is not seen as being animated or interested, it is deemed aggressive. Smile when you say thank you or people will think you are insincere – it doesn’t matter if you don’t mean it, they expect you to smile, so smile. All the lessons and rules I needed to learn to not ruffle feathers, my mother drilled into me. I became rather good at pretending to be normal, so much so I had to convince a doctor that I really do have moderate ADD and a perpetual shadow. It’s not flawless, I often make small slip-ups and frequently get the feedback that I am phony/aloof and my favorite: a “bit of a bitch”.

Pretending to be normal, however, comes at a cost. It implies that parts of me deserve to be hidden, are shameful. Fertile ground for my shadow. After my 2014 depression, I reorganized my life such that I didn’t have to pretend so much. As a consultant, my success had depended on my clients liking me. By moving into industry, all I need is for my coworkers to tolerate me and deliver on my projects. I can be more myself, quirks and all. Still, my inability to sit in a room of people that cannot keep up with my brain – I find it physically painful, my blood pressure rises from the strain of holding my tongue and not lashing out in frustration at their uncomprehending questions, off-topic reasoning, I just want them to understand for all our sakes – is starting to limit my career growth, just like it has limited my social life, and my ability to make friends at school. I might not actually be arrogant, but I definitely come across as displaying, an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions”. I know this, I can see people withdraw and judge me with contempt, but I don’t know anymore how to address this. I’ve reached the limit of my social (un)savviness.

Here’s the thing. I’m mad. I am so fucking mad at all the people who judge me for being different. For being quirky. For being arrogant. I am DONE with having to hide who I am, change who I am, so I don’t ruffle feathers. Heaven forbid who I am generates a sense of insecurity or takes people aback. I’ve spent 34 years accepting people that cannot keep up with my brain through no fault of their own AND trying to mold myself according to arbitrary social norms. I am not normal. I am close to normal, but I am not. I am smart and I am poor at matching my outputs to social inputs, through no fault of my own. WHY IS THAT SO HARD FOR PEOPLE TO ACCEPT.

Just like in university, I’ve decided to pay the price by isolating myself, to spare myself from the masses of judgmental assholes. If that means taking a hit in my career or socially, so be it. It’s either that or a hit to my mental health.

I’m done. I’m tired. The cost of appearing normal is not worth the benefit.

I am nowhere near as smart or awkward as Alan Turing. But boy oh boy can I relate to this sequence. Thank goodness for the few people in the world that can see past quirks and differences to a person’s real merit.