Veronica Tanzen: Intelligent Being or Functional Illiterate?

As I near the seventh year at my job, I often reflect upon my accomplishments and perceived value to the company. When I first sat down across from my soon-to-be managers, those many years ago, I remember thinking, “What are you doing Veronica? You don’t know anything about this industry—nor does it even interest you!” Fast forward seven years, and I am still committed in body and mind to my work family Monday to Friday (9 to 5).

Although I will not disclose where I work (for the sake of everyone’s privacy), I need to put my surroundings into context. Let’s pretend that I work in a company comprised of three thousand nuclear physicists (and I don’t mean the James-Bond-007-Denise-Richards kind). The level of gray-matter that a nuclear physicist holds, I feel, accurately captures the type of intelligent and quirky people I deal with locally and globally at this large company. Maybe you read one of my relationship blogs where I mentioned Nadia (the nerd I described as being, “. . . like broccoli dipped in chocolate and sex”), well, she is one of those genius-types I work with.


I spent my first eight months with the company looking for an exit strategy. I knew nothing about what they did, and I really didn’t know if they knew why they hired me. I didn’t think I had what it took to be of any value to the company, but they saw potential in me. Many years later, I can confidently say that I have become a very valued employee. More importantly, I know that I am loved by the members of my work family. To get an understanding of how I am perceived at work, some people call me “Goddess” or “Dai-Sensei” or “The Boss.” More commonly though, I have been nicknamed “Donna”—after the character from the TV show Suits. I wear that badge with extreme pride, since I think the actress that plays her, Sarah Rafferty, is gorgeous (and her character has an enviable wardrobe to boot). Everyone I know agrees that, when a movie is made of my life, Sarah Rafferty should play me.

Well anyhoo, back to my scattered point. I was humbled a couple days ago, causing me to question my value once again.

It was to be a simple meeting—one to discuss the technology required to move forward with a new global initiative. Simple, right? I corralled the team leaders and necessary tech gurus, and brought my trusty pad and paper with me to jot down what cool new technology I needed to source. After the initial introductions and pleasantries, they got down to business and, ten minutes later, I had yet to understand a single word uttered. Desperately, I squeezed my eyebrows together in a futile attempt to focus on the words that spilled from their lips. I stared at their mouths, hoping that reading their lips would bring clarity to the fast-paced, multi-syllabic content of the discussion. My thoughts began to wander though—“Mmm cake. I’d really like some chocolate cake.” The images of baked goods dancing through my head were rudely interrupted when the conversation became more animated.

“I think our focus should be implementing an AWP structure for the dissection and dissemination of the data.”

“Whoa, whoa! I wouldn’t be so quick to toss AWP around so liberally—that might send the wrong message,” was the response from one of the tech gurus.


So for an hour, the usually feisty and opinionated Veronica sat mute… dumfounded, actually. But, of course, on the outside, they witnessed a highly engaged Veronica, as she nodded her head in agreement and jotted things down on her notepad. I made sure not to doodle though—that would have been a dead giveaway that the contents of my notes had nothing to do with the topic at hand (but more so what items I needed from Home Depot for our current reno project at home).

As I took my tattered and torn ego back to my desk, I turned to one of my colleagues and said, “I think I’m functionally illiterate. I am a really unintelligent human being. I just spent an hour in a meeting and didn’t understand a thing. I’m a moron.”

This particular woman has always been one of my biggest supporters (both at work and towards my literary endeavors), and did not falter from her usual Team Veronica attitude.

“Veronica, don’t be so hard on yourself. You are super intelligent. I bet they couldn’t write a book, or know how to properly use commas and semi-colons (which is still up for debate, if you ask me), or make gorgeous handmade gift-boxes like you do. And you’re a great mother and grandmother. Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all have different strengths.”

Bless her heart for those positive words, but I still spent the last hour of work feeling like my secret was out—they’d all soon know I am a fraud.

When my husband arrived to pick me up that afternoon, my first words to him were, “I’m a moron. I’m dumber than white bread.” I then proceeded to tell him the story. The first thing he said was, “Was Phil in that meeting?” I was stunned. How did he know?

“Yes he was.”

“Sweetheart, how could you possibly compare yourself to someone like Phil?”

My husband wasn’t insulting me, by any means, but was bringing me back to reality. Phil is the perfect example of the type of people I work with—über-intelligent—a genius. My father was a genius, so I’m accustomed to being around people like that. What I had forgotten during my “woe is me” moment, is that, despite the fact that my father was a genius, I always had to do all the handiwork around the house—he couldn’t work a hammer if his life depended on it. Furthermore, after the third time he cut off the ends of his fingers (while we built a greenhouse in our back yard), we were forced to ban him from future use of the circular saw.

I think I get it now. I may have reached the moral of my story.

The moral of the story is:

The world needs simpletons like me, otherwise we’d all be living in make-shift shacks in the woods with a bunch of fingerless geniuses.

In layman’s terms:

I’m STILL fargin’ awesome!


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