SHARED STORIES: Toward a Better Well-Being

Charlene Farnsworth is a Downey native who at one time thought she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher- then she joined North American Aviation. In this piece she reflects on her time with the company and the lessons she’s learned for having a successful career. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Charlene Farnsworth

Very early in my life, I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. Upon high school graduation in 1958, at age 17, I pursued my goal by enrolling in Long Beach City College (LBCC). However, my long-standing career goal suddenly changed in 1959 when I took my first job as a Clerk Typist at North American Aviation (NAA) in Downey, Calif. I planned to only work during the summer break and then continue my education at LBCC.

I felt awkward attending college and had difficulty with class participation due to my shyness. It seemed that my fellow students were more mature and I could not make new friends easily. However, I adapted quite well in the work environment and made many new friends, some of whom I have known for over 50 years. 

My first boss, a buyer in the Purchasing Department, was primarily responsible for my comfort in the workplace. He was a patient teacher and I was soon promoted to a secretarial position. Having completed only one year at LBCC, I cancelled my curriculum and continued advancing through the various secretarial and administrative ranks of the company. 

NAA became North American Rockwell and then Rockwell International. I enjoyed 33 memorable years with the company. However, I had the misfortune in December 1993 of being laid off, along with all the other employees in our "overhead-charging" group. Numerous salaried employees were affected by the layoff with past performance not being a factor in determining employee retention. I immediately transitioned from being a career woman to becoming a family caregiver. I officially retired from Rockwell International in May 1996.

In mid-career—July 1974—one of the department managers gave me a puzzling look and asked me a question. He said that it appeared I had a seemingly intact well-being and wondered how that was achieved. I had never given that a thought and candidly responded to his inquiry with the following random thoughts:

1.  Be aware of your image—PRIDE.

2.  Let others’ un-control be what echoes. If they shout and you remain calm, they can only hear the echoes of their voices, not yours.

3.  Someone gives you a rough time? Don’t stoop to their level by joining them. Don’t flatter them.

4.  After a confrontation (and your control), do something productive, but quiet—run an errand. Don’t place yourself in another potential unpleasant situation right away.     Sometimes, an unproductive walk only gives one more time to dwell on what occurred.

5.  No matter how busy you are, make sure you set some time aside to do something you want to do rather than have to do. This avoids frustration.

6.  It’s O.K. to speak up, but in a manner in which you would appreciate receiving.

7.  When respect is gained, it helps in the next dealing with the same party.

8.  Don’t like what they say? Dismiss it and consider the source in your mind. (This is nearly impossible when the person who spoke is someone special to you.)

9.  Having no regrets is a great benefit to your well-being. It saves fret, worry and embarrassment when facing the same party the next time.

10.  There is a lot to the precept:  “Do unto others...”