In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Fireside Chat.”
Listen: Who wouldn’t want to meet Einstein over brunch, or talk to Al Pacino over a couple drinks? I’ll even say this: for as abominable as he was and how much you’d want to scratch his eyes out for the entire time you were passing the salt, most of us would find the self-told story of Dr. Mengele at least diverting. I don’t want to know anyone famous or hear their life story. I want to know the complete backstory on one of my co-workers at the jewelry store I work at.
Like me, Sarah went to school for something completely different, and she ended up in retail. When it’s just she and I closing we talk about Kahlil Gibran and what the sky looks like in Alaska at 3 in the morning. It’s true, we both had a more European upbringing (which basically means, more lax in some ways, more strict in others as compared to the US, and you end up being at least remotely familiar with the romance languages by the time you’re 12). Like me, she will talk to you about anything, but there’s a ghostly grace to her that I never managed to cultivate in myself. She is nudging 40 but she honestly looks 22. I am so fascinated by her, the black sheep of my store. Why does everyone belittle this utterly amazing girl, who has been everywhere, seen/knows/ done so much?
Diamonds and people have a lot in common. A diamond’s color and clarity are influenced strictly on its origin, incredible pressure, and the presence or absence of other elements around it as it grows. It is, literally, the hardest and toughest natural substance; put two or more of them or more together, however, and they either achieve brilliance or destruction. A very special, unique diamond is the result of expert cutting, someone who understands the diamond and knows how to work with those individual, natural characteristics to make that stone sparkle and dance, even in the darkest of rooms.
Can you tell I do this for a living?
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Regardless of whether you heard ocean waves or a violin quartet in your head reading my spiel about diamonds, my analogy is apt. I meet a lot of people, and I see a lot of diamonds. I hate sounding like a hasbeen Miss America host who’s had too many scotches after the winner’s been announced, but they are all beautiful and awful at the same time. But sometimes, just sometimes, one in particular will really catch your eye.
Sarah has become that lovely diamond in my life.
If you ever bought something in a jewelry store and musingly wondered what it was like to work there, I will let you behind the curtain. Take the movie “Mean Girls,” put them in suits, give them a paycheck and a lot of jewelry, and there it is. It’s every bit as hysterically funny, catty and backstabbing, serious and trivial, truly. So when I came back to my store after a brief return to the healthcare field, I naturally expected that I would be the Prodigal Son and my lesser counterparts who filled the void during my departure would be just that. Lesser. Success in this job is totally dependent on how well you can manipulate strangers, which I will admit, I still struggle with. Your internal success, however, is literally a popularity contest, and how well you’re known in the industry. I’m a very hard worker and a people pleaser (hello-7 years in healthcare), so naturally, everyone is going to want to keep me around.
Sarah’s different, though. Everyone complains to me that she screws things up all the time, that she’s not a strong salesperson, but I know that they’re all wrong. She looks you in the eye when you speak; she actually thinks about what you’re saying. No matter what you say, she doesn’t judge you, even if her experiences have been totally different. This girl is GOING PLACES; she’s just meeting a lot of resistance now because she’s new. We all, in the industry, go through the hazing.
I was always scrappy- push me in a corner, and I start taking my earrings out. This girl is quiet and sweetly answers everything, when you know there’s a whole poker tournament going on in her head. She’s dealing. This is why I need to know everything about her. I want to know the secret of having a life where you get to live everywhere, see everything, DO everything, still be completely transfixed in time as someone in their twenties, and get to handle everything with the collectedness of British royalty.
The other day, we ended up talking about the drudgery of human existence, working to live, not being excited about things anymore. What happens to people as they age that just makes them accept being a veritable cog in the machine. She lit up like a Christmas tree when she started to talk about my upcoming honeymoon to Bermuda. We both realized how long it’s been since we left the country, and life for a little while, and what that does to your soul.
You see, everyone needs that unexpected person in their life to give them perspective. Sarah, for me, is the girl I want to be; not in ten years, but now. Talking to her reminds me that this big blue marble we’re living on has so much to offer and our everyday woes don’t even add up to a hill of beans in this crazy world. I used to be that girl, and I will be again. You can work your ass off, you can try your best and BE the best, but at the end of the day, you have to make your stupid little life something you want.
I am so rarely inspired anymore. This little woman has woken something inside me, and this time, I am going to take heed. Shine on, you crazy diamond. Whether you work with me two years or twenty, don’t ever stop being as brilliant and lovely as you are to me, right now.
A little over a month ago, I wrote my first post, basically, as a brief introduction into how many of us seem to find our way into careers that have all the satisfaction and pleasure of being beaten repeatedly in the face with a crowbar. For me, that was dialysis.
Stephen Chbosky, who grew up not far from where I live in Pittsburgh, is of course renowned for his poignant and quirky coming-of-age tale “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” There is a quote from that novel that is resurfacing on social media which, to me, is applicable to more than love and crappy relationships. “We accept the love we think we deserve” is how I felt about working in dialysis. Isn’t it funny that we allow ourselves to die away slowly in a profession that takes advantage of us, undervalues us, destroys our health and kills whatever light is within us- and then, in turn, we hate ourselves because a job is a job and we are lucky to have anything. My days started at 3 in the morning and ended at 6 at night, I was keeping people alive and received the wages and recognition of a glorified flight attendant. I will provide anecdotes in the future, when the time is right, but that’s what life was, for a seemingly short/ seemingly endless nine months. That’s three-quarters of a year in my life that I will never get back. So I stopped. I just stopped.
Maybe not all fields in sales are this way, but jewelry sales has a side that’s almost incestuous. You work for a retailer, private or nationwide; naturally, you meet people. Those people get pissed off or move and go somewhere else, and then you do, and after awhile, everyone knows everyone in this business. I was at my clinic, breaking down cardboard boxes (one of the many petty tasks put on a Patient Care Technician (PCT) ) when I received a text from a friend/ co-worker of mine from the jewelry store I used to work at. A sales rep for a partner company who does travelling remount shows, he had recently been to our store and had to share the gossip with me: two people left, including the assistant manager. This was three weeks before December, our busiest season. From that point on I began making phone calls.
I accepted a full-time position on Thanksgiving, uncharacteristically leaving no notice at the dialysis clinic the next day. I didn’t get to say goodbye to any of my patients or the few co-workers I actually liked, but I still maintain that it was the right decision. Life is SO hard, and whether you believe in one life or a thousand, you are living this one right now. Naomi Campbell probably said it the best when she said, (and bear with me, I am paraphrasing) “I’m a hardworking bitch. Sometimes, you just have to go for it.” I went for it. Was it impulsive? Yes. Will I have doubts when things really slow down in the summer months? Probably. But is life better on this side of Aegean Stable? Yes, a million times yes.
If anyone of you is reading this (and apparently someone is, thank you, 1 follower!) please consider that no matter how dire your situation, you can always turn it around. Things may not always be better, but they can be different, and sometimes, that is enough.
Hopefully, more to come soon. I’ve just been interrogated by the cat that we don’t spend enough time together and what happened to our long talks?