As much as I dread the thirteen-and-a-half-hour workday, I find that it is a reminder of many things, including strength, dedication, commitment, and so on. Mostly, it’s a reminder of the lengths that I’m willing to go to ensure myself a solid, stable future and to keep Carlos in the style to which he’s become accustomed (which is basically just fat. Wet cat food is not cheap, but since it delights him so much, it’s worth it – and I benefit indirectly because the amount of snuggling I receive correlates to his enjoyment of his wet food).
Lately, as I struggle yet again with a lingering resentment for a part of my extended family, and as I work long days, I am reminded of the opportunities for gratitude in everything that I do. Today at my real job, I had the opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with my lady boss, a woman I’ve come to respect and admire for both her spirit but also her ability to keep everything together in the face of immense pressure. She’s funny, strong, and intelligent: all things that I aspire to be.
After that, at my night gig shelling out ice cream, I was grumpy because a couple came in and made fun of the way I said “food laws” by way of an attempt to explain why we no longer offer a certain product. Excuse me if I get offended because you find my use of “food laws” so immensely entertaining that you need to say it eighteen times. I’m exhausted, annoyed, and perfectly capable of using correct language, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. “I misspoke,” I said simply, glaring at them, hurt and embarrassed. I swear, “cross-contamination” and “regulations” are words that do exist in my vocabulary, even if I’m not always capable of injecting them into conversation. I was determined to let it bother me all night, holding onto my repressed rage at the indignation I felt.
But of course, life had other plans and I was treated to some of my absolute favorite customers. A mother and her son came in and told me that they were delighted to see my face behind the counter. A father and his son came in – they were in for ice cream last night so I made a quip and we discussed our own personal limits for enduring Journey songs on the radio. Another guy came in who knows my boss, and so we talked about the neighborhood and the church and parking tickets. Yesterday, I had a conversation about the American habit of rushing through eating, and the idea of savoring a meal and appreciating the experience. These are all totally strange conversations, but they’re the kind of conversations that I want to be having. They show me so much about people.
These are the moments when I’m reminded why it’s so important to forge wonderful bonds with people, even if those interactions are infrequent, or based solely on introduction to free Blizzard punch cards. The people who may have the most profound impact on you are the people you may know the least, and that’s why it’s so important to present your best self at all times – not your best fake self, but you, entirely. The people who came in tonight revived my spirit and my mood. They have no idea they had that affect, of course, but I can only hope that I did something similar for them.
As I think about the version of myself that I put forward, I think back to a conversation I had with my mother this week about my frustration with an issue that I’ve done everything in my power to resolve, but to no avail. She told me that no matter where I go in life, and no matter what tax bracket I find myself in, I’ll never lose my grit. (I immediately saw myself wearing dusty cowboy boots and clenching my teeth while smoking a Marlboro.) But she must not be wrong, because the sentiment was echoed by someone who means very much to me who told me that my authenticity shows in everything that I do.
And the more I think about it, the more it’s true. Living my life guided by three simple principles – “don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal” – has allowed me to be my most authentic self at all times. I’m not always right, but at least I’m always me. And leaving out all deception, theft, and malicious intent has allowed so much love and happiness to grow inside of me.
Consistency and adherence to my core values allows me to experience so much that others can’t, and I’m immensely grateful for it. I’ve found myself in many situations this year that have tested me in ways that I never imagined – both professionally and personally – and yet they’ve allowed me to flex my honesty, my drive, and my intuition.
Things are going swimmingly – I’m happy. I’m happy discussing conspiracy theories with my Dairy Queen co-workers; I’m happy writing press releases at my real job; I’m happy in my new relationship; I’m just really happy.
Of course, I’m overworked, exhausted, and prone to bouts of melancholy. Of course I’m panicked and stressed and overwhelmed, but even through all of that, I’m happy with myself and with the person that I’m becoming, which is far more important than anything else.
I’m so grateful for everything that I’ve experienced in life, because it’s made me so much stronger. I’m no wilting wallflower. I believe it was Courtney Love who said, “I’m not a woman; I’m a force of nature.” I aim to embody that. And as my mother said during our conversation, no matter where I end up, I’ll never forget where I came from. I’ll never forget the hard work I’ve had to put in to get here, because in the end it’s all worth it. Along the way, there are little bits of encouragement, reminding me that the path I’ve chosen is the right path.
When I wonder why I’ve been rejected by an entire section of my extended family, I can’t help but take into consideration the fact that perfect strangers are excited to see me. I can’t help but think about how much I care about the people I love, and the things that I’d do to help my friends. I can’t help but think about how much of my personality gets to shine through at all of my jobs, at family events, on dates and adventures and through literally everything that I do. I can’t help but think about the person that I am today, and the person that I was yesterday, and I realize I’m still exactly me; I always have been.
What was my advice to adolescent girls dealing with people who are assholes? Oh yeah, “fuck ’em.” Here’s another piece of advice: if all of the evidence points to you being an authentic, awesome (oh, totally modest right now, too) human being, fuck the people who can’t wrap their heads around that. Fuck the people who don’t respect you, or value you, or care. You can find new family; you can make you own – and you can find the respect and value in tiny places like a pair of customers at Dairy Queen who express joy at your presence. That’s enough to remind you that who you are can’t be all bad.
Everything is going to be all right. Everything is all right. Everything is better than all right. Everything is amazing. Life is beautiful. It’s complexity and it’s pain, but it’s insanely worth the journey.
My authentic self, chilling on a rock in the desert:
He does take the best pictures, doesn’t he? (He’s editing, more soon.)