I peered into the store as we walked briskly by. I could't wait until I could work there. They just added a juniors section which hadn't mattered much since I was the tiniest teen ever. I was completely obsessed with their parent store too, but I couldn't fit their clothes unless it was petite xxs. The garments from those places were quality and so was it reflected in the price tag.
The day I got my working papers I did just that. I showed up bright eyed and bushy tailed. I was ready to work. Mostly because I was so pumped to have access to my own cash flow. Financial independence! Can I get a - hallelujah?
Here is what I learned that year. I was great at working with the customer, but I sucked at folding clothes. Until this day my laundry skills still reflect this. No shame.
Also, I realized a raise in retail, at that level, was a joke. I got hit with the 15c one and I remember being super pissed. 6 months and not even a quarter? - I thought. Maybe it was the shitty folding job. Nope, no one actually took note of detail like that. Racks on racks on racks were put back with less than inspired intention. Soon enough I would work the register, learn how to open a credit card, and get to see just how much energy expenditure working in retail like that takes.
We moved and I took my experience to another store. More in line with the teen I fully was at that point. Less parents frequented the establishment with their kids. And more peers from my new high school would drop in to snag a Paul Frank tee, some fresh jeans, or maybe a unique candy. We had those Razzles made of pure sugar that seemed to be a major hit.
I wasn't your babysitter or nanny type. As much as those jobs paid well, I had no interest in that being my way of income. So naturally, when I went to college I snagged a sweet little restaurant job. I was pumped to have this gig. The shifts were during the day. Perfect because the local business men and women would often have work lunches there. The tables turned over quickly and paid well. I could make an easy $100 at that shift if I worked a busy section. And they were all decently busy. The food was bomb too. The kitchen staff, which was not Italian, rocked the menu like the badass cooks they were. And the pizza oven operator always had a slice waiting for me at 10 am when our side work was complete. As a college kid, I enjoyed every bite in the few mins before the doors would open. I undoubtedly lived off of delicious Italian take home from that spot for some time.
Conveniently, next door was my favorite bagel shop in Maryland. It was like Jersey bagels had been transported to the streets of Towson. I couldn't believe how dang good they were! I would hit that place at least twice a week. I'll take a XXX vitamin water and an everything bagel with cream cheese (or egg salad) please. YUM, all day everyday, holla if ya with me. I digress, but this freedom to go where I wanted was glorious. And more so then that was maintaining decent cash flow not coming from my parents. This was likely one of my first major goals in life. And, it was absolutely worth it. I value the opportunity to have gained all the experience I picked up in those years learning what it meant to hustle for a dollar. Leading me to gradually move forward with opportunity and discovery.
So, as soon as I turned 21, I explored the Baltimore night life scene. I found a solid gig at Howl at the Moon, a fun piano bar which dazzled the Inner Harbor. The servers would get up on stage and dance to choreography we'd been trained to entertain the continuous flow of bachelorette parties with. It was good clean fun. The vibe was upbeat and electric for the most part. The entertainment waned between college fight songs and popular music we all know every last word to, or at least sounds as such after a few whiskey or tequilas.
Upon graduation I found myself deciding to head back to Jersey or stay in Maryland, a decision I did not take lightly. I asked myself where I wanted to be in 20 years and Maryland wasn't it. So I made the arduous choice to move back in with my parents. And I also decided to go back into retail. Only this time, it would be in interiors at a well known decor store. Which would serve my future self, tremendously. My position blossomed into an assistant manager offer, but as abundance would have it -- I also landed an opportunity at an outside sales company during the same time. This was a big girl job, and I took it.
Over the next seven years a true test of my diligence and work ethic would come in. I gave my all at that job, and I gained vast knowledge there. It had so much growth potential and I could feel early on that it was a good fit. The culture was young and fun and everything you'd want your first job to be. Imagine Dunder Mifflin. It looked a lot like a contemporary version of that. The annual reviews would roll in, and I would get significant raises. I'm talking $10K a pop, which to me seemed like a boatload more than the 15c bumps I started with. Hard work did pay off, and so did my drive to succeed.
Eventually I would go on to earn a rookie management role, an experience which deserves a book. It was such a significant step to get me where I am. I saw things from a different lens and boy did I want my rose colored glasses back at times. People really are just people. Humans can be so good and still be totally off base because of their own lens. That job taught me that I wanted to have even more freedom. The kind exceeding that of a financial independence. I wanted time freedom. Soul freedom too. The hours I spent there led me to understand my value in some of the most significant ways.
But the lessons of course don't end there because, well, motherhood. The one area of my life that has prevailed as the ultimate teacher. A whole different job description has ensued these days and new dynamic of work ethic is upon me. Though it is this transition that has deepened my call for more significant soul work. Work that fully aligns with my heart and my core desire of feeling happy and free versus stressed and tethered to the energy of others and deadlines.
Be your own boss. But how?
Success is defined by so many things these days, primarily money and status. However even with the parameters of the world at play, I still choose to define it for myself.
Let me put it to you this way. This morning my five year old looked at me and said, I can't, when I asked him to put his shoes on for school - rather than returning to his Toy Story coloring book. I looked at him and quite frankly said, That is not true. You can. You just don't want to. And he said, Yea, I don't want to. Which I shook my head in agreement with.
Know what you want. And, say what you mean.
I can do anything. I have proven this to myself time and time again. When there is a will, there is most definitely a way. So I find myself asking in this season, do I want to show up everyday online to reach the people I would like to serve - maybe someday. But, I have no desire to exhaust myself to entertain the scroll in the process. I can know I don't want to do that, and instead do what feels good by choosing that which is being happy and free along the way. Happy to live my life in full presence of what is now, and free to choose which life school lessons to lament with you as I'm ready and willing to share.
Work ethic energy is sacred to me. It is knowing I can, as Kate Northrup says, do less.
It's understanding as Marie Forleo says, everything is figureoutable.
It's being clear on Danielle Laporte's method of desire mapping.
And it is adopting the deep seated notion Gabby Bernstein teaches - that the Universe has our back.
All of this is true and its all a choice to align with what works for us or what works for them. Do what works for you, and trust the process and mostly your journey. Everything is always working in our favor. Be wise to remember this.
There are life school lessons tucked away in every crevice of your experience. Get yourself some lined paper and start taking down your personal notes. Notice what you see and notice how you feel. Learn yourself and use that knowledge to create your reality.