Personal growth. I can’t think of those words without smiling and remembering the bookstore scene in When Harry Met Sally, when Carrie Fisher leans into Meg Ryan and whispers, “Someone is staring at you in ‘personal growth.’”
These past few months have been eventful for me, and I have been experiencing growing pains.
I finished my seasonal job at Anthropologie. I now have enough money for some initial start-up equipment for my yet-to-be company. Hooray!
I learned so much working this job. I learned that my almost 40-year-old eyeballs are barely able to read a tiny 8-digit SKU on a price tag (at least not without squinting and causing my armpits to start sweating). I learned that not all companies are evil. (Anthropologie is a great company. They actually said in training, “We would rather make a friend than make a sale.” I almost teared up.)
And I also learned that there are a whole lot of people out there working their butts off for less than $10 an hour.
It’s not like I haven’t had entry-level jobs before. I’ve had a slew of them—French fry fryer, nonstop copier, Marlboro sign hanger-upper, farm worker (I’m from Iowa). But all that was more than 20 years ago. Two months ago I didn’t think I needed to be reminded of how hard these sorts of jobs are, but I guess I did. (I feel compelled to say here that I’m sure there are a zillion jobs harder than working at the beautiful, friendly, climate-controlled Anthropologie.)
After a few weeks of working I found myself feeling a camaraderie with the guy replacing the pickles down at Rudy’s BBQ. “I feel ya, dude,” I wanted to say as I reached for my onions. Although I’m pretty sure that guy’s job didn’t end after Christmas. He probably wasn’t raising money for a sewing machine, either.
A few weeks ago my family had the immense good fortune to go on a cruise to the Caribbean. I felt pampered, the food was delicious, and my kids were so happy. Everywhere I looked I saw the staff—more than two thousand of them—and their well-orchestrated, never-less-than-cheerful efforts. (Just one example: It started raining out of the blue one day, and the buffet restaurant by the pool was suddenly overrun with damp vacationers. Dozens of staff appeared from the woodwork, armed with walkie talkies, and worked together to time the flow of guests to find everyone a table and not overwhelm the restaurant. I marveled at their efficiency. Prior to this job, I’m embarrassed to say, I don’t know if I would have even noticed them.)
Last night I was listening to some new-to-me, old-to-everyone-else music, and I found this gem from Jack White’s Raconteurs, “Old Enough.” It’s a great song, with some lyrics that seem fitting. Here are just a few of them:
You look pretty in your fancy dress
But I detect unhappiness
You never speak so I have to guess
You’re not free . . .
The only way you’ll ever learn a thing
Is to admit that you know absolutely nothing
Think about this carefully
You might not get another chance to speak freely
– Brendan Benson and Jack White
Here’s a version of the song with the Raconteurs getting some help from the great Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe. Enjoy! While you’re listening, raise your glass with me to learning enough in this life to realize we know nothing!