Three years, two months, and an unknown number of days ago, I was on the phone with my dad, both of us driving home from work.
“So that new place wants to hire you, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah!” I answered him. “It’s a call center position with another credit union.”
“Nice!” I could hear the smile in his voice. “I overheard your mom talking to Gram about it on the phone this morning. I’m really proud of you, Rose.”
“Thanks, dad — hey, let me run something past you.” Then, I proceeded to explain my situation to him.
I’d been working as a teller for three years and I loved it, but I’d outgrown the small, local credit union I was working for. It was like trying to keep your feet tucked into your most favorite pair of shoes ever when you’ve clearly outgrown them; your toes have no wiggle room, your heels feel glued to the soles, and you know that if you don’t act quickly, the only way to get the damn things off will to be cut the shoes (and possibly your flesh) open.
So I did some research and applied to work at two companies I felt morally attracted to. After interviewing with the first one, I received an offer from them and immediately accepted. Awesome, right? Such an empowered woman! But when I turned my two-week notice in to my current employer, I received a reaction from my manager that I wasn’t expecting.
Holding my carefully drafted paper in her hand that Thursday morning, she looked up at me, a worried expression covering her face. “Can you.. wait another day?”
Uhhhh.. huh? I was confused. “I’m sorry — what do you mean by wait? I’m not going anywhere for two weeks,” I reassured her, thinking it was a simple misunderstanding and that she’d read the date incorrectly.
“I mean — just, wait another day. To give the notice.”
Well sure, I thought to myself. Waiting seems weird, but submitting it tomorrow will still give them a solid two weeks to find my replacement. “Okay.. sure. Yes ma’am.”
The following morning, I and another teller watched like novice undercover detectives as the human resources manager’s car turned into our credit union parking lot. We’ll refer to her, in the paragraphs that follow, as Ally.
“Oh wow,” my friend remarked. “I bet she’s here for you!”
I was nervous, but I didn’t know why. Had I done anything wrong? I took a quick inventory of my mental catalogue: nope.. you’re good.
Ally swung the door open and entered the branch. She greeted everyone sweetly and then motioned for me to join her as she began stepping over towards my manager’s office. I locked my drawer, signed out of my computer, and took a deep breath as I followed her. She gently closed the sliding glass door behind us; I turned around as she did so and saw her lips curve into a gentle, reassuring smile. I’d always liked Ally. Her smile took the edge off of my nervousness, but still; my palms were sweating profusely and everything felt strangely surreal.
Once we’d all situated ourselves, Ally began to speak.
“Rose, your manager mentioned that you were about to turn in your notice yesterday. I’m so sorry to hear that! Oddly enough, I had planned – before hearing this – on coming out to the branch today to offer you a raise. We were hoping that you’d take this offer into consideration before officially submitting your notice. We’ve somehow overlooked awarding you with merit raises over the course of the past three years, and we’re sorry for that.”
My nervousness recoiled; I was so relieved.
See? I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong!
Shut up and pay attention, DUFUS.. she’s still talking.
“Oh, wow.. thank you,” I stammered. “I really don’t know what to say. I was honestly terrified when you showed up this morning, Ally, and now, I.. I just literally don’t know what to say.”
She laughed supportively. Then we got to the good stuff; if I stayed with the credit union, I would be awarded a $3 raise, more than I could have possibly imagined being offered. I was floored.
“Please take some time to think about it,” both managers implored.
And now, stuck at a redlight that Thursday night, I shared the exciting offer with my dad.
“So technically,” I summarized, “I DO have this other job — I’ve accepted the offer and.. I’ve kind of turned in my notice.. but, I have to officially make up my mind tomorrow. With this raise in the mix, I’m not really sure, anymore, WHAT the ‘right’ decision would be.” I waited for him to say something.. anything. I was, at this point, desperate for some kind of guidance.
He fell silent for a minute. “Well.. what are the pros and cons?”
I thought about it. “Pros of staying would be that I get a raise, duh, and that I’m already great at what I do — I know about everything and how we do everything — so, there’s a sense of security there. Pros of leaving,” I continued, the dreamer in me stirring in her sleep, “would be that I get to learn something familiar but entirely new; that I can build on my current knowledge and round it out by refocusing my perspective a little. I’d still be working in the credit union world, of course, but operating in a new role, and under new policies and procedures. The pay will be about equal to what I’d be receiving with this raise considered.. but the con of leaving is that people at this new company won’t know me yet; how seriously I take my work and how committed I am. Who knows what they’ll think.” I stopped, intimidating myself by own words. I sighed, audibly, into the phone.
“You want my advice?” Padre asked. “Here it is,” he continued without waiting for a response. “Go for this other job. You’ve gotta take chances sometimes. I’ve got a good feeling about it. It’ll be an adventure. And as far as proving yourself is concerned.. we’ve all gotta do that sometimes. The nice thing is, you won’t have any difficulty proving how awesome you are.. just keep doing what you have been.”
I smiled. “Thanks, dad. I’ll let you know what I decide to do.”
The following morning, with my hands shaking and my heart drumming with doubt, I handed my manager the same carefully crafted paper I’d presented to her two days before.
“I’m sorry,” I explained, seeing the dismay on her face. “I really, really appreciate the offer.. but I have to explore this opportunity.”
And I’m happy to report that it — going out on a limb, taking a leap of faith, exploring that new opportunity, whatever — was one of the best decisions of my life. I love the company that I work for, and the employees that I work with. I’ve been able to operate in an even cooler capacity than I imagined possible when I first accepted the job offer — now serving as a training specialist — and I’ve been able to maintain good relationships with co-workers from the credit union I worked at previously.
Deciding to switch jobs was a gutsy move — inherently full of possibilities for devastation and disaster — but it was very much worth the risk.
And as far as being afraid of trying new things is concerned, that wasn’t the first time I’ve been afraid.
As a kid, I feared onions, casseroles, and roma tomatoes; I refused to have anything to do with any of them, and it always made me so mad when Grammy would ruin an entire, gigantic pot of spaghetti by tossing sauteed onions into the pasta sauce. But as I aged, I grew more open-minded to the world of food, and the library of books, and the plethora of people, and I’ve learned that – sometimes – it’s worth trying something new at a restaraunt for the sheer thrill of it. Unless that restaraunt is Chipotle, in which case I will get the tried-and-true same thing every single time forever: a sofritas bowl with brown rice, black beans, mild salsa, guac and lettuce, please.
Last week, I had another “well this is new!” experience that I’d like to share with you all.
Let me start off by saying that I don’t dance.
I don’t mean that I can’t dance.. I mean that I don’t. I won’t. I haven’t and I never will. Well; I could honestly say all of that stuff a week ago.
Charlie, my roommate and best friend, sent me an invite to Saturn’s Solid Gold Dance Party over Facebook a few weeks ago, and I laughed. “Sure, I’ll go,” I texted him after accepting the invite, “but it will be to watch YOU dance.”
“Oh come on. You’ll dance,” he responded confidently.
The night of the dance party rolled around, and when I walked in the door from work at 5:47, I was ready to GO.
“ARE YOU FREAKING READY?!” I called out, running up the stairs and changing into street clothes (knee-length shorts, a cosmic T and Vans). I grabbed my new and favorite consignment store jacket (blue and collared with zippered front pockets and cool elbow patches) from off of the counter, along with my wallet, and then we both hopped into the car.
We arrived at 7:15, about 45 minutes early. The dance party starts at 8, I thought to myself. I’m usually IN BED by 8:30.. so even if we leave just an hour after it starts, that’ll still put me in bed at 9:30 at the very earliest. I sighed at my lack-of-sleep calculations and steeled myself for the evening. This is going to be fun, I coached myself. It’s good to get out of the house. You are going to have fun.
Charlie and I grabbed a couch and a game called “What’s Up?” (where you wear a headband and stick a card on it, showing your partner “what” or “who” you are; you’re then tasked with asking closed-ended questions that enable you to guess at what or who you are).
Half-way through our game (I ended up being an astronaut and two other unremarkable things), I decided to grab a drink.
“Getting a coffee?” Charlie asked cheerfully, taking another sip of his iced mocha.
“Nope. I’m getting DRUNK.”
I went up to the bar and waited for my turn to speak with the bartender. Finally, a skinny guy wearing a band T turned to me and, above the loud, united hum of voices, television, and video game music, asked: “WHAT ARE YOU HAVING?”
“Hey,” I answered, looking pensive, “I wanted to see if you can recommend something that involves coconut?”
He nodded right away. “YES; A SPECIAL TONIGHT IS THE STRAWBERRY DAQUIRI.”
I nodded ‘yes’ and then watched as he concoted the drink. I took a sip of it, thought ew gross, and then paid him, remarking that it was really great and thanking him.
8:00 struck and, when it did, Charlie and I gathered up ourselves and our drinks and sasheyed into the music venue portion of the building together via bright orange double doors. We were the first party goers to arrive.
Coooooooool, internal me sang out.
It was dark. There was a lazy sheet of fog hovering around the room, strobe lights pulsing weakly, and two DJs were setting up on the stage.
Here we gooooooooo, I sang to myself, trying to work up some excitement. The alcohol made my heart feel tingly.
I walked over to a table and sat down, and then got up immediately, confusing Charlie.
“I’m actually going to stand ON the dance floor,” I explained to him, quickly following up with: “NOT to dance, but so that I can see you and other people dancing better.”
“Uh huh. Sureeeeeee,” he replied, smiling mischeviously.
“You are so cute.. thinking that you’re going to get this 24 year old who has NEVER danced before to dance tonight.”
It was a great night.
Within an hour, fifty other people had poured in through the same doors we had and had streamed onto the dance floor, collecting like puddles in small groups. I liked watching; someone would motion for someone else to hold their cup for a half-second so they could bust a single, impressive move, and then they’d reclaim their beverage, beaming with unconcealed pride while everyone else laughed heartily in supportive amusement.
There was a group of guys in the middle of the dance floor who I easily recognized as being superior dancers. Let me put it this way: they owned the dance floor.
Charlie stood next to me in the dim lighting, dancing his own little weird dance and turning to dance “at” me sometimes. I would laugh and sip on my drink, shaking my head no — stop — you’re EMBARRASSING ME. At one point, his dance included a complex-looking hand movement. A member of the cool guy dance club must have noticed, because he waltzed over and tapped Charlie’s shoulder. “DUDE.. that was SWEET,” he exclaimed (totally genuinely). He lingered, talking with Charlie and raving over and over again about the “sweet hand move.” It was all lost on me; I thought Charlie looked goofy, but apparently, his dance skills were impressive. I began to feel proud and stopped reproving him for dancing “at” me.
Then a real jam came on; the four cool guys began calling out “OHHHHHHH!” and started “grooving.” I turned to Charlie: “GO DANCE WITH THEM!” I demanded.
“What? Noooooo,” he shook his head, looking embarrassed.
“Charlie, one of them REALLY liked you. He thought that stupid move you did was cool. PLEASE go dance with them.. you’ll enjoy it so much!”
He hesitated, looking skeptical.
“LOOK,” I continued, feeling aggravated, “if you just go dance with them for a minute, I’ll dance with you later. ONE SONG. One SINGLE song.”
He lit up. “Yeah? Really?”
“Yessssss,” I rolled my eyes. “GO!”
He did. They immediately welcomed him into their cool guy crew, and I stood there for a moment to watch them all dancing together. Then, looking at the bottom of my daquiri (pronounced duh-keer-ee) glass and realizing that I still felt very sane, I said to myself: “YOU’RE going to need another drink.”
I returned to the bar. A different bartender tipped his head up at me in a way that asked “And for you?”
“I have a question for you,” I began. “WHICH has MORE alcohol content in it: whiskey, or wine?” Thus, my pop quiz ended.
He thought about it for a second. “Hmmmm.. probably whiskey.” A+.
“Okay,” I nodded at this invisible, new information. I turned my head over to the high shelf on the left. “Then I’ll take some of that Jack Daniels over there.”
This is so cool, I complimented myself. You’re drinking whiskey at a bar.
“Kay. You want it straight or mixed?”
“That sounds intriguing — what would you mix it with?”
He looked at me kind of dumbly. “You know.. Coke, Sprite..”
I paused. “Yeah, sure! Let’s do Sprite!” I never have soft drinks, but this is a special occasion, I justified.
He handed over the mixed drink and I began sipping on it. Come on, liquid courage; work your magic. I’ve got a stupid promise to keep.
I returned to the dance floor and encountered Charlie breathing heavily.
“I just.. dominated.. the dance floor.. but I have no way of proving that to you..”
I was speechless. At that precise moment, a big, burly man walked over to Charlie and patted him on the back. “I don’t know how you did that, man, but it was awesome,” he raved.
Charlie laughed and smiled at him as he walked away.
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I hate that I missed this!”
Charlie continued dancing alongside me and, within about ten minutes, I’d finished my drink. I was now at the point of feeling just a little, tiny bit light-headed.. which was exactly where I needed to be.
I felt a tug on my pinky finger and turned my head to look at Charlie. He had wrapped his hand around my pinky and was working his way up to my hand. Once he had my hand securely in his, he began pulling on it, tugging my hand toward him and causing me to stretch my arm out. As I did so, he continued pulling me forward, out onto the dance floor.
Nooooooooooooooooooo, I squeaked, but it was too late. He was guiding me into an elementary, side-stepping dance motion.
“Oh my god. It’s happening. You’re dancing.”
And I did what I’d promised; I danced with him for the space of one single song.
After a few minutes of laughing nervously and feeling goofy, Charlie looked at me and cocked his head. “So I get another song?” he asked, seeming surprised.
“No..” I answered, looking around but continuing to move because I was terrified to stop. “Isn’t this the same song?”
I hadn’t noticed a change in flow or sound.
“YEP. You’re right. It’s the same one,” he answered, smiling and winking at me.
We danced through six, ten.. maybe even eleven songs. And it was one of the FUNNEST nights I’ve EVER had.
Charlie held both of my hands and guided my movements part of the time and then broke away later on as I became more comfortable, showing me new, cheesy moves and waiting patiently as I attempted to emulate them.
Eventually, the DJ paused the music and called out “RAFFLE TICKET TIMEEEEEEE!”
They called someone’s number — they’d won something — but the person was no longer there.
“Going in 5, 4, 3, 2, oneeeeeeeeee.. okay, next number; 11562?”
“THAT’S ME!” Before I knew it, I was screaming and running towards the stage, claiming my concert tickets. The icing on the cake.
“Ready to go?” Charlie laughed as I returned to him, swaying and stumbling a little.
“Yeah — but let’s dance for like, thirty more seconds first. Just to make sure I can do it again after stopping.” Having sure knowledge that this was possible seemed very important, at the time.
He smiled. We danced and twirled for another minute and then grooved all the way over to AND THROUGH the exit doors. The same doors we’d passed through two hours before when I was just a non-dancer who had never danced ever and never would. Things change.
So.. recap: I’m working a job that I love, eating spaghetti with onions in it, AND I’m a professional dancer now. These things didn’t happen because I was, one day, magically unafraid to attempt or try them; I was very afraid to try something new, whatever that new thing was, but I did so anyways. My motivations?
- I had the support of loved ones.
- I wanted to challenge myself.
- I wanted to have fun and be happy.
I have three other new things to report from this week, and I know you’ll find one of them particularly intriguing, so I’m saving it for last (of course).
#1. Maqui, the rescue pup; remember her? I returned her to the humane society this afternoon. It was a tearful parting, but because of her food aggression, attention jealousy, and indomitable will to escape, she and Bruster just weren’t going to be a good match. We gave the trial run a full two weeks, and the answer was very clear: she’s a one-dog-only-home type pup.
“Don’t worry,” the volunteer said, taking the leash from me as tears welled in my eyes. “We’re having a big adoption event next week — she’s sure to get a good home!” She smiled over at Charlie and I. “We’ll take good care of her; don’t worry.”
#2. I have a new dental assistant. My previous one (and favorite dental assistant EVER) had twins earlier this year, and while I’m incredibly happy for her and her happy, growing family, I missed her terribly this past Wednesday as I received my second annual cleaning. Why? My new person, while adorably chatty, did not ask what flavor toothpaste I wanted OR what color TOOTHBRUSH I preferred. Luckily, she happened to stick a blue one in my goody bag, but I mean.. it could have been red.
#3. The one you’ll like. But don’t get it twisted.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Charlie and I stepped into a health food store downtown called Golden Temple. As we walked up and down the aisles, taking in the sight of essential oils, leather-bound journals, patchouli incense and organic, free trade everything, we ended up stumbling into the adjoining cafe.
Charlie walked over to the cooler to investigate their beverage offerings, and I tagged along behind him. He took just a couple of seconds to look before he settled on a canned coconut water, but while he deliberated, my eyes wandered around the room, taking in the colorful menu displaying itself on a whiteboard, the tree tapestry hanging effortlessly in the background, the pots hanging loosely off of metal racks stationed in the back of the visible kitchen annnnnnd the beautiful girl with the beautiful smile and who was smiling at me, carefully preparing someone’s pita wrap, burrito, or salad.
I paused and smiled back at her.
She looked away, and I looked away.
Nothing about this was flirtatious; it was one of those situations where, from across the street, sidewalk or room, you connect with someone, and it makes an odd impression on you. I couldn’t shake it off. I thought about ordering a sandwich or a smoothie (just so I could have a chance to maybe talk with her), but I decided that I’d likely clam up and embarass myself in front of both myself and Charlie, so I decided to leave the cafe quickly.
Tonight, I’m meeting a friend at Books, Beans, and Candles; an incense slash candle slash witchcraft books slash tea and coffee shop downtown. We’re meeting at 7; I arrived back at Golden Temple around 5.
I walked in, headed over to the cafe, annnnnd realized that it closed at 3. Bummer.
What were my intentions?
To introduce myself.. to someone new.
“Hey!” I’d begin. “Look — I AM going to order a smoothie or whatever, but first, I just wanted to mention that I was in here on Wednesday, and I caught you smiling at me for a second, and I just wanted to say that you have a very nice smile and that, if you happen to be looking for a new friend, I’d love to grab coffee with you sometime.” Pause. “Yeah, I feel like I’m in elementary school right now; asking for you to come sit at my table, or seeing if I can get permission to sit at yours.. but I hope you won’t take this as me flirting or whatever because A. I’m not looking for any kind of romantic relationship right now.. I’m already in love with someone and trying to not be in a relationship with them because I really want to be single right now.. and B. the chances of you being beautiful, single, AND gay are like negative one thousand four hundred and sixty.” Longer pause.. has she called the police yet? “So, yes, in summary, I think you seem very nice and I don’t have many friends mostly by choice because I like being alone but if you EVER want to get coffee.. we should go to Saturn.”
But again, she wasn’t here by the time I’d arrived, so none of that was able to happen.
Instead, I took a seat at a booth, a sip of my watermelon-flavored aloe water, and then tore a clean, yellow, linen sheet out of my favorite journal. The last two songs I’ve recorded (soundcloud.com/aunaqui) have been one-vocal-take-only shots, and I told myself an hour ago, that’s what this note is going to be: a one-shot-only draft from the heart; accept whatever grammatical travesties ensue, and try your best to NOT sound creepy. Explain that she seemed cool and you’d like to hang out with a cool girl and maybe become best friends with her because you don’t really have many of those anymore and..
Should I leave the note with an employee? Ask them if they know of a short-haired, sweet-smiled cafe girl and then request that they please relay my note to her?
No. Don’t do that. They’ll probably think you’re a weird creeper-stalker hybrid and they’ll know that she’s engaged and honeymooning in Bermuda next month and they’ll just toss it.
So I’ll leave it on the counter then?
Yes, leave it on the counter.
Okay. And I’ll tuck the note neatly inside of the green menu I would have used to place my order this afternoon!
NO, don’t do that! They’ll just recycle all of it or, worse, throw it away.
Okay. So I’ll just stick the note on the counter.
YES, JACE. Stick the note on the counter.
…I wonder if she’ll text or email first?
Ohhhhh Jace. DON’T count on hearing from her at all. If you left me a note on a counter and I didn’t know who the hell you were, you better believe I wouldn’t reach out.
Oh yeah. Right. This is weird, isn’t it?
Doing it anyways.
One day later (according to my imagination):
Police: “Quit stalking Erin.”
Me: “…who’s Erin?”
Police: “Uh, beautiful girl, beautiful smile.. don’t play dumb..”
Trying something new every day; like dancing, expanding my dental connection horizons, and writing strange, anonymous letters to cafe girls..