I feel the need to start this post with a disclaimer: I usually don’t bring up religious stuff here unless it’s of the general variety. In relaying this particular story–which has an element of religion included–I want you to know that I am not trying to push my religion on anybody, and hope that you will just find it interesting.
Years ago, I was selling health club memberships full time. I had been an employee there for a few years and worked part-time in different departments before landing in Membership. My full-time status came as a result of Jim having been let go from his job in the economic turmoil of 2002 (we thought it was bad THEN!). When I first started working forty hours each week, I was really happy in the position. The management team at the club was made up of a bunch of people who had been there as long as I had. We were all friendly and ate lunch together on a daily basis. My immediate supervisor, the Membership Sales Manager, taught me everything I know about sales and we got along really, really well. I was not only doing sales, but also odd jobs like writing the employee newsletter, buying fitness apparel for the pro shop, and various other tasks for different departments. I knew everyone (including the members), and everyone knew me. I loved my job. I loved my office, too: it was right inside the club entrance, the perfect location for an outgoing kind of person like me. I was accessible to everybody, and got lots of friendly smiles and waves all day long.
After a while, there was a shift in the club management. My immediate boss left the company. Other higher-ups were gone. The club was in limbo. The sales department, which was made up of me and one other woman, went for a couple of months without a boss. Though we really needed a ringleader, we did okay for those two months, stepping up where needed when it came to doing reports and talking to the corporate office. Finally, someone was hired for the position. He had been briefed on the two ladies who would be reporting to him, and he was not pleased that I was so integral to club operations as a whole. His first day was not a good one for me.
Within two hours of his arrival, it was decreed that I would be moved out of the sales office. Worse, I was being moved to a tiny room that held file cabinets in it. The room, an offshoot of the back office, was the size of a small bathroom and isolated from everybody except for the club’s Assistant Manager. It had no windows; what it did have was a huge bundle of wires (for the cable, phone, and who knows what else) that covered the corner where the two far walls met, and dingy walls. Nothing else.
The club’s maintenance man and his assistant (who also happened to be his wife) were told to ready the room for me by the next day. I was horrified. My new boss was clearly threatened by me, and he hadn’t even spent five minutes talking to me. It was a terrible feeling.
I went home and cried about it, and through my tears decided that if I had to work in that tiny little room for eight hours a day, I was going to make it pretty. I brought in some pink fabric to cover up the bundle of wires, a funky pink light, and some artificial flowers. With the maintenance team’s help, I made that room into a great little office. The three of us hugged when we were finished setting it up. I was proud of myself for not letting that jerk see how upset I was about my move: I took lemons and made lemonade.
As you probably suspect, my pretty little office didn’t make the problems go away. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t seem to do anything that would turn my boss’ opinion about me around. He was hostile, sneaky, and I couldn’t stand working for him. All of the changes in the club from the previous couple of months caught up with me, and soon I was crying about my job every night when I arrived home. I needed to get out of there. The problem was, I really liked the nuts and bolts of my job, and I was (am!) a very loyal employee. As unhappy as I was, I didn’t feel right about leaving.
Time went by, and that jerk was caught acting unethically by convincing two people to sign up for membership on the last day of the month so he could get his bonus, telling them they could come back and cancel the next day. He was fired.
I moved back up front to my old office, but things still didn’t get better. Things were happening in upper management that I didn’t like, and I continued to cry after work, only now I was starting as soon as I got into my car. I was so torn. I knew I needed to leave this job. I was just so scared. I was scared that I wouldn’t find another job in which I’d be happy, or make enough money, or have the flexibility I needed as a mom. I am not a fan of change. I was paralyzed by fear. The “What ifs” were preventing me from moving on.
One Friday night, Jim and I decided to go to Shabbat services at our temple. It had been a while since we had attended, and we both felt like we needed the peace that attending services always seemed to bring.
I do not consider myself an overly spiritual person. I do, however, think that those of us who have faith–no matter what the religion–only need to listen a little harder sometimes in order to hear what we need to hear.
That night, coincidence or not, our Rabbi read a passage:
Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav comments on (the passage) “and they made no provisions for the way”: “When you are about to leave Egypt–ANY EGYPT–do not stop to think ‘But how will I earn a living out there…?’ One who stops to ‘make provisions for the way’ will never get out of Egypt.”
I started crying.
But wait, it gets better.
Later in the service, my Rabbi read Healing Psalm #116 by Debbie Perlman:
Sometimes You ask me to stand still.
And trembling, gasping for a calm center,
I gather in the flying limbs of my frenzy,
Even as I thrash against this amber capture.
Sometimes You ask me to hold tight.
With faint belief in my own courage,
I wrap my limbs in fixed contractures
Even as I turn my head to hide the weeping.
Sometimes You ask me to move on.
Against my pleading, my shout for clock’s unturning,
You birth me again and again,
Your guiding hand forever steady.
Sometimes You ask me to let go.
Slowly, persistently, I relax my option,
And discover a spectrum of choices
Contained in Your next chapter.
That was the final push I needed. I slept fitfully that night, and called my Rabbi the following evening to tell him how profoundly these passages affected me, and to ask him if he read them for any specific reason. “No,” he said, “I just made them a part of the service without specific reason, but now I think I know why.”
Call it fate, call it faith, call it coincidence, call it whatever you want. The reading of those passages by my Rabbi that night changed the trajectory of my life. I was able to muster up the courage to leave the job that was making me miserable and venture into the next part of my life, which stopped the tears from flowing and made me a much happier person.
Whenever I come to a crossroads in my life, I think of that Friday night. I can hear the Rabbi’s voice in my head (pretty cool, since we have had two new Rabbis since then!), and it calms me. These passages give me strength and remind me that sometimes, making a leap into the unknown is the absolute best thing we can do.
What about you? Does major change scare you or invigorate you? Have you ever had a “coincidental” moment like this that drives you to make change?