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Thoughts on paying attention to your life changers

Don’t Forget the Arugula – For Margaret

Did you ever watch that TV series ages ago called Designing Women? If so, GOOD, keep that in your mind for a minute. Way back when I was married, my husband’s job caused us to move a ton of times. Back then, I was too stupid to realize that my career mattered as well, but I would relinquish whichever said career in order to advance his. (This was one of those life lessons that I eventually learned, well, kind of, but that I and my goals mattered too.) We moved to a small town in Kentucky for my ex’s work.

I’m decently versatile so I didn’t mind the small town factor. I ended up falling in love with the place. Even more so, the people in it. I worked at the local mall for a spell. But my heart wasn’t quite in “mall” work. I’ve always been somewhat ambitious. I thought long and hard about what things would I love to do that I could do in a small town. Oh Gawd, I hate saying this. But this was around the time the internet was just really coming around. There were these things back then called “travel agencies”. You may have heard of one now and again. Long before the days of Travelocity and Kayak. Indeed, these were the good old days.

I’ve always loved travel and adventure so I looked into how one becomes a travel agent. I had been a flight attendant before I left that career for my ex. I was well-traveled. I knew lots of the ins and outs of the industry and I found a school that would train me happily for a large sum of money. I dug up the funds and went to travel agent school in the same place where I had trained to be a flight attendant. At the end of my schooling, part of the large tuition costs included job placement. I was in Paducah, Kentucky. How much job placement could you possibly do for a specialized field? My instructor came to me at the end and he said “okay here’s the deal.” I called every travel agency in Paducah. It was a shortlist of calls. He descriptively tells me of each call he made only to let me down, but, they’re not hiring. I stood glum. Then he says, like he’s a judge for American Idol, painfully stringing you along, there was this one place. I’m like, yeah??? I spoke with a woman named Margaret. Yeah??? And she said, “of course! I’d love to speak with her!” ELATION!!

When I met Margaret and her merry band of agents, it was exactly like walking into the Designing Women set. There were a handful of these strong, amazing, southern women. And I adored them. I can’t even recall what Margaret offered me to come work for her, but I don’t think it was much and I didn’t care. I loved the place and I loved her.

Over the next couple of years, I learned the trade but more than that, I learned how to live. They were all moms and businesswomen. But they also all that that joie de vivre which means, an exuberant enjoyment of life. That was Margaret. I can’t picture her without the look of utter joy on her face. I learned so much from her.

We used to all bring a dish and have a buffet lunch. On one such occasion, I’ll never forget, we all fixed our plates and Margaret says, WAIT A MINUTE! One can never dine properly without a garnish! And she sauntered to the refrigerator and returned with arugula, carefully decorating each of our plates with it. Fabulous!

I learned that you don’t ever have to take yourself so seriously. We would talk about husbands, plastic surgery, and children. And no matter what problems would arise, she would never give a problem the power over her. I remember one time we were desperately bidding to keep our largest corporate account. I was stressed over it. Everyone was stressed over it. Margaret wasn’t stressed over it. It was just a part of life as far as she was concerned. Maybe she just hid her stress but if so, she did it well.

Years later after going through a terrible divorce, I reached out to her to ask her advice. I was so incredibly lost at that point in my life and she brought that same clarity and calmness to me. Then, she sent me $1000 dollars to help me out since by that time I was a stay-at-home mom trying to figure out how to provide for my two little ones. I was commuting to Orlando from Ft. Myers to train for a position still within the travel industry but this time with the Disney company. It was a three-hour drive and by that time, I could do no more than sleep in my car when I was in Orlando training for the new job. I recall even living off of Wendy’s 99-cent chili. And oftentimes during dinner breaks at my job, I would lie to my coworkers who inquired as to why I wasn’t eating and tell them I had a massive lunch and wasn’t hungry. Her money helped me out more than I could possibly say. Mostly, because it helped me not feel alone and that perseverance would bring an end to my dire circumstances. As it did.

A couple of weeks ago one of the merry band of agents I once worked with reached out to me. It was already one of the hardest days in recent times, but she informed me that Margaret had passed away from cancer and she wanted me to know. I didn’t speak with her often but for some reason, the sting of hearing that news hit me so much harder than I could have ever imagined. It was like somehow this big beautiful world was suddenly just a little bit….less.

I feel like Margaret was one of the major life changers for me. They show up now and again if you are paying attention. You learn from them and you move on. And you always feel a little bit better just knowing that they’re out there even if you aren’t talking on a daily basis. She was one of those people who garnish life. They make it a better, prettier, lovelier, place. And she was truly lovely.

In my life now I feel like “maybe” the life changers will still show up, but maybe, just maybe, it’s my turn to give what was given to me. I want to be a Margaret to the world.

Now, where’s that arugula?

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