I was walking to my car today, leaving Home Goods without anything, because they didn't have what I wanted. I was wondering where I was going to go next that might, jingling my keys, digging the weather, because today was another gift of pretty that we've been getting so much of this spring that it almost makes me forget about the polar ice caps, regardless of the fact that I can't.
A woman was walking towards me, I did notice that much. When I got about close enough to touch her if I'd wanted to, she stopped, and started talking.
(This is odd in my area, mind you. Strangers generally do not address other strangers unless directly involved in a transaction or a resolution of some stupid slight, real or perceived.)
"Can I ask you a question?" she said. "Because you look like an honest person."
"Sure," I said, processing concurrently just how she'd have ascertained my level of integrity in the literal one second she'd been able to look into my face.
I took in her physical presence, wondering if she was maybe in some kind of distress, if she was the type to flip out in a parking lot maybe and start asking questions to the air and hey, I was the lucky one who just happened to be there when she did. I'm telling you, people just do not talk to strangers around here, so it just comes to mind, and besides, after years as a counselor, I've learned to respond internally as if in crisis whenever anything out of the ordinary happens. She seemed fine to me, as far as that flawed judgment can go. Physically speaking, she was approximately five foot one inches tall, roundish, black, with closely cropped hair, perfect white teeth, and a gorgeous shade of coral lipstick that screamed "Hey world, I like lipstick, look at it." (This is a sentiment I share, so I am naturally drawn to ladies who also express it nonverbally.)
"Well, I just got a job opportunity," she said. "It is good, and I got it. And I think I should take it, but my boss wants me to stay where I am. He is guilting me about leaving, 'It's a busy time, we need you,' he's saying. And I'm not sure what to do. "
I can tell you right now that I did not think about what I said at all, or whether or not I was going to say anything. I just said:
"I say do you. Take it. You have to take your chances, and especially not NOT take them because someone else doesn't want you to or makes you feel badly about them."
"Thank you," she said. "Thank you so much."
And then she walked on, and so did I. And as I opened my car and got in and realized that I had just given solicited career advice to a stranger in a parking lot, I felt floored and giddy and drunk with some kind of weird universal connection that I cannot even tell you just about what or why.
I told Twitter what happened, worrying that it sounded like I was advertising myself as some parking lot shaman who knew stuff about things, but I didn't care. I just...maybe I should have called my mom? One of my best friends? What was I supposed to say?
"Hey, some lady in a parking lot thought I looked honest and asked for some career advice."
Because yeah. That is what happened. And as I told Twitter, this person looked, upon further reflection, like a person who really just needed an answer right then and there, or at least needed someone to reflect something, anything back.
And I guess I was there for that, which is cool. And I started wondering, what if we did that all of the time? What if we stepped outside of our comfort zones more? She didn't know me. I could have been a real jerk. I could have told her to go away. I could have said, no, I'm not comfortable answering your question.
And hell, I could still be completely wrong. I didn't ask what her current job is or what the new gig is or why she wants to leave or what she's going to. She could be leaving a senator's office to work at a fruit stand, I don't know. But as a human being who has recently given up an incredibly stable position for the unknown, I don't think I'm thinking about that so much right now. I believe that we look for other things when the things we're in aren't cutting it. And people who want us to stay in those things either live in some kind of (not entirely unfounded, sure) fear for us or aren't usually clear on our worth. But I've also come to believe (because I am in some kind of crash course on change, not that I know anything, really, I swear) that even if the next new thing isn't the right one, there will be another thing, at least one, beyond the one you cut your losses for.
I just saw a worry and confusion in this lady's eyes that I've seen in myself a million times, that I've seen so much over the past year that I am sick to death of it, I knew it like I'd seen it in my mirror. Maybe she could spot it from across the parking lot. It's possible.
I am so glad I did what for me was the correct thing. I'm glad I didn't give in to some kind of freak out fear that she needed something I wasn't prepared to give and shut her down, because I admit it I am not immune to that reaction. I'm glad I listened. I am amazed that she chose me.
I told my mom that I felt badly, that I felt like maybe I ought to have offered up some kind of connection beyond, asked for an email or given one. But you know, I think maybe some connections are meant to be a minute long. Sometimes any longer and it's spoiled, I guess. I hope so much that her new job is dope. I feel grateful that someone could think for even one second in a parking lot that I'd be the one to answer a question, to tell the truth. That's the grace here. That's the thing I need to live up to.
I am so grateful to -- and hopeful for -- her, for anybody who's ever felt the need to ask and didn't. I've been her, so many times. I'm so glad she did.