#4: Smiling at Work

photo of little girl s hands covered with paint

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I’m the kind of person who smiles a lot. I like when a sunny disposition empowers another to smile. I share a smile while ordering coffee, just to communicate to the barista that I mean no harm, that I am sorry for inconveniencing them, and that I know what it’s like to wear their shoes. I keep my distance and make sure not to over-complicate my order. If the coffee isn’t great, I drink it without showing signs of dissatisfaction or complaints arising. A new coffee isn’t worth the initiative; I’m sure the barista is busy with other things, or if not, then they deserve whatever break time they get. Peace of mind is underrated.

When the credit card machine stops working, I apologize, even though I had nothing to do with it breaking. It just felt like the appropriate thing to say. I see a line start to form behind me, and I worry that my order has now interrupted some kind of natural flow. A water stream cut from its source. A snake without a head.

Every service or retail worker has stories of being cussed at, spit on, stressed out, maybe all at the same time. I smile because I know how difficult but rewarding it is to spot a friendly face while behind the counter. I remember creating a radar that judged to what extent people would make my life miserable, based on outside factors. Depending on how loudly the radar blinked, the more misery I would expect. When I say “Thank you, have a nice day” before leaving, I mean it. Not enough people mean it. There’s no replacement for sincerity.

Trust is hard to come by. When your job depends on trusting the strangers you are servicing to not ruin your life, when the cards are in their hands, when your power is limited to wrist-slaps and detentions, you wish it were easier for you to trust people outside of your job. You have trouble telling trustworthy and untrustworthy people apart on first glance. After all, you have enough stories of being yelled at by the one customer you trusted not to ruin your day.

That’s why I make sure to smile, even a little bit. Life is too short to throw tantrums at customer service workers. Smiling is more worthwhile.

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#3: To Be Happy in 2018

grayscale photography of human skull

Photo by ahmed adly on Pexels.com

Terrible news stories threaten our basic humanity and sanity on a daily basis. There is so much to grieve for, so many lives ruined or worse, taken away, and for nothing. Racism, xenophobia, and bigotry abound. Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Florida, Reno. Sandy Hook, which took place fewer than 30 minutes from my apartment. The news punishes us for paying close attention with overwhelming anxiety for the state of the world.

But it’s more than the news. It’s the reaction to the news, the callous, thoughtless tweets and statements made, the petty arguments, the reactions to the reactions, the cruelty and inhumanity and total hostility. The lack of empathy in the world. The dwelling feeling that the universe is inherently cruel and nothing will change, that you will wake up another day this week to another tragedy or crisis, another friend directly targeted or another group unfairly prejudiced, and, by this point, you know that feeling is right.

But you feel selfish when you decide to avoid the news. Have to keep your finger on the pulse, have to monitor everything. Can’t be without knowledge. Not knowing means not caring, but you do care. You care a lot, perhaps too much, for other people. “You’re a feeler, like me; you absorb the feelings of the room,” my therapist said once. You feel the high happinesses and glories, but when doom and gloom dominate every corner of the news, you take it all inside you and curl it up until it disappears. You prize happiness with your life. 

You wish it were as easy for you to not care as it is easy for all the heartless and careless, the ones who cause all this to happen in the first place.

There is a way out, though. The world is a hectic, chaotic place, and nothing is certain to last in our lifetimes except us. From studying existentialism in college, I recall Sartre’s Nausea. When all around you appears confusing and exhausting, look within. Stay calm inside the eye of the storm, knowing that your life is the only thing that is truly yours. If you erased all knowledge of the things you cannot directly influence or change, it would leave you with purely auto-biographical knowledge. You are you. Invest in others, but hold on to yourself, too. Remember to help yourself up first when your life is threatened. Avoid the news if it’s taking such a mental toll on you. Spread goodness through how you treat others. That’s the most we have control over. 

Aurora

Into the natural world
I dive headfirst
Brain charged and sure
But one must abandon
Their head in the ground;
In the blistering sunsets
Our hearts take-over
The streaming lights
Touch the soul
The auburn muses sing
For the purity of the mind,
While it’s lifted
From the Earth
To the domain of the 
Aurora

I Got Successful

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I don’t look for no silver dollas or gold coins,

I want that success, I think.

I wanna be important, fer sure, with a name or a pict’ure on a buildin somewhere in

The center of big ‘ol New Yawrk Cit’y

So’s that the street peoples walkin’ so innocenly look up ‘n see my mug

Plaster’d on a buildin for them people to see,

And the good lord is lookin’ at it too,

And says to me, he says,

“Frank, you finly made the big time,

You a real great guy I reckon now.”

And I stand lookin’ up too and get real happy thinkin

I finly got successful.