Whenever I look back at my academic past, I always feel that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong things.
I chose to study Fashion Merchandising after graduating from high school because I thought it was what I wanted to do; I liked fashion and I really enjoyed merchandising, so Fashion Merchandising seemed like the perfect program for me. It wasn’t until after I had started the program that I realized it wasn’t what I thought it was. The program had nothing to do with the visual merchandising of fashion, which was what interested me most at the time. Instead, it was all about the business of fashion; product buying, managing people, working with numbers, all the things I didn’t care about doing. I contemplated on changing programs on numerous occasions, but I eventually settled on completing the program just so I could say I’ve accomplished something.
When I went back to school to study Travel and Tourism, I dove head first into it thinking that was it. That’s what I’m going to spend my life doing. I enjoyed traveling, so working in the travel industry made sense…until it didn’t anymore when I realized working in the travel industry isn’t quite like being a traveler. Again, I completed the program knowing that travel was not going to become my career, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I learned in my program and graduated with high honours. I also didn’t have a clue what I was going to do with myself other than continue to work at my three jobs.
At the beginning of 2009, I made a decision to take a break from work to travel with my mom for 6 weeks. As a workaholic, it was an extremely difficult decision to make, but it would be my first time traveling to Asia and I felt that the experience would be good for me. A couple weeks before the trip, I called the airline reservations centre to assign seats for our flight. I introduced myself to the call centre rep and explained to him what I wanted. Upon confirming my identity, he said he’d have a look to see what was available. After a few moments of silence, he said to me, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but just listening to your voice, I can only picture what a beautiful and nice person you are.” I managed to stutter “Why, thank you” while still a bit shocked by his unexpected comment. In any other situation, I might have thought that comment was creepy. On that day, though, it didn’t feel that way to me and I didn’t feel that this person made the comment with other intentions. In fact, considering his type of work, I had a feeling he could gather a lot about a person just by hearing their voice. I told him it must be interesting for him to spend his days talking to people over the phone, only hearing their voices and never being able to see their facial expressions. We ended up talking for over half an hour.
He told me he had been working there for 20 years. From experience, he learned to speak to each individual differently by understanding who they are as a person. Sometimes, that means getting to know the stranger on the other end of the line. He said a few days ago, he talked a woman out of a one-way flight to Rome. Being the curious person that he was, he asked her what she was going to Italy for. After some polite prying, he learned that the woman had just lost her job, broke up with her boyfriend (after two unsuccessful marriages), and was flying to Rome because she wanted to go to the Vatican to see the Pope. Her two sons, both under the age of 10, were going to be left behind. The call centre rep said he simply could not make the booking for her because he felt that it would be irresponsible for this woman to get up and go, leaving her under-aged children at home. What would the Pope do for her? The woman eventually broke down. By the end of their conversation, the woman thanked him for talking her out of her impulse decision. She said no one ever listened to her, no one was ever there to talk to her. She was thankful that this call centre rep had taken the time to care about her, not as a friend or anything more, just as another human being. He mentioned that he had no idea what happened to this woman from there on. He didn’t know if she was any happier or if she was living her life more positively after their conversation. But he said it was fulfilling to know that he had said and done everything he could to shed some light on this woman’s life, even though their encounter was very brief.
By the time I got off the phone with the call centre rep, I was thankful to have spoken to him that day. I didn’t know how old he was or what he looked like, but I could tell by the way he spoke that he was a very nice person, and he helped me in a big way. Not only did he help me assign seats on my flight, he allowed me to realize that the feeling of fulfillment from helping people was exactly what I looked for in everyday life. I started to think about my conversation with this person. I felt inspired, but I couldn’t yet put all my thoughts together to understand how this would be relevant in my life. I needed a bit of time to digest it.
A few days later, I was running around the store at work trying to finish my tasks when a customer stopped me. She was looking for a book named “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. On our way to the section, we started talking. She said she wanted to read the book because she felt she really needed it to help her get through this rough time. I learned that her husband had just passed away a few months ago and is now left with three children – a boy and two teenage girls – as well as a mortgage and no life insurance. Through our conversation, I noticed that she was trying very hard to get out from her depression. I talked to and handed her books, not knowing how much of what I said was actually heard; she just kept nodding her head. Then she continued to tell me her story of how her mother took her own life when she was very young. Tears welled up in her eyes as she spoke. I patted her on her shoulder as she sniffed back her tears. I told her that her thoughts, emotions and actions are highly influenced by her childhood and her mother’s death, and if she wanted to help herself get through her husband’s death, she had to first deal with the emotions leftover from her mother’s death. She looked at me and said, “You’ve been absolutely right…everything you said. I feel like I was meant to meet you today.” At that moment, it hit me. I felt that she was meant to meet me that day too, so I could have the opportunity to help her and to realize that helping people deal with themselves is what I am meant to do in life. And it was the call centre rep who inspired me.
I started this post by saying I always felt that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong things because I realize, now, that my decisions for action were dictated by my thoughts. When I decided to study Fashion Merchandising, I was at the beginning of my downward spiral. (Read Part 8: When Ignorance Is Bliss & Part 9: Would the Voice In My Head Please Shut Up) My mind was in the wrong place and it was the wrong time to be studying Fashion Merchandising, something I was never meant to do, which was why I never really enjoyed the program. When I came back from my cruise it was supposed to be a turning point for me, but I did the wrong thing by choosing to study Travel & Tourism. Again, it was not what I was meant to do. The fact that I chose to do it meant my mind was still in the wrong place. I had figured out that much. And when I finally realized that what I am meant to do in life is to help people learn and deal with themselves, I knew that it was the beginning of change for me. I just had to figure out if I was in the right place at the right time, and how I would go about doing the right thing.