Are You Working It?

Several years ago I knew a girl who used to say, “You better work” all the time. We decided to be roommates in Manhattan after we finished school in Dallas. I barely knew her, but she seemed very demure and let’s face it, not too many people are willing to move to the big city from Texas.

Shortly after I had sold everything I owned and moved in with her, I became privy to her lifestyle. She met trainers constantly, was always flying somewhere or going out until all hours of the morning at private clubs or parties and shopped on Madison Avenue constantly. I didn’t understand how she could afford to do all that, since I never saw her go to work.

Hanging out with her was rare, due to my schedule at work and her lack of one. Also the financial difference was a problem. I made assistants pay and she seemed to have an endless supply. She wasn’t one to offer to pay or help you out, as money was something she coveted as much as I did her shoes, but every now and then she would be generous and offer.

This would entail a night out. She always invited me because she said I had good sense and would tell her when it was time to leave. It was seldom that I went, but when I did, the evening would always be something out of a movie.

Velvet hot pants and Karl Lagerfeld pumps were the name of the game, so while she helped herself to my clothes, I helped myself to hers. You thought the hot pants were hers? The pumps were, but those hot pants were mine and she loved to wear them. And the men loved to see her in them! Oh my God! They would get neck lash from staring at her.

There was no place that she didn’t feel at home at. She would direct the cabbie to a hot spot with a line going around a building and proceed to walk to the front, flash a coquettish smile to the bouncer and we were in. I would say, “there’a line of people, we can’t just cut.”

Lines were for losers (her words not mine), only an idiot would pay for their own drink (also her words) and if some poor unsuspecting guy happened upon her who wasn’t wearing what she deemed suitable attire, she simply looked at him and said, “I’m so not impressed” and he would walk away shamed probably never approaching a woman again.

She had an energy about her that was off the charts confident and equally chaotic. If there was drama going on, she was the director. One night she called me from an after hours place and asked me to come and get her; that meant take a cab and escort her home. I obliged. I knew she had no one else to count on, despite the fact that she had many acquaintances, many admirers, many hanger-on-ers.

When I got there she had a broken nose. The people in the place wanted to go home but she was frenetic as one could only imagine, and was in shock. They only wanted to be rid of her. I calmed her down and wiped her face of the blood. She was distraught and scared to death of what the break might do to her looks. She told me that she had called some guy a loser who had been sitting with her and some girl because he expected them to pay for his drinks.

I once questioned her safety with the choices she made, especially the mouthing off to men, to which she replied, “I pity the f-er who ever crosses me!” I admired this about her. She called it knowing her worth. She said I didn’t know mine. That I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted or required. I didn’t agree at the time and was upset about it. She didn’t care. Her words were her currency and she had a lot of them, and it, because she never stopped speaking her truth.

I stayed for almost a year being an apprentice at a bougie salon to a complete prima donna and decided to return to Dallas with the knowledge I had gained. I worked there for many years and we lost touch. It wasn’t until I was returning to Manhattan to open a new salon that we reconnected for a brief moment.

She told me that she was returning to Arizona where she was originally from. She said she was going to become a teacher. I wondered how a person who worked it could ever possibly work, but as she sat there packing her bags and talking about how tired she had become of working it with people who didn’t know their worth, I could see that she was ready to go to work and wished her well.

My old friend may have known how to work it, but in the moments where we were together in our one room at the women’s home, she showed me a vulnerable side to her that no one else ever saw. She treated waiters with kindness and cabbies too and had a keen sense of when others did not. She watched people; observed them like they were some species under a microscope. More importantly, she knew who valued themselves and who did not.

She was right about me. Back then I didn’t know my worth. I settled over and over again for less than what I was worth. I accepted crumbs, disrespect and disregard time and time again. She knew her worth so well, that men who didn’t know theirs, would be willing to do just about anything for a moment with her. It’s how she was able to see this flaw in me; the one who would accept the unacceptable in hopes that it would lead to more.

We’ve all seen people who accept the unacceptable. I saw this recently when I was in Florida. There was a young woman, probably 24, sitting with an older gentleman, probably 50 by the pool. She kept taking selfies and ordering things from the waiter, and entertaining herself as though he was’t even there. She would hand him her drink as she snapped away and then swam to the other side of the pool and threw him a bone, as she spread her legs poolside, taking more photos. She wanted people to notice her and I gather he did too. The pool was quiet and elegant and she had no respect for anyone around her, not even the families with children. It was such a spectacle! I felt sorry for him.

At some point you gotta ask yourself: Is this enough for me? Am I willing to keep making choices that cost me my self esteem? Am I willing to keep spending time with people who only measure my worth by what I am doing for them or what I am giving them? Or do I love myself enough to want more? Do I love myself enough to know I deserve more? That maybe, just maybe, there is somebody out there that will tick all the boxes for me, but maybe in order to have that, I need to tick them myself.

If we are working it; meaning putting on a mask, pretending to be all that, bringing a player vibe, then we will get exactly what we are being; transactional. But if you are working on it; meaning yourself with all your issues, then you won’t require anything from anyone because you can give it all to yourself.

Waiting for someone to save you, to see your worth, validate you, make you feel special, or to fill a void, are sure signs that you’re working it. Because when you’re working on it, you don’t have to pretend anymore. You just get to be you.

So, are you working it or working on it? Because one is a whole lot more empowering than the other.

Steps

I wanted to write about steps and how taking just one, can change your entire world.

Two summers ago my youngest son was rowing and beginning to work out regularly. He took to the weights and regimen like a fish to water. His body took to them as well. Within a short time he completely transformed his frame of 140 with little muscles to 180 with huge Popeye ones, and this is when my oldest son told him that rowing was a waste of his talent and time and that he should be playing football instead.

In life, all it takes is one person to see a bigger vision for you than you are capable of, and your entire world can change. This person, or maybe if you’re lucky, a few more, believes in you and your ability so strongly, that you inevitably start to believe too.

With these words, spoken by his big brother, the football journey began. Most people would not even ponder the idea of taking this first step (especially with no prior experience), let alone the ones he did.

The only playing of the sport he had ever done was in the front yard and maybe tossing it at school once in awhile at recess. Still, he committed to the path and took that first step of going out for the team in the 9th grade. You can imagine how other kids viewed him and were so quick to put him down. Our town is mean, rather the people are, and I am looking forward to moving, but that’s another blog.

We went to all of his games and watched his team be beaten down at every one. They literally had 5 plays and the same 5 kids they put in for every position. He managed to get in a few times but it was futile and he felt defeated in all aspects of the sport.

If this path were to continue, further steps needed to be taken. So…I went on Max Preps and researched schools. This is what I do! I’m a dreamer, but more than that, I am a person who takes steps towards those dreams, else they are merely fantasies.

I found so many schools in Texas and South Carolina, but none in New York. I began to ponder the idea of boarding school for him but the schools looked scary that were rated high for football and he is my baby, so that wasn’t going to happen. I actually started to look at properties in Texas and South Carolina, but as I did more research, I found a school in New Jersey he could commute to.

I ticked that box and went on line to the school website. It was overwhelming. An essay, an interview, testing to get in and of course, a private tuition. Did I mention it was all boys and religious?

He didn’t care! So I wrote letters, called, called again. Wrote more letters until someone wrote me back and found out I had made the deadline to apply for the next year. He did everything they asked of him, including an essay about football and Jesus and we waited and waited for a letter to arrive.

When it finally did, he hesitated, knowing this letter would determine next steps. They would either lead to the doorway of this school and its interview process or back to the school he was currently at until we could come up with another path because giving up on his dream was not an option.

Luck was on his side. Or fate, I’m not sure. Every now and then people deserve a break and he got one. He was invited in for the next step in the process.

We took the train together that day knowing what was at stake. The only other option was to move and my middle son was still at home in his senior year. It was overwhelming and I couldn’t allow myself to think about it. He not only had to do well on his interviews, he had to test well to gain one of the 12 spots that were open. Over 300 kids had applied that year (record numbers I was told), because another religious school had closed.

We were there for hours. I heard the morning prayer, stood for the pledge of allegiance, saw students come and go in their uniforms and watched him walk by a few times from office to office. He was in a suit but quickly lost the tie around hour two.

When he finally finished around noon, we took the many steps back to the Path train and began our way back home. He talked about his interviews, feeling as though he had blown one and then didn’t say much on the Long Island Rail Road (the other part of our commute).

It was tough. I could see how bad he wanted this. Sometimes we want something so bad and we don’t do anything about it, but this kid was doing everything he could.

Within two weeks he received another letter. He was at school and my middle son was home. He convinced me to open it, just in case. So we did. We both screamed with joy when we read that he had been accepted. I texted him with a photo of the welcome letter and he screamed with joy when he got it. I know this, because he told me hugged the kid he was walking with he was so happy.

None of us had any idea what it actually meant though. At the time the football team at this particular school was number 1 in the state. I think they rank high in all their sports, and there are over 18 of them. The 5 plays he learned at his old school were replaced by the over 100 at his new one. Yes, 100! It was like learning a new language, but one he committed to by writing them on index cards that he studied every chance he could. To be number 1 in anything means you have to commit and his team takes commitment very seriously.

And so does he! This is why it’s the perfect place for him. He has never once complained about the workouts, the practices, the schoolwork or the commute. And while he is not commuting at present, he still commits to the workouts at the gym he uses here. He also works out with a football trainer in New Jersey every weekend, who is as inspiring as they come.

The progress he has made is astonishing! He has learned the footwork, the ball handling and the speed. But there is always another step to take. A different diet, heavier weights, faster footwork, turning a leg this way, a hand over here, his body forward. I hear him as he watches the video recording of himself from practice.

Footwork is so important in football. Good footwork gives a player agility and reduces injury. It is essentially the same reason why we take steps in life or don’t.

The steps we take determine our outcome. And while some people are so afraid of failing or being hurt that they do not take any steps towards what they want, they actually fail to realize they have already been defeated.

Whatever you want, is merely a step away. So the question remains…which direction are you heading in or are you even moving at all?