Since my RACs have been a little dominated by food-relating activities, I decided to devote my weekend tasks to a conversational theme: make personal contact in a way that would be out of character for myself. (And, when I say “out of character,” I don’t mean by tackling someone to the ground, touching someone awkwardly, or laying a big fat kiss on the cashier at Wegman’s).
Nay, I simply wished to push myself beyond the safe, reserved persona I often emit when meeting/interacting with strangers. I wanted to be that person who literally will talk to anyone about anything. Baby steps here, people…baby steps.
All of my RACs over the weekend were small gestures….no Nobel Peace Prize winning entries here….however, they were actions that truly made me realize just how much more I could be doing in an effort to be a kinder, more considerate person.
#1: Upon checkout at your friendly neighborhood Sal Val (Salvation Army), I happened upon an amiable cashier, more than willing to share her views on company management and her relationships with other co-workers. It was 5:00 PM, rush hour traffic had already commenced, my hair was flat, and the store smelled strongly of damp corduroy jeans…I wanted to get home as quickly as possible, but first, I had to…gulp…interact with a chatty employee. In moments like these, I usually pretend to find something extremely fascinating with the floor or role play as a mute, but I knew…I knew…I had to step outside of the box. So, for about 3 minutes, I entertained friendly, pain-free conversation with this cheery woman…who ended up actually brightening my evening. It’s funny: after surviving a rough week, it’s amazing how much a simple kindness can do for you.
#2: I am a naturally shy, reserved person…a character trait which I’ve struggled hard to break out of. When I meet or work with new people, I rarely ever make the purposeful effort to utter the words “It was a pleasure to meet/work with you.” It’s not for lacking of wanting to say that….the reclusive, inhibited, awkward 13-year-old in me still screams “THEY’RE GONNA MAKE FUN OF YOU AND CALL YOU A DWEEB!”
I still find it interesting how long we are able to hold onto negative experiences we faced in our lives. I still feel a knot clench in my stomach when I enter a room full of women (this might be confusing, seeing as how I am, in fact, a woman). Let’s just say I faced a lot of petty, caddy girls as I progressed from middle school to high school, and, as a result, have had a heck of a time rebuilding my trust with members of my own gender.
My Saturday found me working to correct my stunted social growth when I volunteered to teach at a musical theatre workshop. I was given the task of teaching 13 middle school students. The goal: learn, sing, and perform 2 songs for the final concert at the end of the workshop. The task, in itself, was a great pleasure to take part in: the challenge, for me, existed during my down time.
In the workshop, I co-taught with two other music teachers…both female. Although I knew of these women limitedly before, it was honestly like I was meeting them for the first time. Both of these women are established music teachers in the area, while I have just been recently certified to teach. I was intimidated before I even opened my mouth.
Yet, somehow, I was able to remember my fine motor skills, and survived the entire day, all limbs intact. I managed to engage them in conversation, and surprisingly, I did not spontaneously combust. In fact, I actually really enjoyed getting to know them, and the day ended without a hitch.
Before I left, however, I heard a small, tiny voice in my head: voice your appreciation in collaborating with them (see, I told you it was a small voice).
I could have easily left the workshop that day without ever saying a word to either woman. Neither woman approached me to purposefully express her appreciation in working with me. I could have gotten in my car, driven away, and gone on with my evening. Normally, I would have.
This blog, though, would be absurdly dull and boring if I only wrote about “normal” things…
So, before the final concert, I approached everyone I had worked with that day and merely said “If I don’t get a chance to see you later, it was a real pleasure to work with you today.” I normally think these kinds of things, but voicing them is something completely different….especially for a naturally shy person. I made it a point to seek out each musician/teacher/instructor I had collaborated with that day, and it was oddly liberating. I can talk…I am a real boy!
#3: My third and final act to wrap up the weekend required very little planning on my part, and only an extra 30 minutes of my day. I had to attend a rehearsal for a musical I am a part of in the afternoon, and my call time was 1:30 I had about an hour today before this time that I could have spent merely lazing about my apartment, exerting no other energy than what it normally takes to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide. I originally planned to leave my apartment to arrive at rehearsal in just enough time to set my costumes and play one last game of Solitaire on my phone. However, as I began to plop down on the sofa for a Power Cat Nap (there is an art to this feat), I realized that the decision I wanted to make wasn’t the decision I should be making.
Ever since I embarked on my quest to perform one RAC per day, a new, slightly irritating, always well-meaning tiny voice has appeared inside of my head (note: this is NOT the same voice that tells me to eat that third brownie, drink that third glass of Shiraz, or that yes, I do need that Swedish massage). This is the voice of reason to the ninth power:
Reason + Morality + Things I Wouldn’t Normally Want to Do + Part of The Mom’s Voice + Glinda the Good Witch =
An annoyingly perky, gratingly insistent voice which challenges me to be a better version of myself
At least, I think that’s how Morgan Freeman would sound. I mean, he did play God, after all. He drove Miss Daisy. He counseled Batman, for crying out loud!
So, instead of lazing on my comfy couch for a full hour, I sped off to rehearsal thirty minutes earlier than I needed to. My intention? Help out as much as I could with the set-up process, in whatever way I could.
That way, in fact, found me scrubbing a moldy, petri dish of a sink in the bathroom of our theatre. When I arrived on the scene, the cast’s dressing rooms were in a tremendous state of disarray…dirty cigarette butts, used deodorant tubes, sticky countertops, and Nerf bows and arrows were amongst the items displayed before us. Even Mrs. Doubtfire would have quaked in her pantyhose.
I (along with a few other cast members) swept, vacuumed, scrubbed, polished, sanitized, and vaporized anything and everything we came into contact with in that dressing room. My greatest triumph of the day involved conquering a moldy sink, lined with splattered black paint, mildew, and most likely a colony of Whos from Whoville.
Although the tangible rewards from that hour included a dressing room you could actually sit down in without contracting Rabies, Swine Flu, and/or scurvy, I surprisingly found a personal triumph, too. When you force yourself to go beyond your normal modus operandi, you consequently place yourself in a challenging new environment…one that makes it easy to think of others before your own needs and/or wants.
So, all in all, giving up my hour of rest in exchange for an hour of combating mildew made me forget about my own problems and allowed me to enjoy the company of the cast members around me. And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a win in any book.
Well played, Morgan Freeman….well played.
RAC #21, 22, 23: Encouraged conversation with a stranger; appreciated new acquaintances; gave up an hour of free time to help out with set-up at a rehearsal
Results: Friendly conversation; friendly conversation; friendly conversation