This I Believe

Judy - Salem, Oregon
Entered on January 25, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65

Minutes come and go, and occasionally expand to become a teachable moment the lessons of which I carryon through life. I can never anticipate who the teacher will be, but the student, again and again, has always been me.

Early in my career, I thought that my job was beneath me. After all, I had a college degree and here I was working as a clerical specialist, typing letters the content of which someone else wrote. I had studied to be an archeologist, and here I was making a living, typing.

This was back in the old time, the 1970s, transitioning out of the hippie days, man. Do your own thing. I took to wearing my hiking boots as part of my everyday attire, mentally preparing to be in the desert, on a dig. Instead, I clumped around the office – before computers – moving hard copy around; distributing memos to inboxes, and such.

I worked with Margaret, an older woman who on her best days I would have described as an old bat. Feeling mightier than thou, brought out the uncouth in me. Margaret was one of those co-workers who could never be satisfied. “….Oh the light! Pull down the shades too much light hurts my eyes….” Or “…close the window, it’s too cold” … it was one thing or another with her.

Being a nimble-minded 22 year old, there were spans of time between one pile of letters and another, during which I would get inspired and compose some creative writing to validate my victimization as an employee at a job I didn’t want to have and was too ignorant to acknowledge the choices I’d made that led me there. So I’d write poems, little rhymes about the ‘great State pumpkin,’ the mindless robot government worker, and I’d share them with Margaret.

I don’t recall what prompted Margaret to do this, but one day she pulled me aside. Looking at me straight in the eye, she got my attention with her solemn demeanor and then proceeded to tell me, “There is only one person who can keep you from doing your best, and it’s you.”


I recall feeling somewhat mortified, upbraided, the wind knocked out of my sails. I was embarrassed to have someone call me on my attitude and declare that I was in charge of my best.

That one sentence reverberated through my psyche and caused me to change my ways. I doubt that Margaret knew the impact her words would have on me. To this day, I thank her for calling me to action. Margaret is no longer living, and I would like to think that my success is part of her legacy.

I believe that life lessons can come from mere moments with each other, simple low key interactions. You never know when, you never know who will be the teacher for you, or when your words have become the lesson for someone else.