There must have been a little extra bounce in my step as I walked into Starbucks, because I noticed a few people smiling at me for no apparent reason. I smiled back. There was Rose, waiting, looking relaxed and confident, as always. Early, as usual. "You've got your distributor form?"
"All filled out."
Over the past week, Rose had made herself available to me at every turn. While I went through more stages than a newly dating teenager--excited, nervous, wracked with self-doubt, insatiably curious, panicky, eager--she had gone through it all as calm and steady as a glacier. She'd been patient, always honest, never sugar-coating her thoughts, and consistently supportive.
"Can I ask you a question?" I asked as I sat down at her table with my coffee. She rolled her eyes. "Another one?" she deadpanned.
"How did you get to be so stable? And when do I get like that? Or am I always going to be a basket case?"
She eyed me as she started checking over my form to make sure I'd filled it out correctly and completely. "That was three questions."
"And the answers are, I forget, we'll see, and you tell me."
I laughed. She smiled, put the form down (she had scanned the entire thing in an instant), sat back in her chair and looked straight at me.
"Actually, can I ask you a question?"
"Of course." I already knew what she was going to ask, or at least I was pretty sure: Why?
This, I had learned, was one of Rose's favorite questions. Perhaps she had learned it from the young students with whom she'd spent so many years and whom she'd found so delightful. After all, "Why?" is probably the single most common and persistent question among the very young, and perhaps the most exasperatingly hard for parents to answer. It's only when children grow older that they forget to ask "Why?," replacing it with the only seemingly more sophisticated questions, "How?" and, "How much?"
One of Rose's core strategies with her new distributors was to reawaken the central importance of Why?
Why?--as in, Why are you building a network marketing business? What is it you're looking to get out of your business adventure; what are your goals, your hopes, your aspirations? Where do you see yourself in one year? In five? In ten?
According to Rose, "knowing your why" was the single most important piece of what she called the "inner strategy" of the business, the foundation upon which all "outer strategies" or how-tos of the business were predicated. A successful network marketing business is more about who you are than what you do, she said, and who you are is all about your why. "If you know your why," she'd said, "you can always find the how and the what. The reverse is not necessarily the case."
Most of all, she had ex-plained, your Why is what gets you through the Hard Part. That's how she said it, too, Hard Part, like it was capitalized.
This all flitted through my head as Rose regarded me for another moment--a long one--and then she said, "What are you giving up?"
I was momentarily thrown. Rose never ceased to amaze me, surprise me and, at times, confound me. "Giving up?!" She nodded.
I sat back and really thought about it.
What am I giving up?
Well, I was planning to leave my job...but I was making an effort to hold the perspective that this wasn't really "giving up" anything, that it was gain, not loss. Of course, I had achieved a certain level of accomplishment in social work, and I had to admit, I was proud of that. I had charted a course for myself, professionally speaking, back in high school, and followed that course to its logical conclusion. And successfully, too. I had decided what I wanted to do, I'd known what it would take, and I'd done what it took. Veni, vidi, vici, like Caesar said.
What I had not known was the price I would pay for those accomplishments.
What I hadn't understood was that my string of choices--go to school, get a good education, land a good job--would lead me to create a lifestyle where I felt trapped.
I hadn't realized that I would spend over eighty percent of my daylight hours away from my family.
I hadn't realized that I would have to schedule dentist appointments over a sixty-minute noon hour and then rush to be back to the office, only to be ten minutes late.
I didn't know I would have to make a choice between staying home with a sick child and going ahead with a meeting--where I was the featured speaker.
I didn't know that when I made a commitment to my chosen career path, I was also making an agreement to miss out on the kindergarten class play so that I could take care of the needs of a client.
I had not realized I would miss out on bedtime stories when my job required that I travel for meetings and spend a couple of nights away from home.
What was I giving up?
As I thought about Rose's question I felt a flood of conviction course through me. I was no longer willing to pay that kind of price. I was no longer willing to miss out on so much that was so important. I wasn't looking for "something for nothing"; I was willing to work hard. I knew I was capable of success, I'd already proven that. I just wanted to change the venue.
I answered slowly.
"It's true, I have invested a lot in my own image of myself as a successful, college-educated career woman in a recognized profession..." (Rose nodded here, almost imperceptibly.) "...but I don't really see that as giving up anything, so much as just letting something go because it's ready to go.
"So, what am I giving up? I'm giving up the ability to hold my job responsible for any defects I might experience in my lifestyle. I'm giving up the comfort of having my life dictated by the narrow confines of an employer. I'm giving up my right to blame my boss, to blame my job, to blame anyone or anything outside myself for what I don't like about my life." I took a breath.
"In other words, I guess I'm giving up my membership card in the rat race."
Rose squeezed my arm. "Pure poetry."
JULIE ABARZUA is a network marketer who lives in Las Vegas wih her husband and two children. The Journey is her first novel.