At Rose's suggestion, I had decided to hold off telling anyone else of my decision just yet. "Wait until we've gotten ourselves oriented and a battle plan drawn," she counseled. "You're enthusiastic and that can be infectious--but ignorance on fire is still ignorance, and those calls can backfire."

And so, being the good apprentice I was, I called no one when I got home from my meeting with Rose. No one, that is, except my sister Jen. After all, she was family--and I was sure she would be enthusiastic at my discovery.

She wasn't thrilled. She was appalled.

"Annie, that is the stupidest thing I ever heard! Just promise me you won't say anything to Mom and Dad about it, 'cause frankly, this would kill 'em both."

I was shattered. I put the phone down and stared at it, numb. My own sister. I picked up the phone again and dialed Mandy. I needed some moral support, fast. My best friend didn't mince words.

"Wait--you're what?! Annie, how can you be so irresponsible?! You've spent over twenty years building your career--and now you're telling me you're gonna just let it all go, flush it down the toilet, just so you can join some kind of get-rich-quick scheme? Have you completely lost your mind?!"

For a good twenty minutes, Mandy and I tried to have a conversation; we never got within a mile of each other. There was too much in the way--my defensiveness, her shock and concern, my anger that my best friend wasn't hearing me, her conviction that I was making a colossal blunder...we were two people shouting into telephones, each caring desperately about the other, both completely isolated in our own feelings and reactions.

I spent the rest of that night crying on David's shoulder. I don't mean that figuratively: I literally wept, sobbed and bawled all over him while he tried to talk me off my ledge.

"Was it like this for you when your business failed?" I sobbed. He smiled as he held me. "Which one? You mean, the gas station, or the vending machines, or the T-shirts, or...?"

I knew he was trying to cheer me up, but I didn't really want to be cheered up, I wanted the Hard Part to be...not so Hard. He looked at me, serious now.

"Annie, Jen and Mandy both love you--they just don't want you to get hurt. Give them time, they'll come around. Right now, don't worry about the who--because it's all about the why, right?"

He was a quick study, all right; I'd barely told him a tenth of what Rose had been teaching me, and here he was, quoting her back to me. I punched him in the arm. "I think I've created a monster." Smile.

 

When Rose answered the phone the next day, I was afraid at first to tell her what had happened, since I'd screwed up my first assignment by utterly ignoring her advice. I felt like Eve, holding an apple with two great big bites taken out of it, complaining of a tummy ache.

I needn't have worried; Rose was nothing but understanding.

"Listen, darlin', don't be too hard on yourself. You're doing a great job."

"Yeah?" I got out between sniffles. "How's that, exactly?" The arch cynicism of my tone shocked me a little, but I was too miserable to care.

"Well," she began tentatively, as if she weren't sure I would really hear what she was about to say, "you're passionate about what you're doing, you're bold in your commitment and you're not afraid to talk to people--"

"Yeah, but I completely ignored what you told me! I went out there like a bull in a china shop and blew my first two calls--with my own sister and my best friend, no less!"

There was a very brief silence; I felt a bit like a three-year-old who'd just had a tantrum. Rose continued. "Darlin', this is not about blindly doing everything I tell you. This isn't the military, and I'm not your boss. This is your business and you call the shots. Sometimes you'll call what you do a 'mistake,' but it's all just a part of learning what works and what doesn't." She paused, then asked, "Darlin', are you beating yourself up right now?"

A heavy sigh escaped me. "Yeah, I guess I am."

"Why?"

"Well, because it was just such a stupid mistake."

"Sweetie, mistakes aren't stupid, they're the beginning of wisdom. Hating your mistakes is what's stupid. If you can teach yourself to love your mistakes instead, then you'll be on the trail of genuine knowledge--and you'll also be unstoppable."

Love my mistakes? I was still chewing on this one. It sounded to me like the height of illogic, yet at the same time felt strangely comforting. I let loose with another one of those almost comically heavy sighs, but with this one I felt my body begin at last to relax.

"Rose?"

"Yes, darlin'?"

"Do you think I'm really cut out for this business?"

I could almost hear her smile as she replied without hesitation. "What do you think?"

Now I smiled too, despite myself. I could always count on Rose not to answer questions she knew I could better answer myself. I paused to take inventory of my feelings; there was a strange and unpleasant heaviness, as if my body were weighed down by a lifetime of accumulated mistakes, self-recriminations and self-doubts.

What did I think? Are you up for this, Annie? I thought back to what I'd told Rose earlier that day: 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'm giving up my membership card in the rat race. Yes, I was up for it, all right--painful mistakes and all.

As if she had heard my thoughts come to their conclusion, Rose softly said, "Annie?"

"Mm?"

"You're doing fine, you know? You're gonna be great."

I took a big breath. "Thank you, Rose."

"That's a sponsor's job, darlin': to believe in you, even when you don't."

"Rose?"

"Yes, darlin'?"

"So...is this the Hard Part?"

"You tell me."

 

JULIE ABARZUA is a network marketer who lives in Las Vegas wih her husband and two children. The Journey is her first novel.
Available now at www.networkingtimes.com/catalog