If you act positive, you will become positive!
byNov 1, 2005
Telemarketing. Not exactly anyone's dream job, but you wouldn't know it, looking at and listening to those three—laughing and bantering as if they couldn't imagine anything more fun than cold-calling complete strangers.
I couldn't stand these women and their sunny attitude. It was such a stark contrast to how I felt that I almost couldn't believe we lived in the same world doing the same thing. If I didn't need the money so bad, most days I wouldn't have even bothered to leave my apartment, let alone go to work.
Every morning I slunk past all the other telemarketers in the "boiler room." Rectangular tables were lined up in rows. Each of us had a chair, a phone and a list of numbers to call. I'd deliberately chosen a spot away from everyone else, but I could still hear the cheerful threesome.
Cold calling was a breeze for them. Not for me. I don't know if I was born pessimistic, but since I left home after high school, I'd felt lonely and depressed.
Calling up people I didn't know and trying to convince them to buy products I didn't believe in drained me. The pressure was intense. Each time I made a sale, it upped my pay. Otherwise, I got minimum wage. If a potential customer turned me down, I'd be in the dumps for the rest of the day, and that didn't help me hit my sales quota. It was a vicious cycle.
Was it any wonder I wanted to nothing to do with my upbeat coworkers? The stately, fiftyish Jamaican woman, with her colorful skirts and long braids. And the two grannies with their bifocals and beauty-parlor-blue hair. Their joie de vivre felt like a reproach.
The strange thing was, they couldn't seem to get enough of me. They would waylay me at the coffeepot, their smiles warm and friendly. "C'mon, things aren't that glum!" one of them would say, playfully poking my shoulder. Another would add, "You're young. You've got so much ahead of you."
What did they know? Yes, I was only 20, but there wasn't much in my life. No boyfriend. No real friends at all. A dead-end job. A dinky apartment that I could barely make rent on.
I felt so down I'd come home from work and cry. I'd ask God, What's the point of getting up in the morning if there's nothing to look forward to?
But it wasn't like he had any answers for me. So I would cry until sleep overtook me, then drag myself up to slog through yet another day at work.
One evening I parked outside my apartment and happened to glance down as I got out of my car. There was a shiny penny lying on the ground. I picked it up. Under the fluorescent light the words twinkled at me: In God We Trust. I'd never seen those words before (I know you're thinking I'm not very observant, but I hadn't). Had they been put on this penny just for me?
I ran inside and dumped out my change. I inspected each penny. Those words were engraved on every last one, curving around Lincoln's head like a halo. I can't believe I never noticed! I thought. And that's when it occurred to me: The promise in those words...had I overlooked that too? Maybe I needed to trust that God was at work in my life even if I didn't see it yet. For the first time in ages, I didn't cry myself to sleep.
But I still woke up feeling dragged down. I must have looked it too because the three wise women descended upon me. "This life is not always easy," the Jamaican said. "But there is much good in it." Part of me wanted to believe that.
If I'd thought things would change, I was wrong. The next few days proved I was going nowhere. I got so sick and tired of my coworkers' perpetual perkiness that I caught myself making faces in my bathroom mirror, mimicking them. "Look on the bright side," I parroted. Didn't they realize how silly they sounded? Fine, I'd show them! I'd act just like them, pretend I was as happy as they were. That would prove what a sham having a positive attitude was.
The next morning I sailed into the boiler room as if I didn't have a care in the world. I made my calls, keeping an ear on those three voices across the room and imitating their tone—teasing, encouraging, sympathetic.
Break time. I waylaid them. "Hello, ladies," I chirped, smiling so broadly I thought my face would crack. They didn't seem surprised, just carried me on the current of their conversation. When they stopped to chat with coworkers, I did too. If they laughed, I laughed. The day passed quickly.
The next morning I woke up smiling, looking forward to my little game. I kept at it too. Each day, everything those three did, I copied. In a strange way, it gave me a sense of purpose.
It wasn't until several weeks later that I noticed the woman in the bathroom mirror. Was that me? I looked so different. So happy. My dimples were showing and my eyes sparkled. This is fun! they seemed to say. Could it be that the more I acted as if I was a positive person, the more I became one? As if the behavior itself could help change me?
I'm not going to tell you I never had a down moment after that. But slowly they were outnumbered by the good. By the time the boss announced the company was closing, I wasn't even upset about losing my job. I knew I could trust that there were better things in store for me. I turned to my three coworkers and gave them a big—and genuine—smile. Thanks for teaching me how to live.
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