“stems face to the right, throw away anything you wouldn’t buy, and be done quick.”
simple instructions, short sentences, impatient glares. got it.
i have this new job and it’s off-the-charts glamorous. ok ok, i don’t hate it. but it isn’t my calling, at least not in this way. i worked my ass off for years in jobs like this one just so i could one day avoid having to work another job like this one. but here i am all the same, in a job like this one, with scheduled breaks and meals alone and slip-resistant shoes, and everything i thought i’d be doing at twenty seven feels like a distant memory. i cried in my car after every shift for a week straight because i feel so very low, so very defeated, so very humiliated. this job makes my everything hurt. get a master’s degree, they said. it’ll get you places, they said.
every box of apples weighs approximately three thousand pounds. i open it and start to do my apple duty, which i will have to do again in like an hour because apples go quick. i grumble inside my head during pretty much every task at this new job. i have hot tears behind my eyes because i don’t want to be here, i don’t want to be doing this. there’s nothing to learn here except good old fashioned elbow grease, and i think i already paid my dues. i scraped green olives off bar floors for three years wondering if there was more to life, and now these apples are my green olives from yesteryear.
i lay a whole box of pink lady apples before i realized i was in the gala apples section. as i place the last one in a perfect row, i hear “wrong section? happens to everyone. and stems are to the right, remember.” yes, yes. to the right. gala with gala. pink lady with pink lady. i rearrange them all and try to make conversation with Impatient Glare Man. he warms up eventually and i try to stay on his good side so that he’ll smile more, or at least glare less. as i am mentally patting myself on the back for being able to charm the shit out of anyone, i drop an apple. DROP IT. like my hands are made of butter! and — get this — it actually split in half. right down the middle! besides box-cutting a beer in half (you bet i did), this was the second mistake i had made so far. a brand new apple, ruined.
“eh, don’t worry about it,” he picked it up for me and started to take it to the trash. “you know, it’s weird. the strongest apples are always the ones that break when they fall.” and he walked away.
and all i could think was HOLY SHIT I’M THE FUCKING APPLE. I AM THE APPLE.
and then i was like, NO WAY. are you seriously going to pick this moment, this exact place and time to teach me something, Universe?!?! seriously?? right here, in my grocery-stocking, uniform-wearing, hourly-wage job, Universe??!!
and Universe was like YEAH GIRL I GOTCHU.
so somewhere between this very random apple analogy and my very much-need epsom salt bath, i think i have my first truth. that’s what they say will get me through this season, small, real, profound truths. so, my truth:
i am incredibly strong.
i am incredibly prone to breaking when i fall.
both statements are true. and neither one could exist in me without the other.
my secret mentor, Cheryl Strayed wrote the best book you will ever read and tonight in my bath, i read this: “coal mining is hard. but do you think coal miners stand around all day and talk about how hard mining is? no. they do not. they simply dig.”
so i’m digging. admitting that i am susceptible to breaking, but that it doesn’t change my strength, because maybe you have to be strong enough to break. i’m allowing myself to feel all the feels, but reminding myself to simply continue to dig. and yes, i have a freaking trader joe’s to thank for this truth. more specifically, Impatient Glare Man, who i hope never reads this. the monotonous task of displaying apples got me a little bit further tonight. the Universe grabbed my shovel and said, let me dig for a second here, i think i found something. and? i have a truth. and that’s enough for me tonight.