September 2022 Featured Article
Have you ever launched into a new project, hobby, or job and then trained for it in your sleep? The first time I experienced this phenomenon was when I was hired to be a cashier at Woolworth’s five-and-dime store. I was so excited to have a job that didn’t include watching the neighbor’s kids or delivering newspapers at four a.m.
Maybe you’re too young to remember this historic store, and though I hesitate to age myself even more, when I was hired, they still had old-fashioned cash registers that didn’t require electricity to operate. I’m not kidding. If it was a $17 sale, I’d have to hit the $10 button, the $5 button, and the $2 button. And for the piddly cents added on? One row of numbers 10-90 and another row of numbers 1-9. Sound complicated? Added to this little challenge, we had to separate the taxable items from the non-taxable items. Ring up the taxable, calculate the tax, add it in, then add the non-taxable and ring that up as well. And if that’s not bad enough, I started the week before Easter. The place was a madhouse with parents buying tons of candy (non-taxable) along with everything else for their little ones’ baskets.
I was ringing up sales in my sleep for days. So very stressful for a sixteen-year-old girl. The only thing I had to compare it to back then was geometry—by far my worst subject ever. It didn’t take long for them to upgrade the registers, but looking back, I appreciated being challenged. These days, I cringe when I see how young people (I sound ancient, don’t I?) are ill prepared for the simplest math calculations at a cash register. If they can’t plug in the exact amount of money they’re given, they can’t make change.
Every job I’ve had since—from coding doctors’ diagnosis for medical billing to teaching Middle School—I trained for in my sleep. When I first learned to knit or started a new sewing project with complicated measurements…even memorizing the piano keys. All in my sleep.
Writing never posed the same set of challenges. I didn’t need to learn a new skill set, although it was important to hone the craft. Marketing though? That’s a whole other story. When I begin to understand how Facebook works, they change it. Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter…social media nightmares that have kept me sleep deprived on more than one occasion.
So, I shouldn’t have been shocked when I decided to launch my own podcast, I’d fall prey to dream-training. Days before my first scheduled interview, I was converting mp4’s to mp3’s and downloading them into Garage Band for editing in the wee hours of the morning—all without leaving the comfort of my own bed. Worrying over whether the microphone would work properly, or if my questions would be thought-provoking or, Please Lord, NO, what if I lost my voice?
There is only one way around this—stop challenging myself to grow. Stop learning. Stop reaching. Stop. Stop. Stop. But then what? I think about my adorable grandfather who was chopping his own wood until he was 85 and lived to dance at his 100th birthday. He challenged himself all his life, and he never stopped learning or growing. When my grandmother passed away from cancer after they’d been married 62 years, Grandpa remarried. After another fifteen years with his bride, he passed away peacefully in his own home, with a huge stack of books by his recliner. Not only was he a voracious reader, but he was also an amazing pianist—who played only by ear—and a true inspiration.
I am a self-professed perfectionist, which is not a humble brag. I annoy even myself sometimes. If I could be more like my husband—laid back and chill—things might be less stressful. And we are in a fast-paced, ever-changing technological world where what seemed cutting edge when I was seventeen is now history—literally. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could pay for groceries with my watch, for heaven’s sake. Not that I do. I feel ridiculous when my phone isn’t within reach, and I have to answer my wrist like some secret-agent spy.
Honestly, I don’t want to live to be a hundred, like Grandpa—I would love to be with Jesus sooner than later. But I also don’t want to give up on life and learning and challenging myself every day. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the only way to live.