Finding Compassion: Our 7th Workaway
Within the first twenty minutes of our seventh Workaway in Warkworth, New Zealand, I was put in charge of an entire retail store. I’ve never worked retail in my life and all of sudden I was all alone and in charge of the whole shop. Luckily, I’ve spent a majority of my life “faking it until I make it” so I was up to the challenge. However, finding compassion for myself while working in retail was something I was not expecting.
Our story begins by arriving in Warkworth, the week before Christmas. The owners of the store had just flown to Canada for the holidays. From the bus stop, we were able to walk to the boutique. As we entered, we noticed rows and rows of mostly women’s clothing. The shop was very large and very colorful. There were numerous designs and multiple styles. The styles were so diverse, I wasn’t sure who the target shoppers were. I didn’t know if the clothes were targeted towards middle-aged women, young adults or elderly women? I had no idea.
We made our way to the front desk and met Penny, the only worker at the shop that day. She seemed a bit frenzied but was delighted to see us. She lead us to the back storage area where we met Gede and Reg. They were rummaging through hundreds of boxes that were lying on the floor. Gede and Reg were two other Workawayers who had been there a while and would show us the ropes…..kind of.
We stood watching them unpack the boxes, they would hang the clothes on these self-made bamboo racks suspended from the ceiling with white rope. Each rack had a sign displaying the style of clothes on that rack: “Margarita Dress, Judy Short Sleeve or Jane’s Wraparound.”
We placed our backpacks down in what seemed like the middle of a factory. Every square inch of the floor minus the “walkway” was covered with boxes and totes full of clothing, jewelry, and sandals. There was so much merchandise it was hard to find a place to lay our backpacks.
After introducing ourselves to Reg and Gede, I made my way back to the front of the store where I was to help Penny. As I arrived, I found Penny frantically digging through a large plastic bin of tangled jewelry. Without hesitation, she said, “I’m a little overwhelmed.” I chimed in, “I’m here to help you.”
She was attempting to find a customer a matching bracelet for her granddaughter. Penny held up a beady bracelet with a bright pink tassel. She asked if I could search for another one of these. She pointed at the other box sitting on the floor next to the counter. The box was full of tangled mismatched jewelry. I began untangling mostly gaudy necklaces and would find a random bracelet that had no resemblance to the one we were looking for.
We never did find a matching bracelet but we sent the customer off with a similar looking one and she seemed happy enough. I guess this incident was all I needed to prove my trustworthiness to Penny. Or maybe Penny was just that overwhelmed and didn’t have time to think about it. Either way, she started showing me how to run the store. First how to use the register and then how to use the credit card machine.
Since she finally had some help, she used this opportunity to run a quick errand and said she would be back in ten minutes. As she headed out the door leaving me in charge of the entire store, she asked, “are you terrified?” I looked at her and shrugged my shoulders stating, “not really.” And just like that, I was running a women’s clothing shop on my own.
I meant what I said, I wasn’t scared at all. The Old Me (Pre-traveling me), was always scared if I messed something up. I would have immediately been terrified of all these new responsibilities. On the outside, I appeared to have all the confidence in the world, but on the inside, questions would start arising. “Leah, don’t mess up. This is a lot of responsibility. What if I mess up?” I would put so much pressure on myself to succeed that I gave myself no grace.
The new, Long-term Traveling Me, realized that I was doing something I’ve never done before and with very little training. I found compassion and grace for myself, instead of attempting the impossible: perfection. This journey has taught me how to give up this old habit of trying to be perfect and care less about the small things in life. THIS was a small thing.
During the thirty minutes Penny was away, I was able to manage the store just fine. To tell you the truth, it was really fun. I had no idea where anything was located and I just walked around with the customer picking up items I thought they might like until I figured out what they were searching for. This is how ‘faking it until you make it’ really works.
If I had I put pressure on myself to do everything right I would have stripped the fun right out of the experience. I’m glad I was able to relax into my new role at the shop and find confidence in what I was doing. I did this by finding compassion for myself.
The thing about our thoughts is that they’re vibrations and when we put that energy into the world it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. What we think is what we become. This is why it’s imperative we change our negative thoughts to positive ones. When our negative thoughts begin to creep in, stop them right in their tracks, take a few deep breaths and reverse them. What we think we become.
Doing Workaways, as well as traveling, puts you in situations you can’t control. When you’re placed in a new situation, doing things you’ve never done in a foreign country you’ve never been, the best thing to do when you screw up is to find compassion for yourself. Listen to what the mind might be telling you as a way to bring the thoughts back to compassion and self-love.
So the next time you’re traveling, or put into a precarious situation, just remember to stop for a moment and listen to what you might be telling yourself. You have the power to change your thoughts and when they change, so does our experience. A circumstance that feels terrifying and negative at first, can become a fun and uplifting situation. Tell yourself things you want to hear, take a deep breath, give yourself some compassion and enjoy the ride!!
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