When I was 16 years old, my perception of a “working woman” was flipped upside down. I had several role models, but they were either from Church, school, or my mother (who, btw, is a Rockstar). They were great role models, but my idea of a working woman was someone with flexibility and patience to spare. They rolled with the punches, and always found ways to overlook or solve problems without messy outcomes. But these talents were never seen as amazing, which is what they were, but were seen as normal, the standard. Working women worked their tails off, and did it with a happy, and only sometimes begrudging, smile. And it seemed flawlessly easy for them. I was none of those things. I found challenges with almost everything I did and very rarely took it with a charming smile on my face. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I was a kid, and I had only worked with other teenagers and one older gentleman, but I knew that my attitude wasn’t one of the women who had succeeded in what they chose to do. Turns out, it kind of was. At 16, I quit my lifeguarding job and worked as an office assistant at a local car dealership. I was the youngest employee, except for my friends who got me the job. My home base became an office nook featuring five, full time working women. And they all knew what they were doing. I was terrified, but I shouldn’t have been. I was welcomed with open arms. That part didn’t surprise me, these were cool women! But my perception of them changed instantly upon the discovery of one, stunning similarity between all of them, and their new teenage coworker. These women would swear, but at work. I was shocked. That was inappropriate, right? They shouldn’t be doing that!? Suddenly, work wasn’t about holding your tongue and solving problems as quickly as possible. It was about solving problems, and doing it your way, and not taking any kind of nonsense from anyone. They had turned the whole idea of quietly smiling through their troubles on its head. The game had changed. And they had drawn an undeniable connection between themselves, and me. While these women were much further along in their lives than I was, they would swear, just like I did. One of the first, and swift changes was when my bold, and patient boss, kept a gun in her office as a down payment for someone’s truck. I was blown away; she could do that?? She let someone do that?? Miss Boss Lady was calm and always had everything under control. But if you messed something up and thought you could get away with it, you were mistaken. Sorely. And if she was in a bad mood and closed her office door behind you? Game over, nice knowing you.
Miss Boss Lady was an authority figure through and through. If you didn’t know any better, you were afraid of her. Sometimes, you were afraid of her because you knew better. But even with her authority and her strength, she would never get mad at me for not knowing where or how to find a file, or for twiddling my thumbs for a few minutes too long. She was the first person I had strictly known in a work environment to show both sides of herself; strict and authoritative, but patient and understanding. Miss Boss Lady was someone who proved to me that it was not an either/or scenario when it came to leadership. Luckily, she was one of the first, but nowhere near the last. As I kept working, two more amazing women stood out to me, each on different ends of the warm and fuzzy scale. We had Mrs. Take No Nothing and Mrs. Soft Spoken. Mrs. Soft Spoken worked with me almost every summer. She was sweet, supportive, and would always thank me for the work that I did. Despite my paid obligation to do so, she was always grateful for the help I could provide. I felt like I had worth, and that I was more of a help than a possible 10 dollar per hour teenage nuisance that they were too busy to fire. Mrs. Soft Spoken would always ask about my school, how my life was going, and when I studied abroad, reminded me to take pictures so that I could show her when I came back. She didn’t have to do any of those things, but she did. All she had an obligation to do was work, which she did, and still found ways to support people in any way that she could. And then, there was Mrs.. Take No Nothing. Like Mrs. Soft Spoken, I worked with her for most of my time at this company. Unlike Mrs. Soft Spoken, she was not that. Mrs. Take No Nothing, well, took no nothing. She subverted the idea that working women do whatever they’re told, whenever they’re told, and don’t complain. That wasn’t her style. She did what she was supposed to do, and she did it well, and proudly, but if someone tried to take advantage of her, or get her to fix something that was not her problem? No cigar. Not a chance. Mrs. Take No Nothing also taught an invaluable lesson; when I should take things. She helped teach me when I deserved to say yes. I was always scared to accept any sort of gift that was bigger than a jolly rancher. When I was offered the company car to drive to a different dealership, I nearly had a heart attack. “I can walk!” I assured them, “It’s alright!”, and they told me that the keys were hanging on the other side of the door. One year, on my last day, they planned to celebrate by buying lunch for the office. Repeatedly, I told them that they didn’t have to do that. I left at noon, so what was the point? Rinse and repeat for about two hours. 11 O’Clock rolls by, and Mrs. Take Nothing waves me over. “Come outside with me,” she opened the door after she pulled a pack of cigarettes from her desk, “we’re gonna chat.” As soon as the door closed behind me, she looked me up and down and said, “What do you want for lunch?” and before I could dismiss her again, “We aren’t asking.” It took about 15 minutes to figure out that I would be happy with chicken and some salads for lunch. So that’s what we got.
I saw what the differences in successful women could be, both from my first notion of a “working woman” and from each other. It instilled the lesson that I don’t have to be one point on a spectrum. I can be nice, and I can be mad. I can be an authority, and I can be supportive and rule adhering. I could be one thing if I wanted to, but I could be everything else at the same time.
For me, I'm Miss I’m Not Sure Yet. Are these lessons that I could have learned with male coworkers? Sure, in theory. But there are people who you trust and have intrinsic commonalities with, that melt an idea into your mind. You have a person that you’re connected to, or similar to even on a surface level, tell you that what you’re learning is meaningful, and that teaches you to stick with it. Especially when they show you how to do it. Working women get frustrated, they get mad. They may help you with your problems, or they might make you solve them yourself. They feel everything and they work hard for what they want, just like everyone else.
Amanda started writing with video game reviews – every 12 year old boy’s dream! She has worked in TV development and children’s theater. She also writes and produces a podcast called Logdate. She finds a way to write about almost anything, and loves stories that inspire happiness and change."