My sister and I could hardly be more different. She’s younger, taller, has blonde, straight hair, and wanted to be a mule breeder, a sniper for the secret service, or “some kind of -ologist” when she grew up.
I’m older, shorter, have black curly hair, and wanted to be a waitress, a soccer player, or an opera diva when I grew up.
We do have one thing in common — neither of our childhood dreams came true.
She has a degree in fine arts, and then went to culinary school.
I have a degree in religion, and then took Montessori teacher training.
She is living the dream life she absolutely never thought she would — she lives in the East Bay in California and works as a Prepared Foods Lead at Whole Foods.
I am living my dream life I absolutely never thought I would — I’m an educator living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
We’re both hard workers, dedicated to our craft, eager learners, passionate, stubborn as all get out, want to be the best at things we love to do. I ended up in education though I never expected to be a teacher. We both went to Montessori Schools through Elementary school, and that gift our parents gave us continues to be life-changing.
We talk a lot about our work; we’re lucky enough to work our passion daily. Which doesn’t mean every day is magical and easy. It does mean every day is worthwhile.
After several conversations, I realized there are a lot of similarities in the work we do.
The ideas behind Whole Foods and Montessori foster not just eating differently and sending your child to a unique school, though many families take this approach and are completely fulfilled. You try eating a few more vegetables, and the next thing you know you’re brewing your own kombucha and treating your strep throat with essential oils and probiotics. You send your child to that interesting day care, excuse me, school, down the street where they let children do what they want and the next thing you know you’re using phrases like “Toilet Learning” and “Floor Bed” and “You did it!”
Ideally, both philosophies accept individuals as they are, not forcing you to delve more deeply than you are prepared for, to slowly adjust to the pool or jump in with a cannonball, however you see fit. People come to Whole Foods and get a slice of pepperoni pizza. Or the artisanal salt that is back in stock. Parents come to Montessori and are happy using their cribs and Lunchables. Or want to discuss how to set appropriate limits with grandparents who aren’t yet on board with Montessori.
We are all welcome at the table.
We are so lucky to both be in organizations that encourage, challenge, push personal and professional growth, to be surrounded by peers and mentors who help us to be better every day.
We work to create a positive total user experience. From the first interaction to social media to personal relationships, the happiness of our patrons matters.
We both work to fight against biases and untruths.
She hears: “How can you work for a company that routinely overcharges its customers? You could buy the exact same thing somewhere else for half the cost. Shopping there is ridiculous.”
I hear: “You know, you should really look into Waldorf. It’s a lot like Montessori only without the Catholic influence. Isn’t that the school where children get to do whatever they want/where children are robots? Oh, you’re a teacher, are you looking forward to summers off? You work with little kids, how fun!”
The trouble with passion is that it can be polarizing. When you’re passionate about your work, when it’s more than just a job or a career, it’s a calling and it’s hard and it’s life giving, and that means casual remarks hurt. Someone is going to believe, just as strongly as you do, that what you’re doing is wrong. They’ll be flabbergasted by your choices and beliefs. Sometimes they’ll try to change your mind. Sometimes they’ll write you off.
We cannot fight with words or with anger. We cannot fight with an argument or a correction. Our only weapons are hard work, and believing in what we do.
Some people will think they understand, and that will be just as challenging, as you smile through gritted teeth.
But you keep working. You believe in what you do. You believe everything you do matters.
So you will keep the windows clean, because a smudgy handprint on the railing or on the doors to the school is the canary in the coalmine indicating a lack of attention to detail, a lack of cleanliness, a lack of care.
You’ll send the thousandth email answering the same question or reminding team members to clock in AND out for lunch because it all matters. And you will be pleasant and cordial. A lack of understanding indicates a failure on YOUR part.
You’ll tie the shoes and watch the child struggle with the zipper while sitting on your hands and make another vat of Chicken Tikka and replenish the braised tofu.
“Look up from your passion enough to notice all the magic happening around you.”
You’ll be thanked for sharing the 42nd photo of the day, which is now a parent’s screensaver. You’ll sweat over 250 cupcakes with succulent terrarium motifs and receive a tearful hug from a beautiful bride.
You’ll hear the four-year-old requesting an artichoke. Or offering to help tie a shoe. Or the carnivore asking for a seitan patty on gluten-free bread.
Hopefully you’re humble enough to notice these moments. Breathe in their grace. Move on. Look up from your passion enough to notice all the magic happening around you. Take it in.
Because all those little things do matter. To one person, one day, one moment, you made a difference.
So you get up tomorrow, and do it again. This time, make it better.
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