Secret Difference-Makers

Day 20. Home stretch? These posts are getting harder.

Think Kit asketh: Who made a difference for you this year? Was it a close friend or a stranger? A specific moment in time or the entire year?


As much as it would be possible for me to write a really nice post about a great person who made a positive impact on my life this year (and I HAVE done that, here and here), that’s not how I want to go at this prompt/post.

A couple of months ago, I met a woman for a brief morning conversation about a job. She came into the situation in a hurry, and she left it in a hurry–we talked no more than 30 minutes. During our conversation, she was brusque and snappish, but it didn’t really sink in to my brain how disconnected she was from the whole situation because it was couched in the sick-sweet facade of interview-obligated interest. It also didn’t sink in until I was in my car afterward that I’d been asked NO questions about why I had applied for the position, nor was I pressed to explain my qualification for said job, nor challenged to describe what I thought I could bring to the company.

At first, I told myself I was reading too much into it. Surely it hadn’t gone that badly.

Then a knot formed in my stomach. I was fearful something that I seemed a shoo-in for had gone terribly wrong.

Later, I was angry. I had gotten up at 6 a.m., driven 40ish minutes to the office’s location, been early, been polite, been cheerful, been kind, been optimistic, been interested, been thoughtful, etc., and this is what I had gotten for my trouble.

I don’t think that difference-makers set out to be that, necessarily. I find that some of the people who have made the biggest difference–“difference” taken at its most literal; they have made me different–have no idea what they’ve done or how they’ve changed me.

This woman–I don’t know what was going on that day, or what I had done, or not done, or what the situation was; I suspect it may have had nothing to do with me. But this woman has made a difference.

For one, she hurt me with her disinterest, in a way I haven’t ever felt–we were, after all, strangers. This kind of apathy seems more likely to come from a close friend or family member–someone who knows they can get away with a little pain because there’s something significant between us that’ll overcome it, eventually.

Now my heart is a little harder, and I believe even less in the idea that “I will get what I deserve” (I will get something, for sure–will it be what I “deserve”? Who knows. I have major problems with the idea of deserving, anyway–so much fodder there for another post, probably one after which I will have zero friends left. Let’s hold off on that one for now.) But this has strengthened my empathy for people who can’t get out of less-than-desirable employment situations–I am educated and have been afforded many privileges, and I’ve been spinning my job-search wheels for a couple years, so how much worse must it be for others?

In many ways this person and this situation brought no difference to my life–logistically, professionally, I am exactly where I was before it happened. But, I was challenged by this blip to resolve the lack of movement (lack of progress? Debatable) with myself, and to reaffirm what makes me satisfied with myself, and where and in what I place value.

Am I satisfied with myself? Sometimes. Happy thought though: I’m most satisfied when I’m writing and working through ideas, and there’s been a lot of that lately. You did that, Think Kit, you weirdly disembodied idea-thing lived out through people’s words. I thank you.

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