Celebrate the Holiday by Complimenting a Friend

All too often, we believe we achieved the place we have in life solely through our own efforts. In a way, that’s true. And in another way it’s not. I was thinking today about how I got where I am. I’m a very lucky girl right now: I have my dream job (digital editor) in the world’s loveliest, most colorful, most flamboyant city (San Francisco.) Certainly I fought hard for the place I have, peppering my potential future boss with emails, spending over 20 hours on their application process. I am a fighter who refuses to give up. But that’s not why I’ve won my battles.

One of my dearest friends since middle school was a lovely girl named Betsy Dilla. I met her in Destination Imagination club, where she was a charismatic if eccentric leader. I wrote a lot of poetry in high school and she would read the poems I sent her despite claiming to “hate” poetry. One day I sent her a poem called “Time.” She was impressed by it and emailed me, “This one’s a keeper.” This gave me courage to enter the poem “Time” in a poetry contest, where it won first place. I can no longer find the poetry contest web page, but if you want to read it, my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Jay Simser reblogged it: http://baileysbuddy.blogspot.com/2007/07/charlotte-ashlock.html.

Fast forward to the end of college when I was doing my Senior Project and noticed somehow half the books in my bibliography were published by the same people: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Inc. I looked up their website and emailed them asking them for an internship. My internship application was received by editor Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, who was just as eccentric as Betsy, and strangely, shared her love for unusual socks. (Betsy & Jeevan have been known to wear socks with everything from demented cats to friendly robots on them.) Jeevan promptly googled my name and found my “Time” poem in search results. Because he liked the poem, he decided to offer me an interview.

I got the internship, had a wonderful time, spent a year in Americorps, a year webmastering for environmental causes, and eventually returned to Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. where I now have my dream job. Jeevan, in a strange echo of Betsy, recently said, “Charlotte is one of the few people who writes poetry I can stand.”

The Republicans would have you think everyone got where they were in life, solely because of their own efforts. Did I get here by writing poetry and reading lots of Berrett-Koehler books? Certainly. But I also got here because Betsy, Mr. Simser, Jeevan, and countless other people (especially my parents) believed in me. We think life’s noble deeds are the grand, heroic, achievements. But life’s true noble deeds are the small acts of believing in someone. Telling a friend, “This poem’s a keeper.” Who knows what chains of events your words of encouragement have unlocked in the lives of your friends?

Celebrate this holiday season by telling the people in your life what you appreciate about them, why you believe in them. The things you say resonate more than you know. One tiny golden thread of Fate can change the entire weaving in life’s tapestry.

One Response to “Celebrate the Holiday by Complimenting a Friend

  • First of all, to anyone reading this, do go track down the poem. Really. As a distant second, during the recent presidential campaign, Governor Romney held a number of events centered on businessmen that had done well. These presentations were themed “I did it myself”. The democrats responded, comically, by finding the Federal government programs each of these self-made men had benefitted from. This is a nice example of Charlotte point: we live and die by one another’s help, support, and wisdom. Isaac Newton observed, in a letter to Robert Hooke that “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants,” but in fact we are a tower of mutually supporting acrobats, taller than Everest, spanning thousands of years and the face of a planet. Another excellent blog from the deranged idealist.

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