It’s gratifying to hear compliments: “You look nice today,” or “I love your shoes.” A kind word can lift the spirits on days when you really need it. But if I had to pick the best compliment I’ve ever received, I’d have to refer to a conversation I had with one of my coworkers last year.
I work as a cashier at a grocery store, and this particular young man–he’s 17–had just started his job and was asking me some questions about me out of curiosity. I explained how I’d been married for 20 years, started working at that very store at 18 on the register, moved over to the deli, left and waitressed for a while, went back to the store, went to community college and worked for an accountant, met my husband and got married, worked in the beer & wine department, had our daughter and stayed home with her for two years, went back to work at a toy store, then eventually came back to the grocery store–to work on the register.
I’d come full circle, and, I thought, not gotten very far. It’s perhaps one of the nagging regrets of my approaching middle years: I look around me at my young coworkers with bright futures, and think–I didn’t do enough. I didn’t improve myself. I didn’t get far in life at all. I still live in the same town I was born in, never having left it, if that tells you anything.
But this young man, who plans on being a doctor (or a lawyer)–and I have no doubt that he will do just that–this young man, in all sincerity, said to me, “Wow, you’ve had an interesting life.”
I was struck dumb for a minute. No one had ever said that about my life before. I certainly hadn’t believed I’d lived anything but a normal (and slightly dull) existence. In fact, I’d been ashamed at what I hadn’t accomplished in my life. But this young man, with the fresh, undiscriminating eyes of the young, had proclaimed that my experiences had amounted to “an interesting life.” Huh.
That has to rank as one of the best compliments I’d ever received, mostly because it was so surprising, and made me look at my life in a new light. Perhaps it takes someone else’s perspective to achieve this.
Now that I think about it, maybe I do have a pretty interesting life, at least to me. There aren’t a lot of external bells and whistles, but there’s a stack of notebooks and journals suggesting that how I process this life is what makes it interesting.
Thank you, Peter.