We all wear masks...
Today I am thinking about all of the people who I will walk by on the streets this morning, all the people I walk by daily, everyone in my life, those people I have just met, the people I may never get to meet, the girls last night who got into a fist fight on the bus right in front of me and my daughter—who just one minute before they started throwing blows smiled at me, or the couple last night who were cursing each other out outside my window she was threatening to leave his ass telling him she would have him thrown in jail and him calling her terrible names all while I was on the phone checking in on my pops...
We're all just people in survival mode, who are just doing what we do, living how we live, many of us – most of us constantly at the masquerade ball.
The masks we wear pretending to be happy in our failed relationships, hoping that the person (our significant other) who we blame for our unhappiness, we hold onto the idea that they will change…that if we only love them more, if we just stick by them at all costs, if we take all there shit. Praying that they will stop cheating on us or abusing us (physically, emotionally, or verbally) - holding on to the faith that love really does conquer all and that they will see the errors in their ways - - somehow miraculously seeing that "our love is deep and they'll stop hurting us."
The mask we wear day to day hoping to be noticed, that our potential will be recognized and acknowledged, we the undiscovered talent, wearing our false confidence mask. Those of us who demand to be respected (but we would never dare bring that power home and speak up to the people we need to speak up to) those of us who wear the mask of "the real tuff guy" who will go off and put a person in their place that person being the cashier or that manager at Popeye's, KFC or McDonalds. These are the same masks that would never dare raise our voices to our bosses or someone we perceive to be more superior to us.
We wear a mask pretending to be COMPLETE people - people who are really broken inside with real problems and no idea how to fix them.
In my "Keep it Moving" blog - I mentioned that I stopped writing after November 4th 2003.
Here's what happened to someone I respect:
She always wore a mask - - but this time she wore a special kind of MASK for a year and this time she was fully aware she was wearing that mask. She was a zombie, a machine, the walking, talking, breathing dead. She went to the same office building for 12 months - - 6 of which she relived that horrible moment over and over again - every single day - - every day she stepped into that office after he left. The simple act of opening a door changed her life completely.
Whenever she went to open any door it sent chills up her spine. She dreaded waking up every day. But she did get up - not because she wanted to - not because she was happy to be alive - but because she had no choice but to go on living and do all the necessary things she did to get by in her mediocre life...and going back to that office was the responsible thing to do.
Before November 4, 2003, she was happy, she loved where she worked. It was one of the largest magazine publishing companies and she worked with a great man. His name was KB. He was incredibly brilliant and just a vibrant human being. She started her career as a temp, was very new to NYC and had much to prove and tons to learn.
So she put on her mask of: "super modelesque/no problems in the world/have it all under control/like she got money in the bank/all smiles all the time" that's the mask she was sporting. She would have you believe that she was no nonsense, no joke and had it all under control.
Meanwhile, back in the room she was living in, as she slept on a twin bed with her child - she prayed every night and lit candles hoping she would get hired (its funny how when shit really gets rough - we all of sudden find God -- in hopes that he will come in and save the day). But she prayed faithfully, everyday in the morning when she woke, in the shower, as she walked to the train, during her train ride, on the elevator to her job, during the day while she worked, during dinner while she ate and at night before she put her head on her pillow, She prayed and prayed. She prayed she would get hired permanently because she was so very desperate for money and living in NYC wasn't cheap and she had tuition to pay for her child who was going to private school.
She wore her mask well - she had everyone fooled.
Her temp assignment was about to end and there were no positions available. She invited KB to lunch one day (which took balls because its not customary for executives to dine with the help) she wanted to express her gratitude and her passion for the job and share with him her desire to work for him and her eagerness to be apart of his team.
He said to her, "don't worry - - I think you're fabulous - - you're not going anywhere - - even if you have to sit in the bathroom all day everyday until I find you a slot - - you're not going anywhere!"
And she just smiled because she knew he was a man of his word. And true to his words she sure did end up spending some time in the bathroom and hiding out in conference rooms where he gave her little projects to keep her around. She was hired permanently a couple months later becoming KB's assistant in addition to supporting a VP.
All she could think about was how fabulous her boss KB was. Whenever he walked into the office - he would show up with the fiercest outfits and his diva strut. He was always well put together and he smiled every time he walked by her. His door was locked this particular day which was normal for him as he would often lock his door so he could eat quietly and not be interrupted. The only exception was if he was running late for a meeting. That the only time she would buzz him.
It was 3:30pm; he needed to be at a meeting, so she buzzed his line – no answer. She knocked on his door and when she didn't get an answer she called out his name. She did this a few times and still got no response - she figured perhaps he stepped out and closed his door. She went to her desk to get her spare key - knocked on the door one more time and unlocked it. she opened the door slowly and there he was at his desk with his head down. She thought he was sleeping - she called out for him Kevin, Kevin - wake up you have a meeting. She thought maybe he had a headache because his arms were crossed and he had his head gently placed on his arms. To her it just seemed like he was sleeping.
So she went behind him to wake him touching his shoulder - Kevin wake up. she shook him a little - no movement. She touched his neck - no pulse. She touched his face - ice cold... she ran - - she ran as fast as she could for help - she interrupted a meeting and told them that Kevin wouldn't wake up that something was wrong. They ran to him and she just stood by her desk pacing, a mess, scared out of her mind, worried, crying, hoping that he would be ok and not understanding what had happened. Someone called 911 because paramedics came to the office... she never left her cube... when they finished doing whatever it was they were doing inside his office - they opened the door.
Kevin was dead - and she couldn't watch them take him away on that stretcher, covered with that sheet – she refused to leave her desk - in fact she was so scared that she was hiding under her desk because it was unbelievable to her. Still today its still unbelievable.
I stopped writing when Kevin died on November 4, 2003 when I found him.
It was the horrible, devastating, and incredibly traumatic experience I had ever encountered. I went to work the very next day and did this every day for so many months. I never mourned his loss I just kept going back to this building. I had to go back into his office every day when Kevin's replacement started – I had to open that door again and again. I was devastated.
When he died (as is the case for anyone we lose - the stories that we tell each other to console one another came pouring in and this time it was no different).
My Kevin stories are few but amazing… in August 2003 during the NYC blackout I was at the office and was scared because we thought that perhaps it was another September 11th situation (my daughter was out of town thank God) but he asked me if I had anywhere to go. I told him I didn't know what I was going to do and he invited me to go to his house and stay with him for the night. We went searching for water and flashlights. The man only had gold fish to eat, some olives, nuts and vodka – but no real (he dined out a lot). When his best friend joined us we stayed up talking for hours. He took me to lunch all the time and shared his dreams and goals - - he was going to be big - - and had already achieved greatness. The week before he died he gave me this gift certificate - which I didn't open until after he died. One day when I was on the phone taking a message he just shoved it in front of me and said, "here this is for you... enjoy... you probably can only get a pair of earrings with this – but enjoy." When I opened the envelope after he died I found a $500 gift certificate to MaxMara (which is sort of like one of those stores on 5th Avenue where they serve you champagne and give you the star like treatment). I later received an email from a coworker who said to me... "you know Kevin told me he was giving you a gift certificate. He came up to me and said "can someone buy something really nice with this?" And she told him of course. When Kevin told her who the gift certificate was for - that he was giving it to Alicia - she said wow that's really nice of you - he responded - she's really nice to me.
You just don't forget people like him. But he too wore a mask – pretending to be happy at a job that no longer was bringing him the joy that it once did. He too had a story that no one knew - - the things that made him beautiful.
Oh yeah very important detail... November 4th is my father's birthday. Kevin Belden died on my dad's birthday. I truly believe its so I never forget. And I never will forget him.
The masks I've worn:
I wore a mask when I left Florida summer 2002 when I pretended all was right in my world
I wore a mask when I started working at a new job - pretending I could hold it down
I wore a mask meeting men pretending I was a complete person – the total package
I wore a mask for my daughter that we were ok - when we were one step away from being homeless
I wore a mask after my boss died (and he was the best boss EVA) and I was left dealing with finding him and pretending to be ok and that I could still do my job while pretending to like the people I was working with
I wore a mask when I went to work for the worse boss ever
So when we walk by people on the street we must remember that they matter - people are important in this world - people are valuable - - my mentor Kevin Belden... taught me that. He didn't have to care for me - or about my life – or about my child… but he did.
Its important to care what happens to the people around us. Its so important to connect with people - - everyone has a story. We have no idea why they where the masks they wear. But once we take the time to know someone, reach out to them and touch – we find that they're less likely to wear a mask while with you.
To Kevin Belden…I dedicate my first publication…we'll meet again!
To my father…Happy Birthday!