It's been exactly a year since I left my corporate job. I remember the day well, having conquered the organizational challenge (really what I do best) of tying up every loose end from importing 2189 contacts into my new laptop with its new hard drive to sync with my new email account, which would go on my new engraved cards, which I would be handing out ASAP! All office paraphernalia had been packed and moved. I even took a freelance writing assignment that week to make sure I didn't sleep at all. I was a Type A making my escape, which deep down I knew had to involve discovering a Type B that had been run over. My last day, I toted a mere rollie bag to the office.
As I left the building, the last person I saw was the woman who hired me. She said, "You look like you're getting on a plane!" The Freedom Tour began that moment as I said, "Yes, I am" and proceeded to JFK, onto the overnight flight that would land me in a pick-up truck in the green hills of Uruguay. Free at last.
If you had told me I would be selling beauty products on TV a year later I wouldn't have believed you. Well, technically I'm not selling them, I'm the on-air "beauty expert" for a high-end skin care brand from Europe, the host on a home shopping channel is doing the selling. When this idea was first presented to me, in between the Uruguay and Big Sur legs of The Freedom Tour, I couldn't have been less interested. Why would I want to cross that forbidden line and go commercial? In publishing, the concept of "church and state" was so ingrained in editors and publishers too; there really was something constitutional about staying on your own floor.
My first trip to Tampa, home of the shopping channel, was like entering an alternative reality, Vegas-style. Where are the clocks? Why are people sleeping on the couch? All the snacks are insta-calories laced with MSG. The speed at which this 24/7 operation works is dizzying. In fact the hosts are often sped from studio to studio in wheelchairs pushed by the Production Assistants; it's faster than the scurrying in Broadcast News. I know of at least one who hit a cord and went flying, but she still made it on camera in time for her next promo. The hosts have photographic memories, scanning their note cards and connecting with their loyal fans milliseconds later, their true talent.
I do not have a photographic memory. I trained and studied and jousted with the legal team. My first visit last May was daunting, trying to hear the director's faint voice in my ear bud while reading the preview screens without my glasses. I was so concerned with getting it right, I wasn't getting it.
Now, I have to admit, I have a special place in my heart for my home shopping channel, my monthly home away from home. Walking down the corridors past the marvels, I smile at the electric woks and jewelry that never tarnishes, salad tools that chop and toss simultaneously, I wave to the Roombas and bison burgers, collapsible colanders, flexible mixing bowls, I secretly covet the leopard-print scarves and of course the little egg-shaped device that removes all the dead skin from your feet and then some. I don't think about the old rules that would never have let me do this. My yoga teacher talks about "unwrapping the Buddha within" and before I go on camera I repeat this to myself. Then I laugh at how ridiculous it is that I'm calling on my inner Buddha to sell skin care on TV. But it does the trick.
I've loosened up. I am fine now with the low-talking director and the chatty host. In fact, I like it. I can even talk into the camera and see out of the corner of my eye how many units have sold. It's a challenge to be awake at 3 am, let alone perky. But, maybe like the sleepless moms and the insomniac worriers, I feel comforted knowing there's someone else out there, watching and listening even if it's just for a second with the sound off while their husband snores nearby.
In thinking about my one year anniversary, I didn't know last year where I would be today and I ended up someplace that wasn't in the plan. That, of course, could also be because I didn't have a plan, which may be the first sign that the Type B survived my former life and is going to make a full recovery.