This holiday season brought new memories, lots of reminiscing and words of wisdom that can be heard only from the mouths of your eldest relatives. My great aunt and uncle are approaching 90 years of age and though their health may be declining, their minds are reaching maximum capacity. They have seen it all, lived through most aspects of life and collected endless wisdom along the way.
Sitting on their couch, a couch that once belonged to my grandmother and holds sentiment of its own, I learned more in one hour than any self help book can offer. What began as lighthearted conversation eventually turned to the dreaded topic of careers. While I am proud of my current position in life, it is not what most would refer to as “successful.” As I quickly tried to barrel through my anxieties of what they may think of my current barista status, my aunt said something that stuck with me. She said, “It’s okay to be late coming back from lunch. Better yet, find a group to be late with, they can’t fire all of you right?” My mom and I laughed, but those words meant more to me than I think she’ll ever know.
That simple statement brought a feeling of ease, of truth and of the simplicity surrounding the fundamentals of life. We all put on a face of exhaustion, it is a competition, who can be the most drained from work today? Society tells us that if you’re only working 8 hours a day you’re already behind. If you’re a barista, you must not be able to find a “real job.” But the truth is, when you’re 90, the memories that stick with you are from those extra 30 minutes spent at lunch and the conversations you have while serving a cup of coffee. It is the time spent in genuine connections and in fields that inspire you to start those conversations.
Of course I write this all metaphorically. If taking an extra 30 minutes at lunch will get fired, then take that 30 minutes elsewhere. You can engage with the world in a different way and still find just as much success. The extra 30 minutes you spend in daily interactions bring you that much closer to the heart of humanity. It all revolves around conversations and the enormous impact that asking a question can provide.
Throughout my work in customer service, I’ve realized how much even 30 seconds of attention can mean to someone. I’ve watched the look go across so many people’s faces when you take the time to invest in them. It is powerful and it sticks with you just as much as it does with them.
So take any opportunity you can to be late coming back from lunch. Be the beginning of an open-ended question that leads to responses you could never imagine. Don’t take it from me, take it from a 90-year-old woman who has been the start to that question for countless individuals throughout her life.