Thursday, April 7, 2022

Microstory 1859: Life Coach

When you were a kid, did anyone ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up? I’m sure at least one person did, it’s such a common question. This world is so obsessed with placing value on people based on what they do for work, how hard they work at it, and how far they go because of it. I never put much stock into this, to use a relevant metaphor. If the idea behind it is to make the money you need to live a happy life, then I get it, but work itself has no value. And what should it matter what your actual job is, as long as it’s positive, and you’re generally satisfied with your life—because, or in spite of, it? I was first asked this question when I was pretty young. Most of the kids answered with the usual suspects; astronaut, rockstar, professional athlete. A few others wanted to own their own businesses, but even those were predictable, like an ice cream shop, or a dance studio. I guess that second one’s pretty cool, and if I recall correctly, he actually went on to do that. Me, I had trouble giving my answer. Back then, the phrase life coach wasn’t a thing, so even if I had come up with the term myself, my teacher wouldn’t have been able to understand. It was my dream to help others realize their own dreams, in whatever form that might take. Fortunately, this wasn’t a graded assignment, for if it had been, I surely would have failed, because I just could not explain the idea. Of course now, it’s really easy. You may not garner anyone’s respect if you tell them that’s what you do, but at least they’ll grasp the concept. I’ll tell you, though, that I’m not one of those new age, meditate into the universe, and it will return what you want kind of people. I require my clients to have realistic and clearly defined goals in mind. I can’t promise fame and fortune, but I guarantee reasonable results.

Starting out was really tough, and I relied on my parents’ help to survive while I was getting off the ground. They were more supportive of me than they should have been, but also not blindly accepting. They helped me make it a reality by setting clear expectations for myself. People sometimes say that I was the first life coach, but my mom would have to assume that title, because she coached me on how to coach others. As I said, people back then didn’t know what I was selling, so word of mouth was the only way it got going. My first few clients were women who were looking for a nice man to marry. I didn’t explicitly spurn the idea of just being a matchmaker, but I didn’t want to let that become my whole business. I wanted a diversity of clients. Then I met a guy who changed everything. All he wanted to do was be better at communicating with people. I imagine he would have been diagnosed with a social disorder had he been born later in the timeline. He found it quite difficult to socialize with other people, and to sit for job interviews. He needed to learn basic skills that other people take for granted, and that was perfect, because I had no trouble with those, and I knew I could teach him. He ended up being so good at these things—because he really just needed to slip out of his shell—that he created more and more business for me. I shed my potentially dangerous identity as a matchmaker, and started pulling in all sorts of clients. One of them wanted help finding a trustworthy math tutor for her son. Another needed to raise funds for a guitar, so he could learn to play. I did a lot with education. Back then, you couldn’t just search the internet for a teacher. There’s no end to this story; this is just what I did with my life, and I can go to the big sleep now, fulfilled and grateful to the world.

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