One of the most eye opening moments in my career happened (luckily) in the very beginning. It was August of 2001, I was a "smart" (know-it-all) 19 year old who just graduated from cosmetology school and also was recently hired for my first position as a hairstylist. I was really excited to start working! I finally reached the moment when I could get out of the classroom and get behind the chair and do the "real" stuff. Like many salons do, the one I was hired to work for required that all stylists that have recently graduated from school go through an apprenticeship program. I was indifferent to doing it but I rolled with the punches, showed up to the workshops, and sort of paid attention. This was just a silly preliminary thing that I had to wait out so that I could move ahead and become a world class hair stylist to celebrities and royalty and do all the glamorous things. I knew I had the technique and the personality, but there was this little thing called humility that I was lacking.
Fast forward a month into the program, It's now the morning of September 11, 2001. I'm on my way to our Monday workshop which was something we were required to attend every week. It was our time to practice technique, make mistakes and ask questions to prepare us for when we work in the salon. Anyway, I arrived to the class (probably late) and headed to my work station to start unpacking my tools when I was approached by my boss. The words "Can I speak to you in my office?” made my heart sink and my stomach queasy. Although I can’t remember word for word what was said in that office, it was brought to my attention that my lack of enthusiasm along with the proper tools made it clear that I wasn’t taking this opportunity seriously. I can’t recall the whole conversation, but there was one line that will stick in my mind forever: “Allison, I can have you replaced like THAT”. The “THAT” was emphasized with a strong finger snap that shook me to the core. Like a hypnotist snapping his patient out of a trance. It was that very moment I knew I was fucking this up. Luckily, I was given one more chance to prove that I wasn’t really the audacious, lazy kid I was portraying.
While leaving the office, one of the educators informed me that class was canceled because terrorist attacks had occurred. Fear and shame fogged my head at the same time while I packed up my things and bolted to my car but I still didn't realize the severity of these events yet. Philadelphia on 9/11 was eerie. It was like a ghost town because everyone left the city by then to be home safe with their families. Now I have to admit, as a 19 year old self absorbed kid, even with all this tragedy around me, all I could think was "Why was this happening to me?" UGH. Typing that just makes me want to smack 19 year old Allison square in the face. That hour long drive home was a rough one. Guys, I was a HOT MESS. It wasn't until I walked in the door and saw my Mom in the living room, glued to the television with an expression of just utter shock and sorrow, that I had a reality check on what was really going on. Suddenly my little tift earlier that morning seemed like nonsense and thousands of people in the world would've traded mornings with me. I joined her on the couch next and for the rest of the day, we sat there unsuccessfully trying to make sense of what was going on in the world.
I'm not writing this to make any kind of comparison or minimize one of the most historical life /world changing events. I want to do this in the most respectful way that I can. My intention is to share an experience that helped me grow. You would've thought I'd be grateful that I was given a second chance and I wasn't booted on the spot. No, I had moments of wanting to just quit that salon because I was so ashamed. I could find another salon, right? Or maybe I'll just switch careers all together. I knew deep down inside that this was, and still is, what I'm supposed to do. I took it as a challenge to prove everyone and myself wrong. In retrospect, if I would've just walked away and let my discouragement and pride get the best of me, then I wasn't passionate enough about the craft in the first place. Fast forward 18 years and I'm still working for the same salon. There have been great opportunities for growth and tears of frustration, and I love it all. I'm not here to say "Look at me now!". I'm still on a long journey and I have a million and one things I want to try in my career. Life has and will always present challenges that will test our inner strength. So, if anyone is reading this and feels like giving up, ask yourself WHY? Because it's hard? Or because it's not serving you anymore for the better. Sometimes letting go can be a good thing if it's coming from a place of self awareness or your goals have shifted. But if you think you might regret not trying harder at "that thing" when you look back in 1, 5, 20 years, there's your answer.