I’ll start this post off by telling all of you that I’m fine. I promise. But, for a while, I wasn’t so sure. Two days after my last mammogram I was called back for more tests. Getting a mammogram once a year never really bothered me. After having a dozen or so already, it is all routine to me at this point. Do not use any deodorant or powder on the day of the test. Try to remember the last day of my period and curse myself for not writing it down on my calendar (again). Figure out the best way to put on the green shirt that opens in the front. Sit in the smaller room with several other green-shirted ladies waiting their turn. It only takes five minutes for the technician to take some pretty pictures and then I check mammogram off my to do list and go about the rest of my day. It’s always the days after the mammogram that concerned me the most. I’m sure I never noticed before that I was holding my breath waiting for a letter or a phone call. For all those years, I got the letter in the mail and breathed a sigh of relief. This time, for the first time, I got the phone call and I couldn’t breathe. “We’d like you to come back for more tests,” she said. “97% of the time everything is fine,” she said. But we just have to make sure,” she said. My doctor rattled off all the reasons it could possibly be that I had to go back. The machine wasn’t working properly. Maybe I’ve gained a little weight. And things change as you get older. Clearly, this wasn’t the first time she gave this speech to one of her patients. But then, she ended the call by telling me to take a few deep breaths, go back to work and try not to worry. And I wanted to say – you mean go back to the non-profit I work for where I write stories about people with cancer all day long? What a great idea! Two weeks later, I went back to the imaging center and it was anything but routine. But, I knew whatever the results were, I could handle it. I put on the same green shirt that month and sat in the same small waiting room. The nurse checked my insurance information and handed me a laminated purple paper describing the reason for the test and what to expect. I looked around at the other ladies in the room and saw a few of them holding the same purple paper I don’t know why I never noticed that before. Since they read the results right there, I had to wait…and wait…and wait. I felt like my whole future was in someone else’s hands…beyond my control. I tried to distract myself, but my phone wasn’t charged (of all days!). I walked over to the pitiful selection of magazines on the end table–several issues of Golf Digest and Good Housekeeping from last Christmas. Not one People magazine. I took a cat nap instead. And after what seemed like hours, but was really only about 20 minutes or so–I was given the good news. I was fine–more then fine–healthy. And then she gave me a big smile, patted me on the back and said, “see you next year.” And I finally breathed a sigh of relief.
It took me forever to get comfortable attending networking events. I used to think these gatherings were not for me, but better suited for salespeople who wanted to land their next client. I often felt like a fish in a barrel waiting for one of them to reel me in with their schpiel. As a writer, the whole situation actually makes for good material. Each attendee has a backstory and a reason for being there. Some have a game plan or no game whatsoever. A few work the room with ease while others consider themselves successful because they got up the nerve to walk through the door. When attending these events, I always took the “fake it til you make it” approach. I’m not a wallflower, but I’m not a salesman either. I am pretty good at small talk, so my strategy revolved around feigning self-confidence and walking up to someone who looked just as uncomfortable as I did, say hello and start up a conversation. Most of the time, it was a good experience–although there were some duds. We would practice our elevator pitches on each other, play the “do you know so and so” game, and then exchange business cards. Later, at home, I would find them on LinkedIn and add them to my contacts. I met one of my good friends at a conference in Boston over 15 years ago. We were among the first to arrive, sat down together and introduced ourselves. As we made small talk, we found that we had a lot in common and we haven’t stopped talking since. She is an amazing person who encourages me to be my best self. I’m so glad I decided to sit next to her. I have actually met a lot of friends in the same way–through networking. You just never know who you are going to meet and how you can help each other out. The more events I went to–the more amazing people I met and the better I got at this networking thing. I even started to enjoy myself. Nowadays, my goal is to meet at least half the people in the room. It doesn’t need to be everyone, but it can’t just be one person either. I ask questions and get them to talk about themselves.My ultimate goal is to see how I can be of help to them instead of the other way around. I think that makes a lasting impression on people and later when I connect with them on LinkedIn, they remember me and often return the favor. What is your game plan when it comes to networking?
I can still remember the little brick butcher shop around the corner from my childhood home where my dad and sister would wait for my mom to come home from work off the NJ Transit bus. We would often go inside to say hi to Bob the butcher and wander around the store. And when we were good little girls, Dad would buy us Tic Tacs. I would always get the green spearmint ones. I can trace back my penchant for Tic Tacs to this one childhood memory–and I never grew out of it. If you have ever lived with me or traveled with me or sat in the cubicle next to me or have just been around me for a short or a long period of time, you know I always have Tic Tacs in my purse. They stopped making the green ones a long time ago and I had to adjust my tastes to the orange flavored ones instead. I am nothing if not flexible, but you will never will you see a Certs or Lifesavers in my possession. Only Tic Tacs. With my strong political opposition to our current president, you would think that his own liking for Tic Tacs taken before harassing a young and beautiful soap opera star would deter me, but it hasn’t. I like to think he popped the Fresh Mint variety—which are my least favorite kind and therefore that makes it okay. I don’t know what it is exactly about the Tic Tacs that I like. I can tell you that when I get anxious and my stomach starts to feel uneasy–they are the first thing I take and automatically feel much better. I guess you could say they are my own bizarre kind of comfort food. They are also truly the most inconvenient mint I could possibly purchase. All of the other mints are nicely packed in quiet paper wrappers or come in a muted tin box. Tic Tacs are loud and proud. They are not shy and there is just no way to sneak one out of its plastic container without everyone knowing about it. And yet, I am known to shake one (or 6) of them out at a time during a Shabbat service, a wedding, a funeral or a school play. My family and friends are well aware of my Tic Tac habit. As an April Fools joke, a “shakeless” version of the packaging was advertised on the Tic Tacs website and someone immediately thought of me. It was covered in bubble wrap. Hilarious! For my birthday, Jenna bought me a Vera Bradley backpack and encouraged me to look inside where I found 2 boxes of tic tacs. I have to admit, I’m not sure which gift I loved more. Priceless! Friends from far away see Tic Tacs in the store and think of me, fondly I hope. So sweet! Even my husband buys me for no apparent reason. Some husbands send flowers, but this is much less expensive and makes me equally as happy. Ah…true love!