Thinking Like Cinderella – Or, Your Godmother Isn’t Coming

A victim waiting for a hero remains a victim.

Or, to rephrase the same principle: An ordinary person waiting to be transformed by an extraordinary event… remains ordinary.

Consider Cinderella.

Events moved her from a comfortable position (favorite daughter of a doting father) to an uncomfortable position (father dies, leaving her in the care of wicked stepmother and co.).

She remains in this new position, doing housework, fetching and carrying and slaving away, singing as she works, (and befriending the household vermin, depending on which version of the story you prefer), and does… nothing.

Oh, she works very hard, but it’s the same hard work every day. Actions → consequences; same actions → same consequences. In other words, Cinderella does as much to maintain the status quo as her persecutors.

And there’s no doubt that she would be there still, scrubbing the floors and singing to the soap bubbles, if events hadn’t intervened again, all but forcing her into Prince Charming’s arms.

(Even keeping in mind that Cinderella lived in a pre-industrial, pre-suffrage world, with limited economic opportunities for anybody, she could still have taken some kind of action. Presumably she knew how to read and write, since her father was a wealthy merchant. Didn’t any of the shopkeepers in town want a wife who could do sums? She could have run away and joined a convent, if nothing else.)

I love fairy tales, but they are fairy tales – and in our non-fairy world, it’s dangerous to think and act as though we expect our fairy godmother to come along at any moment and arrange our marriage….

… or our career change, or our education, or our makeover, or our happiness….

Any day can be a day that changes your life. I think it depends a lot less on circumstances than on how closely you’re paying attention.

I’ll share one day that changed my life, because I was paying attention.

I was unemployed (strike one), still living at home with my parents (strike two), and unhappy about it (strike three). My former employer had gone out of business, and I was looking (not very hard) for a job that would pay enough to either cover the gas for the commute (and it would be a long commute – my parents live a long way from everywhere) or enough for me to move out into my own apartment. I had no college degree and very little work experience, and it seemed nobody was hiring at the wage level I calculated I needed to move out or commute – or at least, they weren’t hiring people like me. (This was not long after the 2008 crash.)

To kill time while I waited for the magic job to appear, I enrolled in a class at the local junior college. (Forty-five minutes from home, one way, nothing but empty highway and lonely gas stations on the way. I told you this was the middle of nowhere.) I no longer remember what the class was.

The first night, the instructor asked us to introduce ourselves to the class with our name and our goal or purpose for taking the course.

I have never heard any room of otherwise unrelated strangers sound so unanimous.

I’m waiting for a job opening.

I’m waiting for the economy to improve.

I’m waiting for a better….

I’m waiting until…

I’m waiting…

Normally this would be my cue to feel superior (always a lovely warm feeling). But as the introduction train made its way to me, I stood up and heard myself say “I’m waiting to get a good enough job so I can afford to move out.”

The instructor’s polite expression read somewhere between disgust and despair. She looked around the room of Cinderellas, and you could see her thinking: What am I supposed to do with this lot?

I did a lot of thinking on the drive home. (One of the great benefits of living in Nowhere, USA; you have lots of time to think while you drive.)

I didn’t know what I could do, but I decided that I would stop waiting. No more drifting along hoping vaguely for a fairy godmother or angel investor or lottery ticket to change the course of my life. I was going to do something.

(I had a job within three days; I moved out of my parents’ house a week after that. But that’s a different story.)

The only reason we know Cinderella – besides the nonsense with the glass slippers – is because her fairy godmother took matters into her own hands.

Cinderella was just waiting.

And she would have kept waiting forever if her fairy godmother had lost her address or her wand or her interest.

Waiting is easy. All you have to do is keep doing what you’ve always done. Sure, nothing will change, but you’ll never be surprised or disappointed. Dissatisfied, but not disappointed.

I love fairy tales, but I don’t live in one.

Neither do you.

Stop thinking like Cinderella. Stop waiting, and act.

What Will You Do to Prove You’re No Coward?

Dares haven’t moved me since I was seven or so.  I don’t care if anyone else thinks I’m a coward. Most people who care about dares are idiots. For evidence: the Darwin Awards.

But apparently I care a lot if I think I’m a coward.

I chickened out of something last week, and now I’m sorry.

I had an assignment from my business class to interview ten business owners. I talked to a few, but I didn’t talk to ten… mostly because calling strangers and asking them personal questions is outside my comfort zone.

Leaving the assignment incomplete bothered me, but not nearly as much as feeling like a coward.

So I started the new week looking for a way to prove my non-cowardice to myself.

And then someone announced a blood drive this Saturday.

Now, I have a thing about needles.

Not a fear of needles.

I assure you, when I walk across an empty parking lot after dark, I don’t look over my shoulder for any needles sneaking up on me. I don’t turn pale when I see a pack of needles in the craft section. When I was learning how to quilt and the sewing machine needle ran over my finger, it didn’t give me nightmares.

So not a fear.

But when the healthcare professionals in my life draw my blood to determine What’s Wrong With Her (‘There must be something to explain it,’ they say), I begin experiencing the following symptoms before the needle even touches my skin: shortness of breath, chills, dizziness, nausea, faintness, weakness, clamminess, blurred vision, buzzing in the ears….

It’s just a thing. Definitely not a phobia. Who needs one of those?

And I’m always very proud of the bandage they give me. Look! I want to say. I bled for this! And I didn’t even punch anybody for sticking a needle in me!

So, because it’s not comfortable to live with the ‘COWARD??’ label hanging around in my head, me and my thing are going to a blood drive this morning.

For the first time.

They’re going to take a whole pint.

(I am going to die.)

And maybe next time I need to do something uncomfortable, I’ll remember that it’ll be much less painful to do the uncomfortable thing now than to do the terrifying thing I come up with later to reassure myself of my non-cowardice.

I’m sure this says something about my character. Or my mental health.

Or both.

Wish me luck.

[Update: I live! And now I have this t-shirt. I won’t call it free, since I had to bleed for the darn thing, but it is a nice t-shirt. And with the COWARD label banished once more, all is well in the world. For now….. (ominous music)]