Growing up, I was surrounded by fearless women working hard at their blue collar jobs. I witnessed their grace and class, and learned to stand tall when the world tried to break me down.
At 19, my first real job at a fast food chain felt like the longest year of my life. That first year started with adult women calling me stupid to my face - over burgers and fries. Back then, I was shaken, but slowly learned to stand my ground with grace.
There I met Lucinda and Lois - women old enough to be grandmothers. Lois stood around five feet two inches, and she almost always glowed. She made us all laugh in spite of hard work, long hours, and low pay. Lucinda was quieter but always willing to help and sweet to everyone. I saw adult men shout in their faces, but Lois and Lucinda never let it bother them and before long they were laughing again. Working with Lucinda and Lois, I learned to react with maturity and strength.
Women who would work fifty hour weeks to take their kids on vacation or pay for their dance class or new jerseys. Women who put up with rude management just much as rude customers, never backing down, never shedding a tear, and on the chance they did they dried those tears and moved right along saying, "it's all grits n gravy." In their own lives, they were dealing with so much, financial troubles, divorce, custody battles, grief. At the same time intertwined with beautiful weddings, healthy babies, career advancements, and happy birthdays. They took each battle with grace, even the ones that should have broken them. I watched a woman full of such heartbreak collapse in tears one day, but she got back up, she dried her tears, she grew.
None of these women started out fearless, they all started as little girls. As we all grow up, we lose things and people we love and deal with pain and loss in so many forms. Life isn't supposed to be easy, but it shapes us into the strong people we become. If we fall down it doesn't make us weak. Getting back up is the way we grow and become fearless.
In food service I've met some of the strongest, kindest people, yet endured some of the worst. I currently work at a highly regarded restaurant, yet I still experience exaggerated behavior from people. I've learned that the only thing that makes you fearless is never giving up and learning from everyone around you. Even rude customers and managers have stories. Learn them. Let them make you better just like the fearless women who came before you.