Front Loader

I used to always sit in the front of the room.

The front was the power position. Where the talented people lived.

New school year, new job, I boldly walked to the front. Convinced the world needed me and certain I needed recognition.

My notes were works of art, everything dotted and crossed. If someone wanted one, I gave them a dozen. Color-coded with a warm beverage on top. Every new challenge was a chance to show how smart and organized I’d become.

I was on track to be a high-powered attorney or one of those people companies bring in to turn things around. A woman who only wore red lipstick. A brilliant woman, well-read with fabulous hosiery and stare-worthy shoes.

Then I messed up.

Left my pen in the notebook too long and made an ugly blot. I forgot to sort and filter. Developed a blister on my heel that slowed my pace, and people started talking.

One day, I spilled something on my shirt and stood to scrub the stain. When I returned, my seat was gone. Taken by another up-and-comer.

I raised my hand. This was totally unfair. But no one could hear me now. All the front seats were taken, the middle section, too.

Eventually, my feet tired from standing in wait, so I took a spot in the back.

Everyone knew that was where the misfits dwelled. The girls who thought they could start a band and the guys who wrote poetry.

Nothing productive ever happened in the back. All they did was doodle.

But some of the greatest power players were born of adversity, so I sat tall, wore my highest heels despite the blisters, and waited. Someone would notice and call me up. It was my destiny to be in front.

Life grew long, and no amount of waving seemed to work. Things shifted from impossible to comfortable, and while I waited for my spot in front, I began to doodle.

None of it was any good, but I had nothing to lose there in the back.

There were days I erased a hole straight through the page, others when I completely ran out of paper and started using napkins and scraps. All the while keeping an eye forward, I grew older.

On the day I wore the bright yellow skirt and my hair was silky smooth, someone from the front walked back to sharpen her pencil. Her lipstick was a gorgeous shade of red, but she laughed ugly at my doodles on her way back up. She and the rest of the front-and-centers whispered of my wasted potential.

I slouched in my chair that day. Told myself I’d missed my chance, that the front had been snatched from me.

But on the morning it would not stop raining, I woke with puffy eyes and grabbed my paper and pens on instinct. I’d sold one of my doodles for the band’s new album cover and bought a pad to keep my doodles safe. They’d become important.

Tapping my foot almost every day now, I started adding color and shade. I filled pad after pad in the back of life until one day I was startled from my work.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder, someone from the front. I was so busy I’d forgotten about my stolen seat, forgotten to wait.

Cautious and braced for another critical blow, I glanced up.

“That’s incredible,” Red Lipstick said, looking at my pad. “You know, we could use someone like you. A seat has opened up in the front.”

I looked around, wondering if I should gather my things, but I wanted to hear one more song. The band was good. They could play anything now. And the walls in the back, once stained and drab were covered with poetry and gorgeous doodles just like mine.

So, I smiled at Red Lipstick, still envied her shoes, and stayed where I was. I liked the back and didn’t want to leave. There was simply too much to lose.

That’s all from the laundry room. Lie Back.

choices fears fun jobs words

14 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Oh, HOW did I miss this one? Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant. I still recall an exec I worked with asking my why I was “taking the off ramp” by returning to writing versus continuing to climb the ladder of corporate marketing. My reply should have been: “Because it makes me happy. Makes the hours fly. Gives me a life with my kids.” Took me a while to get over my ego issues:). It sounds like we’ve had a lot of similar experiences!

  2. Your writing is beautiful! I love the premise of your blog. As a mother of four (now five) I wrote a few essays of “Reflections on Laundry.” It’s a great activity for getting the mind moving. I’d love to stay and chat, but I need to go put in a load of laundry!

  3. Lovely post, Tracy.

    My husband used to say that the students at the front as well as in the back row were the ones to watch…the ones in the middle, not so much.

    Personally, I was one of the “back row bunch” and I still sit in the back whenever possible. ~nan

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