14: The Leather Skirt

14: The Leather Skirt

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible

The Leather Skirt

Action is the foundational key to all success.

~Pablo Picasso

The day Kevin moved out he moved his money with him. I took a job cashiering in a grocery store to get food on the table.

I tried to avoid leaving the house in the morning at the same time as the lady across the street. She was a teacher who wore nice clothes and carried a briefcase. I wore a uniform — a white button-down shirt, aqua vest, bowtie, and polyester pants with a large elastic waistband. All I needed was a red rubber nose and a Bozo wig.

Each day I was allotted a fourteen-minute break. I’d head for the hot case, hoping to snag a warm snack, eating with my cellphone cradled between my shoulder and ear. But then unwelcome voicemails would divert my attention, all from creditors. I’d never get to have that snack.

One day, I was heading back to my register after yet another disquieting “break” when I saw my inspiration. It was that time of day when the “professionals” were vacating their offices and heading for their condos. It usually meant a stop for something to grill and a bottle of wine to complement their meal.

The first thing I saw was her feet. I don’t remember exactly what her shoes looked like, but they were not purchased on a BOGO at a discount store: they were leathery perfection only seen in a Manolo Blahnik advertisement.

My eyes traveled upward. She did not limit her leather selection to her feet. From her slender waist to just below the knee she was wrapped in a gorgeous shade of brown leather with no trace of realitystar overly tight tackiness. Perfectly paired with her masterpiece of a skirt was a short-sleeved, black turtle-necked sweater.

The minute she walked away her cellphone rang. I knew she wasn’t hearing from her creditors. I imagined the new fashion lines from Paris had just arrived and Versace was calling to make sure everything was in order. I was hooked, fascinated, enthralled with someone who seemed so empowered while I was… how shall I say it? Not.

I did the unthinkable. I flipped my till light off and followed her. She pulled a fancy keychain from her matching leather bag and I heard a melodic chirp. I watched her walk over to a sleek, black BMW just like she owned it — because she did. Standing in the parking lot, wearing my clown suit, I watched her drive off.

Even though it wasn’t the wisest thing to do, I started comparing our lives. There was no way that woman was in danger of her electricity being shut off. It was unthinkable that she had a combative, soon to be ex-husband making her life miserable. How did I know? Because what was on the outside was too powerful, too successful, too in charge. She would have hired the best attorney in town and crushed the person who tried to take her children, her life, her leather skirt, her BMW or her very essence.

Standing in the parking lot, still on the clock, wearing my bowtie, I made a decision. I wanted to be that leather skirt–wearing, BMW-driving woman when I grew up.

When I grew up? Yes, I needed to grow up.

I knew that if I wanted to get from here to there, I needed to grow. If I wanted to have more confidence, more options, more essence, I needed to become more. Some growth happens naturally. But sometimes we need to grow on purpose. I needed an intentional, daily plan to grow myself — to become more than a scared, clown-suit-wearing, low self-esteem victim. A leather skirt and a BMW became the symbols for me of what I needed: new skill sets, improved outlook, wise choices and a definite plan to succeed in life.

It was going to require daily action. No matter how crazy, disappointing or unsettling life was, taking action to grow myself every single day would keep me moving forward.

So there would be less chance of failure, I kept it simple: I chose five things I could do every single day. I figured if I only chose two or three, it might not be a big enough commitment, but more than five would be overwhelming and cause me to abandon the process. I personally decided to:

1. Have a devotional time to build my faith.

2. Exercise for at least twenty minutes to feel confident about my physical appearance.

3. Read twenty minutes from a book written by someone successful so I could be motivated to better myself.

4. Set some goals for the year and review them every day so I wouldn’t drift off target.

5. Use my drive time to listen to a positive, encouraging message on CD because I knew that my attitude would determine my altitude.

My five tasks gave me something to look forward to every day and empowered me in the sense that I was gaining knowledge, improving my health, becoming more proactive, and feeling more in command of my life.

I didn’t get a leather skirt or a BMW right away, but almost immediately I noticed that my life became more stable, even though I still had to deal with unstable situations. My stability was starting on the inside and working its way out. As I became more stable on the inside, more grounded and secure, I became more able. I noticed I held my head higher and walked and talked with more confidence and authority.

Within two months, I was able to hang up my bowtie and accept a better paying position elsewhere. Six months later, I became a manager for an international organization and received a significant pay increase. In less than a year, I went from being homeless to qualifying for a quarter-million-dollar mortgage.

It really wasn’t about owning a leather skirt — although I now have two — it was about wanting to improve my condition in life. In order to do that, I needed to improve. It all started with a decision that required daily action. And my diligence paid off.

~Debra Perleberg

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