The Meaning Behind the Motto

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I don’t remember the exact moment I created this motto but I do remember why. I was working at a dry cleaners in Logan, Utah as a freshman in college.

This was not a pleasant work environment. I swear everyone walked around with scrunched eyebrows and a permanent scowl on their face. The steam made everyone sweat. I was one of the lucky ones that got to work near the opened front door that welcomed any form of a breeze.

The man and his sister had continued their parents’ business from the 70’s. I’m sure their childhood memories consisted of running through the plastic covered clothes trying not to get burned by the washers, irons, pipes, or steamers.

There was not one empty corner in the building. The entire space was taken up by rows and rows of clothes pinned with handwritten paper receipts from dates of yesterday to five years previous. The owner was the only man that worked there.

Ladies were stationed throughout the maze of clothing and hangers. Hunched on old wooden chairs to complete their duties of either hemming, ironing, or steaming. It was like walking through a minefield. One wrong step and KABOOM you’ve just messed up the assembly line. And if you did, she would be sure to let you know.

She sat in a dim lit corner. Her duty was ironing pants. I feared working near her. Although her hands never stopped ironing, her eyes would wander, peering through gaps of hanging clothes studying everyone’s moves. She criticized my performance from her station and when she got out of her chair to further condemn me I knew I had really messed up.

I wasn’t made for this environment. The heat got to my head. Totaling the prices of services on a calculator only produced errors. I would sweat so much the handwritten tickets would stick and smear. I always felt dizzy and dehydrated. Most customers were angry their shirts were over starched, late for pickup, or an item got lost in the sea of cotton.

One day she got angry. It was a day I’ll never forget. I had made one too many mistakes for her and her brother’s liking. She got out of her chair and faced me square on, our heights were similar so our eyes met. She didn’t raise her voice but spoke in a very obvious pissed-off, sassy-like tone. Hand motions filled the space between us but it all became a blur as I looked into her eyes.

I’ve never seen such emptiness like I did in this moment. Her eyes were black. Not only black but lifeless. I couldn’t even get upset from her chewing me out because her tirade was emotionless.

After weeks of overhearing her talk about drama on reality T.V., speak ill about her ex-husband, and see her unhealthy lifestyle I questioned what her motives for life were.

What made her stay in a job she obviously hated? What caused her to be so angry and live such a negative life? I left with all these unanswered questions.

It turned into one underlying question, What are you living for? Knowing I’d never know her answer, I turned the question to myself. What am I living for?

I felt sad. Not for myself or the mistakes I was consistently making at work. I felt sad because I saw emptiness in her. Someone who had has potential but has never done anything about it. Her eyes still pierce my memory. I couldn’t give an honest description of her appearance but I’ll never forget the hollowness in her eyes.

So I pondered the question. It ran through my head like a record on repeat. What am I living for? What am I living for? What am I living for? 

As many people in their early twenties do, I did a lot of soul searching throughout my college years. It was during this time I created my motto of what I’m living for. It’s different for all of us and I’d love to hear yours!

I will be writing more about the meaning behind my motto in future posts so stay tuned! Thanks for reading!

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