I have been surrounded by Great Women my entire life, and I have been lucky enough to have been deeply, greatly influenced by them as I grew into the woman I am now and intend to become as I continue to grow into the woman I will be.
Two of these women I would like to talk about, briefly, now.
The first of whom is a woman who impacted my life through high school, the second is a woman who employed me while I financially supported myself through my first round of college years, who, only a few years ago, heard my cry and spoke the perfect four words into my ear.
I grew up doing gymnastics, and it wasn't until the spring semester of my freshman year of high school that I took my first dance class in my second-mother's local gym. I loved it, quit gymnastics, and was enrolled in ballet and jazz classes for the following fall, the beginning of my sophomore year of high school.
My ballet teacher was/is a woman named Jeni Ptacek. And when I think of my life, right now, I basically modeled my entire life after her. She did everything. She was not only the teacher of her ballet studio, Crystal River Ballet, she was also the bookkeeper, assistant, scheduler, etc., of that business. Not only that, she hand-sewed, herself, ALL of the costumes for every production. Not only that, she single-handedly managed all of those productions. Not only that, she designed and painted ALL of the sets for her productions.
I do not lie when I tell you that SHE DID EVERYTHING.
And so, in essence, she proved to me that it's possible ... EVERYTHING. She made me want to do EVERYTHING, too. She influenced my decision to become an artist as opposed to a doctor (yes, I literally went to college to become a doctor and was given tons of money to do so, fact). I also sew, paint, dance, and own and run my own business. I do it all because I knew that I could, because Jeni showed me that she could.
When I dropped out of college after my junior year at Baylor University, she reached out to me within the first few days I arrived back home. She didn't ask me how I was doing. She didn't need to catch up with me. She didn't even find out why I dropped out. She called me into the studio, and told me that there's an opportunity to dance in Syracuse, New York. She has the camera all set up, and she'll get my application in the mail tomorrow.
She warmed me up and recorded my audition tape. Six weeks later I was moving into a house in Syracuse, New York to dance full-time as a trainee in a very modest ballet company. After my trainee-ship, I enrolled at the University of Colorado and I finished up my degrees. The week before I left, we met for coffee and she gave me the most beautiful dance bag in the history of dance bags. My relationship with dance changed, and I got rid of it, with all my other dance stuff, and now that it's changed again, I wish I still had that bag.
During the summers between college semesters, I worked at the local restaurant, Tempranillo, a Spanish restaurant that prided itself on its tapas at a time when tapas were just getting hot, as a server. The owners were a married couple, Laura Maine, the manager, and Javier (never knew his last name?), the chef. They were one sexy couple. Let me tell ya. Laura Maine is one of those like old-money beauties, perfect hair, perfect white teeth, perfectly fitting crisp shirts, etc. In short, I wanted nothing more than to not only win her approval, but also, I wanted to be her when I grew up. She was filled with so much grace and understanding.
One summer, after working six nights a week (every other shift being doubles) for four weeks, I melted down and started crying when the bar tender was short with me. She, the bar tender, sent me back to see Laura.
When I appeared in her doorway, she looked at me, and was like, "What happened?" And I was like, "I'm so tired. You never give me any days off." She literally laughed, "You've never asked for a single day off. Why would I schedule you off? I want you here." Sniffling, I sniffed, "What?" She stopped what she was doing, told me to sit down, and then looked at me, "You, Tiffany, will have to ask for time off if you want it. Nobody is going to not want you to work. Go home. Take the day off. When you come back, tell me what you need your schedule to be." Sniffling still, "Okay. Thanks."
Ten years later, I find myself in a predicament while working with "some guy" on opening his restaurant in Seattle, Washington.
It was the type of situation that I had not really ever found myself in, and I could not wrap my head around the situation because I couldn't put my finger on the problem. After about four weeks of misery, I finally got desperate enough to reach out to Laura. I hadn't spoken to her in, like I said, about ten years.
First I sent off an email. She replied with her phone number and a "call any time" within the day. I mustered the courage to pick up the phone and called her the next day. When she picked up, she said, "What's the problem." I explained to her the situation I was in, and when I was finished she said,
"Does he get it?"
I was stunned into silence. She said exactly the right thing to unlock what was happening. Nervous that I had wasted her time, I giggled it off cause it was so absurdly simple, and then I asked her what they were up to, business wise. She updated me about their new endeavor, the Old Snowmass gas station! I was so excited for her and them. It was so great to hear that she was still being awesome.
We hung up, and that was that.
Four years later, I'm sitting here recounting the impact of these two women on my life.
The enormity of their influence is undeniable.
I am a product of the work and words that were instilled in me by women who cared and who knew, because I am, apparently, on some path following behind them.