At a Club Med all-inclusive resort somewhere exotic. It’s 7:30 am, the alarms goes off. I have exactly 25 minutes to get ready for my shift as a front desk clerk at the resort I work and live in. I quickly put on my clothes having taken a shower the night before, brush my hair and put it in a ponytail and then start the transformation process. By putting on my make-up and uniform I slowly morph into the friendly receptionist who never has a bad day, not a request is too much to ask, goes above and beyond to provide excellent service to the customers. My workday starts as soon as I walk out of my room, greeting guests, wishing them a wonderful day. Helping a couple with directions to the tennis courts. When I arrive at the front desk at 8am, there is already a line forming to sign up for the Brazilian Steakhouse on the property. Guest are arguing with each other about who arrived first as I start to take their names. The restaurant only has a limited amount of space and it fills up quickly, leaving some of the guests disappointed. They are quite vocal about their disappointment. It’s 8:15 am and so far I have been insulted and disrespected at least twice. I am taking it all in with a smile. This is the “I never have a bad day” me, “no doesn’t exist in my vocabulary” me. This is the version of me that has a big wall protecting the real me.
My shift ends at 12:30 pm and I am immediately requested by the pool to join the team to dance to some very specific choreographed songs (crazy signs). Lunch follows, and as required we continue to interact with the guests over our meal. Everyday it’s the same story; inquiring where they are from, how long are they staying, have they checked out our wonderful excursions? Then the interrogation begins. How long have I worked here, have I always been at the front desk, what other resorts have I been at….
At 2 pm I am back at the front desk for my second shift. A group of new guests have just arrived and they are unhappy with their rooms. Unfortunately the resort is sold out and we are not able to accommodate their request for a change. I am once again insulted, it’s my fault the resort is sold out; it’s my fault the room has a palm tree in front of their window and obstructs their ocean view.
6 pm – finally I have a break. I get back to my room. I have an hour to change and be at the resort lobby to mingle with the guests before dinner.
Dinner follows, more questions from the guests. Then it’s time for the show. Every night the resort staff performs a show of music, song and dance. As soon as the show is over part of the staff goes to perform a secondary show at the nightclub, while another group remains in the theater, including me, to rehearse for a new show, which is to premiere in a few days.
At 12:30am I finally get back to my room and have a chance to take a shower and remove the make-up. I am back being me for a few precious hours, before the entire circus starts all over again.
Having worked and lived in these all-inclusive resorts has allowed me to travel the world, learn new languages and I got to meet beautiful people, fascinating people, pop stars, Olympians and even a former US president!
I had a great time, but that wasn’t really me. I had become what I would like to call a “robot”, going through the motions of what I was taught to do and say, but I left the real me back in my room. I was very unconscious about this at the time. In my mind, that was my life until it wasn’t.
My identity was lost and I was operating from a mind place, cognitively knowing what to do, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was living two different lives.
What I also realized is that the memories of that time are very vague, therefore I don’t remember a lot. I had unknowingly put my life on hold, memories included.
We only have one life (as far as we know), and living two or sometimes three different lives sounds fun, interesting and even intriguing, it can also be exhausting. So how do we step out of that cycle and work towards living fully?
The first step towards living more fully is the acknowledgement that you are not and you become conscious of it. I felt like I didn’t have control over my life, but my life was, in a way, controlling me. I had taken the backseat to my life’s journey and I needed to crawl from that uncomfortable backseat, over the console, back to firmly sitting behind the wheel.
I had started to dislike the person I had become, and in my personal experience, the biggest hurdle was accepting who I am, taking ownership, claiming me, and not becoming this persona that I felt others wanted me to be. This took a lot of time and courage; I had created a large amount of insecurities about myself, always wanting to live up to what I believed were other’s expectations until I realized that I was the one setting those expectations. I am slowly letting go of my own expectations, and it is giving me an incredible sense of freedom.
Letting go is allowing me to see the world differently, the colors are more vibrant, and there is an aliveness I hadn’t seen in a long time.
I am being, I am being me
“If other people do not understand our behavior—so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us. If this is being “asocial” or “irrational” in their eyes, so be it. Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them. How many lives have been ruined by this need to “explain,” which usually implies that the explanation be “understood,” i.e. approved. Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds, your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself—to his reason and his conscience—and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.” Erich Fromm, The Art of Being