“Sitting at the lake I felt the peace settle in, the long awaited trip was here. Settling into the cushions with the view of the mountains directly across I searched my mind for the concept. My ad was due upon returning to the city and I was zapped, burnt out, overworked, and running on empty.”
I looked at Nicole and smiled. “Thanks again for getting me this gig. She’s amazing.”
There was a tone in her voice I hadn’t expected. I darted a look at her. Did she look annoyed? It was hard to tell being in the semidarkness behind the stage. “I thought you liked her. Was I wrong?” I questioned her, thinking of the social media posts that Nicole had been sharing lately. Her attitude didn’t make any sense to me.
“The gig is great, but she’s definitely not amazing.”
I was confused. “Her story is so inspirational. Don’t you think?”
“Looking at the mountaintop I wondered who is up there? How far away is that? Can a human being hike that high? I pictured the hike. Would I make it to the top? Would I find the wisdom there, the peace, the answers? The view was majestic, awe inspiring. It was calling me.”
Nicole took a minute before answering. “I mean…” She lowered her voice down to a whisper before continuing, “Her story is just that. A story.”
“What do you mean?
“She’s full of shit.”
“Birds flew by taking their time with no particular place to go. Is that the way to do things? Meander, enjoy, don’t make a definite plan; take it where the wind blows. It’s good for birds, not so good for me, I realized with that deadline approaching, feeling the dread and anxiety creeping back. Is it too late to change jobs, get out of the rat race and spread my wings to fly the clear blue skies? What would I do? What happened to the dreams I had in my youth?”
“Come on. You don’t believe this bullshit about her sitting looking at the mountaintop feeling burnt out worrying about an ad? This woman has never worked a day in her life.”
“I leaned my head back and closed my eyes doing some deep breathing, remembering the yoga classes from years ago and another lifetime. The wind kicked up from the lake, whipping my hair around my face taking with it the styling I had done earlier in the day. I began to feel more like myself with the return to my natural look. I realized it was a feeling I didn’t want to lose.”
“That’s not true!” I felt compelled to defend Nova. I had been listening to her speeches forever. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I was offered a job on her crew almost a full year after submitting my application.
“I searched once more for the vision and once more came up blank. It’s just not an interesting product, I finally admitted to myself. In fact, it’s not even worthy of promotion, which is the truth that had been lurking at the back of my mind all along. How did my life become promoting an item I don’t even believe in?”
“Sorry to disappoint you, hun,” Nicole looked at me sympathetically. “She’s good at what she does, which is con people.”
“Another look at the mountains on the other side of the lake, another look up to the clear sky. I was at a turning point. Do the ad, don’t do the ad. It was more than that though. Turning my back on the ad would be turning my back on my job, my so called career. However, it was turning towards the openness, the freedom. The world could be mine. It was my choice.”
I looked at Nova on stage from my vantage point feeling confused. “Con people? Why would you say that?”
“It was my choice,” she repeated. “My choice. And I chose the new path, the new direction, the true calling.”
Nicole laughed, a sarcastic laugh. “Hold on, she’s about to let her rip.”
She gave it a minute before resuming. The lighting crew made their adjustments to give her a brighter spotlight. The screen behind her lit up with her logo and website. Her staff appeared out of the darkness with baskets to pass around for donations from those who hung on her every word.
The commotion backstage got crazy, I suddenly felt in the way as crew members ran in and out. “What’s happening?”
The photo of that mountaintop appeared on the screen behind her. It was a majestic view, one could feel the pull, hear the calling. “Who is going to the mountaintop with me?” She called out to the audience and was answered by the usual round of “I am going to the mountaintop!” She repeated louder “Who is going to the mountaintop with me?” The crowd went wild chanting “I am going to the mountaintop!”
Nicole laughed again. “She’s reeling them in hook, line, and sinker.”
She scanned the audience estimating the number of guests attending her rally and calculated how many would sign up for the retreat and what her profits would be. Not bad, she decided, not bad at all. “I can’t hear you. Who is going to the mountaintop with me?”
Amid the chaos I recognized my cue. My assignment was to exit the backstage area upon “I can’t hear you” and proceed down the right aisle handing out brochures to the crowd. “Gotta go,” I whispered to Nicole who was gathering a pile of clipboards and pens. I felt the nervous energy bubbling up inside of me. This was it. I was going out there where the magic happens.
She stood front and center on the huge stage, holding her arms out waiting for the expected “I am going to be mountaintop with you.” She smiled to herself. Life was good. All based on that one single story of the decision not to do the ad. Everyone could relate to burn out, looking for a better way, an escape. No one needed to know her story was entirely made up.
“Yup. I’ll be right behind you.” Nicole smiled broadly and stood up straight. I never realized how tall she was. Her face lit up, suddenly she looked a lot like Nova. “It’s cha-ching time.”
“What do you mean?” I was mesmerized by her transformation.
“Getting them to sign on the dotted line and then counting my commission. I told you, it’s a great gig. Nova’s the best.”