For the first day on the job I wore my dark blue Calvin Klein pants suit, a light blue striped Ralph Lauren blouse, the one with the white collar and white French cuffs, and clunky blue Tommy Hilfiger loafers. My coif was frizzy, but I don’t mind looking like an Afro-headed Anne Taylor – Anne Taylor on a budget. I found all my designer pieces at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx, and did my hair myself.

I got up in time to make an egg sandwich and coffee for breakfast before I left. I was determined to arrive feeling comfortable rather than rushed. I read the Washington Post on the train, and felt sufficiently briefed by the time I arrived at my stop. It was a good thing I left early because the Capitol Hill campus is a maze. Not long after I passed through the metal detector and collected my keys and purse off the conveyor belt, I realized I was in the wrong building.

“O.k. Who moved the elevators?” I joked, smiling at a pair of security guards.

“Where are you going ma’am?” the woman guard asked with a cocked smile, her sandy-colored dreadlocks pulled up in a ponytail.

“I’m going to work for Senator Jackson,” I said, digging in my purse to find the card with the room number on it. “I was here just a couple weeks ago for my interview.  The elevators were right there,” I laughed, pointing.

“Ma’am you’re in the wrong building.  I could send you through the tunnel, but I don’t want to get you lost again.” She opened the glass door next to the revolving glass doors and pointed the way.  “What you want to do is go back out here, hang a right and go in the next building,” she said.  Her partner lit up with a smile.

“Tell her the truth,” he said sarcastically.  “What she really wants to do is make a left and run.” He shook his head. “I seen Madame Jackson make grown-ass dudes cry,” he chuckled.   “Grown-ass white dudes. She breaks ‘em down.”

I laughed with him.

“Run? Me? Don’t let the smooth taste fool you,” I said. I hate it when people mis-read me as soft because I smile easily.

I was glad I wore sensible shoes as I walked two city blocks to get to my building. The work crowd was just beginning to trickle in.  I took the stairs to make up for lost time.  The worn white marble steps and polished wooden rails held a certain charm I could enjoy even in a rush. I pushed open the heavy steel double doors leading out of the stairway. My steps echoed through the corridors. I noticed the flags posted on each side of an office entrance – the U.S. flag and the state flag.  I smiled when I reached my new office.  There stood one grand ole stars and stripes on one side of the entrance, our state flag – a lone white eagle under a big yellow sun against a red background – on the other.

The office door was locked. I slapped the wood a few times, waited a few seconds, and then pounded. A woman about my age woman opened the door gave me a strange look.

“Oh. My bad. They said someone would be here early.  I’m Ruqiyah Paige, the new communications director,” I said.

“Come on in.  I was on a call.  I’m Octavia,” she said.

I followed her through the office lobby where photos of Senator Jackson with Corretta Scott King, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, and the first woman Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi adorned the walls.  The front desks were vacant and the only sound was a fax machine spitting out papers.

  • List 10 people in your life you admire and tell why you admire them.
  • What personality traits of theirs do you have or wish you had?
  • Knowing that your admiration of him/her is likely a reflection of dormant strengths you have, just waiting for your permission to blossom, consider an upcoming big decision or project in your life. How would you handle it if you were acting more like the people you admire most?

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