BY MIKI MARKOVICH
In my early twenties, I went to work for the mob. OK, I didn’t know I was applying for a summer job with the mob at the time, but I did know I wanted to investigate my dark side.
Growing up, I was always the good kid. I was typically a straight A student even though I attended more than 30 schools in 13 states by high school graduation. I never drank, I didn’t smoke and I wasn’t big on breaking rules, any rules. I began to wonder if I was born this boring, book loving, goody two shoes or if I was merely rebelling in a household full of violent drug users and criminals. I decided I needed to learn how much like my mother I truly was.
I applied to be a cocktail waitress at a rather rough and tumble strip club. You know, the kind found in industrial parks near major airports. My interview mostly consisted of my turning slowly around several times so the hiring manager could see me from every angle. Hired on the spot, I was given a handful of cloth as a uniform.
From the start, the place kept me hopping as I waitressed full time and learned the ends and outs of a more nocturnal lifestyle. Because there were two factions of organized crime looking to take control of the city, strange things happened at the club from time to time a body found in the back trash can or a car bomb going off in the parking lot. One day the place was set on fire during my shift. I’m sure we were a sight to see as the staff ran outside in all manners of undress. Counting my tips as we waited for the fire department, I found I had already made close to $200 and was happy to call it an early night.
At closing time on more routine nights, the deejay would play “Happy Trails” to shoo away the customers. Every night, I gave him a fiver to play one more song: “She Talks to Angels” by the Black Crows. As I scrubbed tables and polished bars, I thought about my mother, digging deep to see how far this apple really did fall from the tree.
As the weeks turned into months, I took on other roles. I filled in as bartender and even occasionally held the keys to the safe and the gun when an emergency called the leaders away always a terrifying time. As I became more trusted and more involved, some interesting job offers where tossed my way. For instance, I could drive an associate to Nashville and back, a rather short trip for $500 and an allowance for a ball gown and high-end hotel room.
Knowing how I felt about killing people, they stipulated the associate would be merely sending a message on that particular trip. When I politely declined, I was told they were simply offering my additional jobs to help me earn enough money for the following college semester; they wanted to see me succeed I believed them. They talked about a future when I might be hired by the organization as a teacher, to home school their children. Although truly flattered and offered a generous salary, I turned down this opportunity as well, explaining that as fond as I was of many of them, I didn’t want to get so far in that I could no longer find my own way out. At this point, I was doing a rather graceful dance on a very fine line.
When the anniversary of my mother trying to kill me came along, I arrived at work to find a handwritten letter from someone near the top. It was beautifully written, absolutely uplifting and even life affirming. I was so touched by the words and emotion displayed in this note, I still have it tucked in my “important papers” file.
I worked alongside these people for years. They invited me to blues concerts in smoky venues and to dinners in their homes. I, in turn, invited them to picnics in the park and breakfast at well-lit venues full of everyday people.
So what about that dark side I feared laid dormant? What I found is that I was staying true to myself all along. In fact, from what they told me, it seems I even shined a little light in some dark, dank corners of their world.
Sometimes we have to be daring to transform. Other times, it takes courage just to remain the same, embracing our authentic selves and becoming comfortable in our skin. Although I may never recommend my path to others, I am forever grateful for this beautiful, imperfect journey.
What channels have you used for self-discovery? I’d love to hear!
Miki Markovich is a seeker of beauty and truth, traveler of interesting roads, saver of furry souls, typer of words, iPhone lover and mac head. You can find her on Twitter at @mikimarkovich and @fiveminutezen. If you’re looking to go from pissed to blissed in five minutes flat, find balance or improve the quality of your life through self care, check out her website at fiveminutezen.com.