I met Beth almost 4 years ago at work. She was this spunky, crazy Texan...with a great Southern accent that we all used to tease her about...right down to the "y'all". She was new to Los Angeles, but I had made this decision that I was going to keep work and personal life completely separate. I wasn't going to make new friends at this job, I just wanted to keep things professional.
That worked really great for my first 4 or 5 days...and then Beth came to work for TF. She wouldn't let me put any sort of walls around myself. Beth was a person of extreme honesty and she initially hated her job because it was so boring. When I asked her how she liked her job, she said slowly..."well.....actually....i really hate it." I was pretty surprised by her candidness, especially in light of the fact that we had met just days before and she always seemed like such a positive, upbeat person.
She instituted a new thing for us, attendance mandatory, called "margarita mondays". We would grab margaritas on mondays [duh] and just complain about all the things that were bothering us about work, men...life....whatever came to our minds. Those days were filled with such great and funny memories. It was a gift. I had met my equal at work - someone who believed in working hard and passionate about all that you did. She was a dynamo! I had never met anyone who worked harder than she did. When I asked her where she got her drive from she said, "my dad always told me that if there was something i really wanted bad enough, all I had to do was work really, really hard at it." It sounded so simplistic...yet true.
We were in Cabo for a work thing, just months before she was supposed to take her AIFD exam. She was asking AIFD members (and past presidents) about what to expect from the test, what they were looking for, etc. She walks out of the room and a past president of AIFD turned to me and asked, "does she have ANY idea how difficult it is to pass this test? most people do not pass it on their first run..." I said, "she probably knows about it in the back of her mind, but she doesn't care...this is just another challenge that needs to be tackled." Sure enough, she past her exams. She moved away before her tests came in so I called her to read off her scores to her. The first question wasn't where she got her HIGHEST score, but where she got her LOWEST score - that was just her constant need to improve upon herself.
The person who took beth's position came into the job and said, "I don't know if I can come close to all that Beth managed to do in this position..." Six months into the position, the statement was, "I don't know how Beth managed to DO all these things!! She is AMAZING." Amazing she definitely was. not only was she artistically talented, but she was also business minded too. It was a pleasure to work with her because I never had to explain things to her. She was far more anal than I was so I knew it would LOOK good, but she also was able to see things in the bigger picture and intuitively KNOW what was needed for any given situation.
The other thing that I really appreciated about Beth was when she was mad or stressed out about something. I knew when this happened because Beth became this CLEANING machine. I definitely benefited from her fits of anxiety or worry...and sadly, my desk had never been the same since.
Things Beth taught me:
1.) Cultural norms of Texas - as we were driving by a lot I commented on the fact that I'd never seen a car lot that only sold TRUCKS. Beth turns slowly to look out the window...and starts laughing..."uhhhh...jenny....that's a parking lot."
2.) that it's 5 o'clock SOMEWHERE in the world - some days you need to start happy hour a little earlier than normal...and in unusual places. Beth and I once [or maybe a few times] snuck into our supply closet at our office and drank the beer that was "stored" there from some meeting. Both my bosses claim, to this day, that they had no idea we did that. Helloooo, everyone who knows me knows that I get the "asian tan" when I drink so much as a drop of alcohol.
3.) sometimes you gotta break or bend the rules - beth & I were playing horse on the roof our parking lot. as we were shooting around beth & i started to discuss our individual business trips. it was a first for the both of us and we were pretty reluctant to share our experience with each other. We were both concerned about how we'd be perceived professionally if word got out, especially since we were supposed to lead by example. I asked her sarcastically, "well, what did you do? go to a strip club?" [because that's where i took a bunch of co-workers and our clients] she turned and looked at me with her big brown eyes and said, "WHO TOLD YOU??!!" That when I realized we were both big geeks and deserved to be friends with each other.
4.) workin' hard - i think i'm a pretty hard worker. I think that I used to kick ass at almost every place i worked at. It's a personal pride thing for me to work the hardest. Then i met Beth...she was not only FAST, but she was accurate and good too!!
5.) never fear, try hard - beth was amazingly talented at everything she did. she was also a talented gymnast. she hadn't done anything in about 15 years...then she decides while we were hanging out at the park that she just HAD to do a round off, back hand spring. I tried to talk her out of it by saying, "beth...you will get hurt!! i can't possibly spot you!! when was the last time you did this??" She looks at me and says, "i'm going to go for it...i may end up with a broken bone, but then I'll know I shouldn't have tried it..." and takes off running...and lands the perfect round off back hand spring.
all this...and beth managed to die fighting as well...her own will to live was so strong that she lived far past the time that her doctors had given her a year and a half ago. I'm glad that i had the opportunity to know this amazing person. She's not a famous person...she didn't have time to re-invent the wheel (not that I doubt she would have)....and she didn't leave gobs of money to a charity. What she did do was touch the lives and hearts of all who had the good fortune to meet her.
as much as I knew this day would come, it still doesn't make it any easier. i still feel like the bottom just dropped out from under me.
Beth's going to have 4 people give eulogies at her funeral - her 2 sisters, her best friend from college, and me. Her mom, gwen, would like us to keep it a celebration of her life...and to keep it upbeat. I don't know how I'm going to do it...and i hope that i do Beth's life (career) justice...