Detours and Destiny: Adventures in Purpose (and QVC)

The FLUFFI Word of the Week, PURPOSE, caused me to reflect on my own pursuit (and boy, has it been a pursuit !) to seek and, ultimately, fulfill my reason for living.

I know, quite a humdinger of a topic!  I have sometimes said to myself, “Self, why can’t you just be satisfied with the basics:  Eating, drinking, being occasionally merry, having good family and friend relationships, taking Shasta for walks and holding down a job?” Don’t get me wrong; sometimes these aforementioned items present monumental challenges in their own right!  However, since childhood, this FLUFFI longed to grasp – and fulfill – the “reason for Brenda.”

Actually, it goes far beyond me. I’m a firm believer that every person is on this earth for a reason.  Whether you call it a calling or your purpose, it (to me) is that spark of the Divine that is nestled in each person’s spirit.

That spark is your unique gift; a gift that when nurtured and allowed to flame lights up everything around you (and you, too). It is what “gets you going” and makes you feel more alive than anything else.

I have had glimpses of this ultimate purpose in my life, followed, preceded and interrupted by epic fails, detours, potholes, roadblocks and corn husk mazes along the way. In no way a straight line, the trajectory looks more like one of those Family Circle cartoons where the little boy creates 32 steps between “A” and “B.”

The guy I thought was “the one” who smashed my heart; the bad judgment used that landed me in trouble; the “big break” that broke me…can anyone out there relate?

More than the series of events themselves, I have found that my takeaways from these disappointments held the key to my forward progress.  We often hear about amazing people who would never have found their life’s calling unless tripped up by a health crisis, humiliation, tragic loss or otherwise unfortunate series of events.

They went through hell…and found the inner strength to keep going.

But I am talking about the subtle takeaways that cause you to shrink back, hesitate, adjust your dream and settle for second best – because you learned a faulty lesson about YOU.  And yes, I have a story to illustrate.

It was 1987, and I was three years into a low-paying but valuable for experience job at the local cable TV station, Channel 13 in Turnersville, NJ.  My Communications degree attained, I was full of dreams and spunky determination that I’d undoubtedly be the next Sally Jessy Raphael (Oprah had just arrived on the national scene.)  My internship led to hosting and producing a daily, live talk show (for $25 a WEEK), then winning the nightly news anchor position (for not much more.)  I was willing to pay the price, waiting on tables each weekend to pay the bills.  Not a problem; I was young and on my way.  Watch out, Diane Sawyer!  I was coming for you!

On-camera jobs in TV were impossible to come by in the Philadelphia market for a novice like me.  Philly is where you landed after years of honing your craft in small markets like Lima, Ohio and later, El Paso, Texas.  Back then, our “demo tapes” were our ticket up and out – bulky, expensive 3/4″ U-matic tapes that I’d mail out with high hopes each week…and a sense of resignation that moving away from family and friends was inevitable.

One Sunday afternoon, my mom called me with the news that there was a huge ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer – an open call audition for a brand new home shopping network based in West Chester, PA.  QVC was preparing to launch, and though selling items on TV was never my dream, having an audience was – so I packed up my demo tape and drove to PA for the cattle call.

Because I didn’t necessarily want the gig, I performed with abandon; without pressure or fear.  Of the many hundreds that auditioned, just a dozen or so were called back for a second round.  This time I was tasked with selling a #2 pencil for ten minutes.  Again, I went for it with flair, exclaiming the virtues of the stylish yellow color and painted visions of a mistake-free life thanks to the handy, attached eraser.

By the third callback, I was ready to tell them “You know, I don’t think this is really the best career move for the next Barbara Walters…” when I was ushered to a room with suited executives who made an offer few 24-year-olds could easily refuse.

A wardrobe allowance?  Weekly manicures?  A 20-hour work week for triple my current salary?

My visions of journalistic grandeur exited the room; I began studying adjectives to describe gold jewelry, capodimonte and ionic flea and tick collars. 

I signed a lease at New Kent Apartments and reported for work.  As a newer host, my on-air shift was between 2 and 6 a.m.  The only coaching I received was to “just present the products; don’t sell.”  Back then, QVC had a co-host format and I was fortunate that Mike Gargiulo (now an anchor in the Big Apple) was my witty and talented sidekick.

After a couple of weeks, we both received a memo that we were having a little too much fun; this presenting of products was serious business.

When I was assigned to present Craftsman Tools, about which I knew nothing, it should have raised some red flags. (I remember frantically asking Steve Coluntuno, another host, what the difference between a wrench and a plier was just minutes before beginning my on-air shift.)

Then they brought in a consultant, who proceeded to cut my hair almost as short as Sinead O’Connor’s 80’s style and who, of course, put me on a diet.

Three months into this “big break” I was called into the office of my boss, John Eastman, who informed me that QVC was changing from a co-host to a single-host format.  As a result, half of the hosts were being let go…and I, of course, was one of them.

I was stunned!  This is NOT the way my story was supposed to play out.  Shamelessly, I cried big wet (snotty) tears and begged for another chance.  Which was not happening.

With my lease ironclad and enough pride to resist running home, I searched for work in my field.  After several weeks, it was clear that I needed a job – ANY job.  So the once rising star of QVC devolved from acrylic nails and 10 million viewers to pouring coffee at West Chester’s Penn’s Table diner.

I was shattered.  For years I couldn’t drive by the QVC complex without burning with anger tinged with the pain of rejection.  God FORBID I ever tormented myself by watching the channel, and I had little tolerance for people who purchased from the source of my pain.

Years passed and I moved on, finding a comfortable spot behind the cameras at another local cable station.  Decades passed and the wound seemed to heal.  After all, I didn’t really want to live out my life as a home shopping host, and because it was such a comfortable, ego-stroking gig, I could have easily succumbed to its charms indefinitely.  So it was a good thing, right?

Yes, God had other plans for me.

But it was only THIS year that I realized the QVC experience had burned a lie onto my soul that yet remained.  This lie had systematically suppressed the vibrant dreams of my youth.

Look, I know there are far worse things you can experience in life.  Believe me I know – I’ll surely write about them in the coming weeks!  But this painful and disappointing turn of events at age 24 didn’t just hurt me; I had allowed it to brand me.

The brand tattooed on my psyche was three simple words:  Not.  Good.  Enough.    

Somehow it had taken me 27 years to realize I had confused “not meant to be” with “not good enough.”

Let me preach to you, FLUFFIs, as I did to myself upon this revelation: The one that “got away” was not a reflection of your inadequacy!  There was simply something better in store for you; something more suited to your higher purpose in life; a different door whereby your gifts and talents could take wings and fly!  The big break that broke your heart was meant to redirect you to a better path to use your gifts and fulfill your potential.  In essence:

Redirection is not rejection.

That truth set me free.  I hope it helps shift what may be a faulty perspective about your own detours on the road to your destiny.

But knowing the truth wasn’t enough; I needed to act in a new way, call upon the pre-QVC me and invite her to re-join the world again.  And that is why, FLUFFIs, I have (gulp) made the leap to visit you via video on occasion.

Because my purpose was never about selling gold chains or being famous or having a huge audience…but it IS to encourage people through words, whether written or spoken.  And step by step, day by day, I am seeking opportunities to do just that.  I leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time:

It is never too late...

Can you recall a detour that, at the time was soul-crushing but ended up being a door to the life you were meant to live? 

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3 thoughts on “Detours and Destiny: Adventures in Purpose (and QVC)

  1. I’d have to say that my biggest detour was marrying the wrong guy, and remaining in a turbulent marriage for almost 9 years. It was, indeed, a soul-crushing, demeaning time for many reasons. However, had I not moved to Virginia where I met him, I would never have met my current husband, of almost 28 years! That meeting on June 18, 1986, would become my open door to the life I have been extremely blessed to be living for all these years!

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