convenience store at nightAfter years of floundering through life, she finally finds herself! She figures out exactly who she is . . . upon being hired as a convenience store worker. At last, to her relief, there is a place on earth where she is needed, where she understands what to do in every situation that arises.

Whereas in her personal life she is silent and obedient so as not to say or do the wrong thing, in the convenience store she is busy, proactive, loud, and assertive. She knows how to organize shelves, speak to customers, order supplies, and handle transactions. She even knows how to respond in unusual situations.

How was it possible for her to learn to be a convenience store worker, when learning to be a daughter, sister, friend, and partner had always been so insurmountable?

“When I first started here, there was a detailed manual that taught me how to be a store worker, and I still don’t have a clue how to be a normal person outside that manual.”

The protagonist of the novel Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (which I read in the translation from the Japanese) would love to be given a manual for everyday life. Alas, no one seems to have written one. So she dedicates herself to the one place that she finds clear and understandable:

“When I open the door, the brightly lit box awaits me—a dependable, normal world that keeps turning. I have faith in the world inside the light-filled box.”

The convenience store thus becomes a symbol for security, understanding, and light. These are things we all need. What is your convenience store—the place or circumstance that you fully understand, that you can depend on for consistency and comfort?

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