Jessica Contrastano has her hands full balancing both the demands of her job and being a full-time mother. Thankfully, she has a tough as nails assistant with a soft interior to help her out! Michelangelo, Contrastano’s Red Ear Slider Turtle, lives life in the slow lane and is a source of tranquility. Michelangelo has taught Contrastano that despite the demands of a hectic work week, she still needs to take it slow and enjoy the finer things in life to really win the big race.
AF: When did you and Michelangelo start working closely together?
JC: I got him when I was attending McGill University in 1991. He is sixteen years old now. When I got him, he was a little bit larger than a quarter. At the time -and even still – baby turtles are illegal in the United States because they carry salmonella. They only sell full-grown turtles in U.S. pet stores. When I graduated the University in 1994, I was driving a U-Haul with an old boyfriend across the U.S. border and I had Michelangelo sitting on my lap. So, in a sense, we smuggled him into the country. He’s been a New Yorker ever since.
AF: Is his shell considered work appropriate attire?
JC: Yes, I don’t think he would need to be dressed up. The baby Red Ear Turtles are very vibrant in color and as they get older, they dull but I’ve grown used to his shell and I think he is perfect just the way he is. And his nails are lovely manicured.
AF: Our choices in pets say a lot about us! What does having a turtle say about you?
JC: We’re really big beach people so maybe the fact that he is a water pet has something to do with the fact that we got him.
AF: We learn so much from animals. If you can learn any life lesson from Michelangelo, what would it be?
JC: The good thing to learn from Michelangelo is to stop and smell the flowers. He obviously leads a very simple life. He probably doesn’t have much memory capacity etc., but he likes to take his time doing things, he is never in a hurry and I think that’s a very good life lesson to live by.
At the end of the day, Michelangelo is a shining metaphor, reminding Jessica Contrastano that when we are busy working we tend to carry a hard shell for the sell, but inside most of lives a soft heart. If we could all learn a valuable lesson from turtles, maybe it would be that the workplace environment can be more like a turtle pond oasis, and less of a place we just go to on a daily basis.