I couldn't wait to get my hands on Mercury Michael – as an interview subject, of course. For perhaps the two of you left on the island who don’t know Mercury, you’re about to, and yes, Mercury is his real name.
As soon as I learned I’d be interviewing Mercury, I popped in at an open house where he was sitting and exclaimed, “You’re next!” Frankly, he looked a bit panicked and launched into something about being an introverted-extrovert or an introvert who developed an extrovert skill set or maybe, just a plain old introvert. I nodded and smiled calmly, knowing that whatever he said he was, he was going to be mine for an hour and everything would be fine – and it was.
I caught up with Mercury at the Charter Real Estate offices near the ferry terminal. After many years in the business, owning his own agency is the culmination of a lifetime of hard work. Mercury’s agency of four brokers serves Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap.
Prior to our meeting, I emailed this hard-working realtor a simple question, “If you were a house, what kind of house would you be?”
Without missing a beat (and if you’ve ever emailed him, you know what I mean), Mercury replied, “I’m a fixer-upper with good bones, fruit trees, and an old rope swing for whimsy ☺”. Yes, he ended the sentence with a smiley face.
Whether sitting across from Mercury in person or seeing his face on every grocery cart at Safeway, “good bones” are evident, and I’d venture to say, so are the fruit trees and whimsy. After all, the tagline on the grocery carts promises he can help you “from soup to nuts!” However, I’m not sure anyone would immediately characterize him as a “fixer-upper.” I asked him to elaborate, “What do you mean by that exactly?”
“Well, I have plenty of faults, I’m still pretty rough around the edges, I don’t ever expect to be perfect, there’s plenty left to work on, and I’m working on stuff all the time!” Mercury says he’s constantly learning to be a better husband, father, and person, “Get better, be happier.” It seems the proverbial house is never finished.
Mercury views the “work” of life as an amazing exploration. Houses are the perfect, perhaps most obvious metaphor for self-improvement, but as we go deeper, Mercury tells me what it was at such an early age that shaped him, and created a lifelong quest for understanding, happiness, and self-renovation.
Early in our chat, as Mercury considered his journey, I caught an intriguing phrase. He said, “I was raised so differently than I live now,...” Hmm, I ask, “What do you mean by that?”
“Well, it’s a whole different story, really,” and I’m thinking, “Good because that’s the story I want to hear.”
As it turns out, Mercury’s life has been one of extreme transformation. When you’ve transformed as well as Mercury has, his story might seem surprising.
“I always felt loved, but my parents never married, there was alcoholism, my brother and I bounced around a whole lot, and that was extremely discombobulating. My childhood was unconventional. I didn’t have control over much, my family’s all clean and sober now but as a kid, it was a little all over the place. My brother and I had our own apartment from the time I was thirteen years old. On one hand, having your own place is great, but on the other hand, it’s not really a good atmosphere for a teenager. We were able to do anything we wanted, which you know, quickly evolved into partying. Our friends were always there, so it created an interesting scene that could have gone either way. There’s many things in my life that I’ve learned I do (and did) because it was the only way I could control my environment.”
It was during his chaotic childhood that Mercury found a pretty genius way to gain control – he set up terrariums for reptiles and snakes. Miniature. Harmonious. Controlled. Environments.
According to his wife, “He likes having homes and rental properties because (much like his childhood terrariums) they are places he’s created and controls, where he hopes people will be happy.”
Having had a weirdly similar childhood, I know the trap of needing to control everything, even long after you’ve left the situation which created that particular coping mechanism. It doesn’t really work in the real world. Mercury is aware of this pitfall.
“The basis of my truth to myself, my mantra, is the Serenity Prayer. I don’t believe in a particular God per se, but the wisdom is figuring out what you can do to change and how to let go. Don’t try to control things that you ultimately can’t, otherwise you’ll drive yourself crazy! In this business and in life, you’ll just get chewed up and spit out if you can’t realize there are things you simply don’t have control over.”
Sifting wisdom from adversity is a tedious business, begging one to consider many aspects, including nurture vs. nature. Mercury’s experience has taught him that, “In extreme forms, you can expect that poor nurture and nature is gonna mess someone up, but even then, people are going to be who they are.”
Now that Mercury is a father, he muses on the differences he sees in his children, “It’s an interesting thing, I’m watching our three very different kids grow up and whatever we do as parents – good or bad, they’ll each have their own interesting and individual journey. Kids who seem to have everything can turn out terrible, while less fortunate kids can turn out to be, like, adorable, wonderful humans, who just feel blessed from the get-go.” I’m sure he didn’t intend to, but he perfectly described himself – an adorable, wonderful human who simply feels blessed.
Postscript: I could have written volumes about Mercury’s journey, which includes a long history of sales experience dating back to when he was a kid turning a profit “slinging bubble gum and candy” in grade school, and later, selling cannabis. He admitted that he’s always been a “good seller!” He studied Zoology in college (think terrariums), ran salmon-fishing in Alaska, hosted eco-tourism on the high seas, renovated houses, and more!