I’ve been thinking about the strength of the innocuous comment. There is much weighty matter milling about my mind these days, and that isn’t anything unusual, but recently the gravity of certain things has elevated them to feature more prominently. (I like the diametric play of gravity causing elevation. If I can’t amuse myself…)*
It’s becoming clear that the prudent thing to do is look for a different job. My job may survive, but it may not. It hardly matters that my tiny team (there are only three of us) provides a critical skill that serves a great and diverse audience. That is to say, for as much as it matters, the pain will not be felt until we are no longer providing our services, at which point it will likely be too late. If or when that happens, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Time dilutes all woes, and eventually the needs will be met in and by whatever means are available. Therefore, I shouldn’t shoulder too much responsibility for recognizing the anguish that is sure to come, because it won’t be my doing, and it won’t be avoidable by any action within my power to accomplish.
But it is that very sense of responsibility that keeps me dragging my feet. Just because the giant corporation doesn’t understand the value or necessity of what we do, it won’t be the giant corporation who suffers first. It will be the rest of the drowning rats who hold a sense of responsibility for the work that they do, who will suffer, while the ship is sinking. I hesitate to take steps in a direction that will cause undue strain on those remaining. Yet I have to remind myself that my own life is important, and if a ship is sinking, it’s best to have a survival plan or two (or twelve**) in place.
So many of my work friends are retiring, and for me it is a very melancholy time. I don’t know why, but there has been very little cross-pollination between my work life and my home life through the years. This hasn’t been an issue until now, when retirement rears its head for so many of my friends. Until now, the bulk of our waking hours of life are spent together. We used to laugh about how we knew each other better than we knew our significant others. We don’t have relationships outside of the office, so the sense of finality is huge, when they walk out through the office door for the last time. I thought of an old friend who had moved to a different organization, and wondered if he’d retired as well. I looked him up in the company directory and was delighted to learn that he is still here. We chatted about various people we knew. He mentioned one fellow, with a lovely lyrical name (an Ethiopian), but I didn’t know him. I told him that name reminded me of another fellow I worked with years ago, and shared his name. Wonder of wonders, he knew him, and in fact had helped him obtain his visa so he could remain in the country and continue working with us. He had known him before I had known either of them. It’s a small, small world. He hadn’t heard from him since 1988, yet he remembered him distinctly, and the fact that we three had this connection was a marvel indeed and brought a wonderful smile to all of our faces. It’s funny how life is. The mysteries of the universe. Cosmic connections.
It turns out that a position is available in the department where my friend is working. He has been quite happy there for the last several years. The organization is very stable with very little attrition, so it is rare for a position to open up. I am considering applying. A month ago, or even a week ago, I don’t think I would have been inclined to pursue this further, but today, yes. It’s not a question of whether or not I am qualified, but a question of whether or not I want to continue to ride the wave I’m riding. At the least I will get to interview and learn more about the position. At the most, I will be offered the position. I won’t have to make a decision until I have a formal offer, so there is no harm in the pursuit.
So… I told my dear friend who is retiring at the end of the month that our mutual friend sends his regards. “His name came up recently,” he said, followed by, “Nobody likes him.” Now, this is an innocuous comment***, and is nothing personal. The context has to do with the work that we do, respectively. I work in a service-centered environment. Our job is to keep things moving, swiftly and safely. The other department is more of a legal branch. My other friend is somewhat likened to a king of the administrators in which it is his job to ensure that the “i”s are dotted and the “t”s are crossed. This necessity can be frustrating to those who don’t understand the necessity. This is also a reason why I may be particularly suited to the job, due to my innate peacekeeping quality coupled with my ability to understand multiple perspectives.
All that said, that innocuous comment stopped me short for a moment, and I briefly dismissed any thoughts I was forming about whether or not I would pursue this particular opportunity. It brought to mind another comment, years ago, that steered the course of my very future. When I was moving into my dormitory as a college freshman, I met the resident adviser and we chatted for a few minutes. I had already chosen to major in electrical engineering and minor in computer science, however, it was day 1 and I had a little time (maybe it was a week or two) to change my designation. She was majoring in architecture. Architecture! I loved the thought of it. The word itself has a delightful ring to it. I could envision myself merrily designing beautiful structures. Ah! Architecture! I asked her about it, and she said “it’s very hard.” Innocuous. Those three words, “it’s very hard”, changed (or rather set) the course of my professional life. I allowed that young woman’s perspective of her own ability (or lack thereof) to compete in such a field to override my own sense of capability. It’s laughable, even, that I didn’t so much as make a simple logical comparison of the academic requirements for engineering versus architecture, let alone ponder for even a moment the young woman’s level of aptitude or competence in relation to mine. I had no question as to whether I would be able to excel in engineering, yet that innocuous comment barred me from any further consideration of a field that I may well have adored, and in which I very likely would have excelled.
Hindsight can be valuable if it’s heeded. I’m glad that these thoughts have been milling about and that that particular strain emerged to remind me that there is no reason why I shouldn’t consider ambling down another path for a while.
*I’ve been amusing myself with “vaguebooking,” and chuckling to myself as I write this article and recall all the various ambiguous things I’ve posted or partaken in recently on FaceBook. Small World. Fool me once. It’s funny how life is. Cosmic connections. It goes on and on and on!
**Redundancy! Ah the beauty of redundancy! Failure is not an option!
***I eventually get to the point of my opening line.