I was lucky to get my first job before I graduated. Besides the job, there was plenty to thank my lucky stars about – the company was prestigious; the staff young and intelligent; the office swanky. Then came the work itself; the challenges the work presented were thrilling and gave me a new rush every day; and demands it made of me were met without a second thought. I dived in head first into these rough waters with the notion that calm seas do not make skillful sailors. And a skillful sailor did I become. As the days went by, I developed a deep seated belief that I would get nowhere without my job. Worse still, I believed that my job would get nowhere without me. Looking back, I forgive myself for this naivety. Being young, and eager to make my mark where it counted the most, when it counted the most, is my only defense. But then again, we are allowed this sort of distorted thinking at least once in our careers, yes?
With time, the invincibility turned to fear. Fear when I realized that I was merely a cog in well-oiled machine that could be replaced at any time. What would happen if I was ‘replaced’? Well, I believed that I would wake up the following morning and the sun would refuse to rise. I imagined a day full of darkness and sorrow, emptiness and loss; helplessness because I did not know what to do with my day.
And then I grew up. Growing up comes with wisdom to scrap away the warped view that we have of our first (real) jobs; the belief that we need the other to breath; to wake up and to live. To exist. What followed was to understand that the fulfillment and joy that I yearned for in my days came from within me, and not from my job or from my work. It comes from satisfying myself first before satisfying the hand that feeds me. Darling, I told myself, emptiness and sorrow are choices that we make; they are not givens that come with not finding your way to your desk every day.
So by the time I was ready to see myself out of my employer’s doors, I had the clarity of mind and peace of heart that had long escaped me. All the pomp and fanfare that I had imagined would come with my farewell was thrown out the window. You know; the party hats, the cake with my name on it, colleagues and friends abandoning their work for the afternoon to listen to my speech. Goodness, I had even wanted a soundtrack, I don’t know, some Kidum? Coldplay maybe? But I got none of that. Instead, I snuck out like a lover does at dawn; in an instant I was gone. And guess what, nothing happened: my universe did not slow down to a grinding halt; the sun did not refuse to set, unsure of whether it would rise the following day. Once the office doors clicked and shut behind me, the buzz of the activity carried on uninterrupted. And just like that – with the snap of a finger – I was a stranger on the outside looking in. I would later be tagged an Alumni.
As you may have guessed, the sun did rise the following morning; it rose as it always did, carried through the day and set at its time. I am still who I was before, only this time I am wiser and my vision clearer. I know that the task that lies ahead of me is in a complete change of attitude. Because once all is said and done, this is the one thing that truly makes the difference between seeing it as unemployment or seeing it as a journey to self-discovery.
I chose to fall on the side of self-discovery.
The last of the slush pile pieces. I owed them an audience. I owed them one last attempt at publishing before everything they ever were about was lost forever. My conscious is now clear.