As I was walking out the door for lunch yesterday one of my colleagues asked me what I was doing. I told her going to a bookshop. It was closing down and they were selling the books for $6 each. Oh, can I come too? she asked, and together we left for the shop.
There’s two people I’m closest too at work. They’re the two I went through training with who happened to land in the same team as me. Funnily enough they were probably the two I liked best even before we were split into teams. They also happen to be both young, very Australian Vietnamese.
Hannah is about 25, tall and attractive, with a lovely, totally unaffected manner that’s impossible not to admire. We’ve got on well from day one, and she seems to have a soft spot for me, with her own private nickname for me. I look at her sometimes and wonder at how pure she is – by that I mean she seems to treat person and every situation exactly the same way. She’s just a good person without any second thoughts about it.
Though she can seem a bit flighty sometimes, Hannah is clever and driven, and pretty talented. She teaches cake decoration on the side, and has her own modest business making and selling grand cakes for birthdays and parties and other occasions. These are grandiose, delicious creations, super-impressive to behold and a delight to eat. She made a cake for my birthday and brought it in, and on other occasions has made cupcakes for us.
Yesterday after doing our book shopping we began the walk back to the office. The conversation strayed onto the job, and our expectations of it. I was coy. I admitted that I had interviewed for another job, but played it down. She told me she was only interested in making enough money to support herself, and possibly contribute towards further expanding her cake making business. She admitted to me that something didn’t feel right, that there must be something more and that she was not doing what she was supposed to do.
I was surprised by her honesty and heartened by her insight. I actually praised her for it. Everyone should fulfill their potential. Everyone should at least explore what that might be, and strive towards it. Not everyone does though. It’s easy to slip back into easy ways. Simpler to accept a wage and a routine than to risk one and break the other. It seems to me where I’m working now the default mentality is acceptance. To my way of thinking much is trivial and small, but that’s their choice. It’s not mine though, and thankfully it’s not Hannah’s either.
Hannah expounded on what she hoped to achieve and I put my 2 cents in encouraging her and giving her my ideas and tips. She can do it. She has the talent, but more importantly she has the drive and restlessness to get there. I hope she never loses that. In any case it gave me a bounce.
As we drew closer to work the talk turned to the third of our little team, John. “Do you think he will stay?” she asked. “I hope not,” I said, “he’s too good for the place.”
John is in his mid-twenties and very switched on, as well as being another lovely person. He has a double degree in finance and international trade. Like Hannah, he’s a second generation Aussie, and wears his Vietnamese heritage lightly. He likes a beer, loves the NBA, and is smack bang in the middle of popular culture. He’s savvy to. He and I are the two leading graduates from training, which has tightened the bond between us. He’s got a lot of go-ahead, as well as smarts, and while a job like ours is okay for a bit, it’s something he will very quickly outgrow.
Of course all of this reflected back on me ultimately. There I was urging these others to go forth and become more – but where does that leave me? Hopefully not there alone.
After I missed out on the job the other day I seethed with impatience. Take it easy, I told myself, play the long game. There’s some sense to that, but it’s so fucking hard restraining myself, and I’m not sure if I should be restraining myself. I can’t take any silly risks, that much I know, but I have to go some way to being myself again. Forget the money, forget even the sense of self, it’s doing, it’s being, it’s burning up that energy in a productive way. So maybe it is about identity I bit, about self-actualisation. But then that’s true of Hannah too, and John – each of us want to be who we’re meant to be.
I suspect they have plans for me at work. I hear my name being mentioned. I know I’m kicking a lot of goals in my work, and that I’m well ahead of my peers – but only because I’ve been quicker to grasp it and therefore quicker to act on it. They’ll catch up. I’ll push for whatever possibilities there are, but I’m also pushing hard for possibilities outside the office.
It will happen, for all of us.