Disclaimer: This post is part of this blog’s That Tiny Tirade series. It can (and likely will) contain harsh language, scenes and storylines not suitable for children, and not safe for Washington logic. This post may also contain strobe lighting effects.
“There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance…it’s called humility.” -Unknown
“Blow me.” -Oscar Wilde (probably)
About a year ago, I had a discussion with an old friend in regards to career changes. Once upon a time, she and I worked at the same job, her on first shift and me on third. We’d cross paths for about two hours a day — since both of us were tasked for our shifts with walking the department floor and answering questions/taking angry calls — and had quite a bit of time to talk about whatever came up. Typically, we’d discuss mutual friends (as we’d attended school together), our significant others, or music and movies (as we have similar tastes in both). We’d spend the two hours talking intermittently as we worked, then both go on about our days, rarely interacting off the clock.
Part of why my friend and I didn’t talk outside of work was because of our differing ambitions in regards our employer. Since I was in grad school at the time, I saw that job as nothing more than that — a job meant to hold me over until I graduated. The pay was shit, the advancement opportunities were minimal, the hours weren’t great (give me third shift over first any day though), and the majority of people were jaded from 15-25 years of customer service work. My friend, however, saw it as a way to technically have a job, yet because of the lack of pay, make the argument that she didn’t make enough money to move out of her parents’ house.
What struck me as interesting about our career conversation was the grand disparity in our current employment situation versus that from when we worked together. It wasn’t as through grad school or that job was that long ago((I finished school and left that job both in the fall of 2010.)), however the gap made it feel longer. For me, I am celebrating my fourth promotion in the span of 20 months, landing at a company that I love working for. For her, she’s at her seventh different job in that span, and all but her current position were jobs that she hated.
That’s not to say all has been good luck for me and all has been bad luck for her. I held a job before this one, only to get let go for reasons that were never fully made clear at the time((Come to find out months later the company went under.)). She has a child who’s about to turn four((At the time we talked.))…and couldn’t be happier as a mom. I expressed my happiness for her motherhood, while she congratulated me on my coming marriage. You know, that annoying small talk type of stuff that you’re forced to do far more often than should be legally allowed.
What stuck with me most in our conversation was a single response to a question. Coming from her, it wasn’t all that unexpected, however the words held a greater meaning.
Me: We used to have the same level of senior and the same job. Why are you content with taking a step back?
Her: I’m sure I’ll get to the point where I was — or even where you are now — someday. I’d rather take five of the same job right in a row and not have to worry about learning a new job along the way. I know what I can do well and I know when it’s time to get out. There’s no need to try to be a hero and change the world.
The final line to her response was especially poignant, as it was the second time that week I’d been told that very line by someone. Think about that statement for a second. There’s no need to try to be a hero.
While heroes are always known for their bravery and ability to save the day, they’re reckless and fuck a lot of things up along the way. Think about all of the damage the Avengers caused when they were saving the city from whatever they were fighting (I stopped caring halfway in). Who’s going to pay to clean that up? Not the Avengers. And yet, superheroes are revered because the ends justify the means.
Yet, why wouldn’t I (or anyone else for that matter) want to be the hero? Not just be the hero, but to have consistent exceptional performance to the point where those tasks that others consider heroics we consider routine. Why shouldn’t I strive to be more, to change the lives of those around me, and to change the culture I’m immersed in along the way?
After all, it’s better than just keeping time.