These days, I find moments of serenity to be precious – they are very few and very far in between. Tonight, as I write this on the eve of my 24th birthday, I find myself sitting in my office, of all places. There is a cup of what can best be described as “utility” coffee next to me, and no one else around me. This is not the dark, cavernous coffeeshop, this is a fluorescent space, enough to make your head spin in a neon haze. Somehow, it is in this, very, very, non-functional, functioning office space, that I have found a moment of serenity.
Today, or rather, tonight, I want to turn the microscope onto work. My work.
There are two types of work places – the corporate jungle – built on rules, policies, regulation, and formality – and the wild west – where anything goes. They are both equally savage, equally consuming, and equally miraculous. I chose the wild west. Why? For many reasons – the opportunity to grow, to learn how to fight, to survive in an environment full of cowboys and Indians. It hasn’t been easy, constantly having to find ways in which to “deliver value”. I have often found myself backed into a corner, my weight has fluctuated more times than I can remember, my hairline has receded more inches than I care to count. But each time, every day that I was told that I was not adding value, was another day that I learnt something new. That’s the beauty of the wild west, you learn or you die. Best try and live a long life.
Then what about the corporate jungle, the place where trees grow tall, with green leaves, with plentiful rain. Where branches on vines are serpents, where fire ants roam the ground, where the treetops are so far above you, that they have forgotten what the ground looks like. What about that jungle? It is a space of great sadness, many bodies are buried there, many more skeletons in the closet. But it is a place of great opportunity. Those who climb those trees have the ability to shape the world. Those who hang from the vines learn how to survive, how to swing from branch to branch without falling. And those who fall, they have the memories of a beautiful view.
In both the wild west and the corporate jungle, the going is hard. You are forced to de-sensitize yourself from the world around, often to devastating effect. The long hours, the continuous pressure, the mind numbing tediousness. How can you not give up on your humanity? How can you not let the tracking of your productivity as the number of hours you bill not make you feel de-humanized?
I used to hate the long nights at this office. Despite it being on Baker Street, it had none of the charm you would expect. It was cold, it was quiet, it was barren. And it was frightfully apparent and ferociously potent. I would FaceTime from the office at night and dream about being on the other side. And somehow, tonight, I find serenity in this dead space.
“Abandon all hope ye who enter.”
Dante, you’re wrong.
As I sit here, on the desk that saw me gain almost 10 kilograms (that’s 20 pounds), the same desk that saw me lose 20 more kilograms (that’s 40 pounds), I remind myself what kept me strong throughout the cold. As the clock strikes midnight, and the 18th of July begins, I want to leave you with the thought keeps me going,
Work is not a reflection of you. Sometimes, you are a reflection of your work. But you, and only you, are a reflection of you.
So feel the sadness, feel the loneliness, feel the despair, feel the coldness, feel it all. Feel the happiness that you learnt something, feel the gladness of being with your team, feel it all. And remind yourself that this place, in the dead of the night, this place is the only place, other than where you are loved, that makes you engage with your humanity and makes you fight for it.
Now wipe your brow, be thankful to be human, and sweat the glorious sweat for there is serenity in this chaotic place. Have faith, have…Iman.
Happy birthday, V.