I do love a short work week. There’s nothing like the promise of a four-day weekend to focus the mind on getting stuff done. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I haven’t gotten a lot done in the last twenty-four years of my career. I take a lot of “next steps,” but the projects, initiatives, and obligations just shift, grow, morph, evolve, devolve, and mutate into other things that need time and attention. Being “done” is a rare unicorn in my experience. So, to be more technically correct, I spent this day before Thanksgiving taking a few steps and preparing for the steps I will take next week. Through careful analysis, I know exactly how far behind I am in all my projects. Let me assure you, I’m way behind. Like a ’74 Volkswagen Microbus at the Indy 500. In addition, recent events have added a number of new challenges to the pile. My bus needs new tires, a change of oil, and gas.
Despite the trials and tribulations, I have been experiencing a state of mildly euphoric calm recently. I think my happiness stems, ironically, from my displeasure with the recent election results. I am great at avoidance, and rather than spend all my time wallowing in frustration, I have looked for ways to avoid thinking about politics. Instead, I have been thinking about the people I work with, and that feels pretty good.
Many of my co-workers are relatively invisible. They are the people who do the work that rarely gets publicly appreciated because it’s done in the backroom or the basement. They are the people who build databases, maintain them, enter the data, process paperwork, run reports. It ain’t glamorous, but it’s the marrow of the organization. They are essential, fundamental, and indispensable.
The crappy news is that I can’t do much for them. I certainly can’t give them a raise, because that’s just not how it works in state government. About the only things I can officially do are 1) provide them with the training and tools they tell me they need and 2) tell them how much I appreciate them. Unofficially, I’ve chosen to get to know them, and, to be honest, I like them, and I care about them. I consider them my friends, and I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual. That’s not how it’s supposed to work in large organizations. Keep it professional, is what they say, but I don’t care about what they say. I like the people I work with. They’re cool.
Recently, I had a hallway conversation with two friends…I mean colleagues. We were exchanging information about a particularly problematic problem – yes, I know that’s about the laziest example of alliteration you’ll find, but it’s been a tiring week – and we were all engaged, riffing on different approaches and solutions. We talked about some of the people involved in the problem and smiled knowingly. We’ve worked together for a long time, and we have a shared history that leads to inside jokes about some of the characters with whom we work. After we had all said our part, shared our ideas, smirked about “Marge,” and made a plan for next steps, it was time to move on to other things, but one member of our triumvirate pulled out her phone and said we simply needed to see something. We gathered around the tiny screen to watch videos of cats in compromising situations and laughed out loud. Genuine lols. I share that anecdote to illustrate my recent feelings of happiness at work. We work, we connect, we are friends, and we laugh together. Beautiful.
It’s not all cat videos. Another co-worker (the one who, when I saw a whole pumpkin pie sitting at her desk one morning this week, and I said, “Mmm, pie,” corrected me by saying, “You said ‘breakfast’ wrong”) posted on Facebook the day after the election about her sadness and fears associated with the electoral college’s choice of president, a post which sparked my need to write what I did in my last blog post. I messaged her to let her know how much I appreciate and support her. I let her know she is my friend; at work or elsewhere. Every Monday morning, for the last year we have talked about The Walking Dead. We still do, but now we also talk about fears and hopes in real life. And pie for breakfast. Beautiful.
I have also been confronted with the imminent departure of two long-time colleagues who are taking other jobs. We have fought many battles together – occasionally with each other – and now they are leaving. I am happy for them to take on new opportunities, but I am a little broken-hearted that we won’t spend as much time together. They are my close friends and confidantes, and I will miss them. The depth of our friendships has caused me to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned from and with them, and it makes me want to work harder, to be better at what I do. Beautiful.
My feelings of joyfulness about the people in my life crystallized recently when a friend – a young man who just lost his mother and grandmother to fucking cancer – posted a message on Facebook. It appeared on my newsfeed at a moment when I was feeling great about the people in my life. He wrote:
I love you. If you know me personally or are just a common acquaintance. If you’re a family member who I don’t tell enough, I love you. If you’re a fan of me, my art, or my humor I love you. If you abhor me, everything I stand for, if you just want to see me suffer, I love you. But still, go fuck yourself. If you have known me at all, in anyway through my almost 21 years of life and have supported my journey, I thank you and appreciate you. One thing I have learned on this ride through the Reaper’s garden is that you can never say you love someone enough. If you’re out there and want to make peace with me or if you would just like to say hello please message me. My mind is now free, and I will be happy to share a conversation with you tonight.
I couldn’t have said it better myself, and I messaged him to tell him I love him. I barely know him, but we agreed the next time we see each other – most likely in a mosh pit at a metal concert – we will give each other a hug. We all need each other, and we need to hold on to the people in our lives that make us smile. We need to hug the ones who are hurting. We need to offer comfort and support to each other, whether its at work, at home, or in a mosh pit.
Since I started this blog, I’ve avoided writing a cliche Thanksgiving litany of the things for which I am thankful, but I can’t resist it this year. I am blessed with and thankful for the people in my life. They (you) have taught me lessons, helped me take next steps, propped me up, and laughed with me. If we’re in the office, I promise I won’t say I love you and I won’t give you a hug. We don’t have time to deal with an HR investigation. But don’t be surprised if I message you on Facebook. I love you.