It is mid-afternoon and I am sitting idle at work, thinking with emptiness on my face. Why am I here? What am I doing? What’s the point? It’s been months since I have felt doing anything meaningful, making any value, producing or creating anything. I don’t feel that me being here means anything to the company. It’s not about creating anything, it is not about that for a long time. The enterprise sucked me in completely. I am just pushing papers and e-mails around, doing administration and bureaucracy, fighting people, doing politics. I am trying to get things done with little success, with lots of struggle and with impenetrable resistance. What’s the meaning of all this? Another few years and I myself will be one of the corporate-idiots, who adapted themselves perfectly to the system, who gave up doing anything meaningful for a long time, but learned perfect survival, self-defence, shifting responsibilities onto others and doing politics all day long. That means death to me, maybe worse than death. On the other hand, I am too weak to stand on my own feet, besides I am paid too well to just leave mindlessly. It wouldn’t be reasonable now anyway. But I don’t want to give up the possibility to make something meaningful in life!
It is morning, a few days later, my phone wakes me up. I haven’t slept much, but I wake up with a pleasant feeling. I know that a hard day is waiting for me. It runs across my mind that I report sick maybe, but I don’t do it in the end. I pull my self together in the bathroom, then I sit 20 minutes meditating. I eat my breakfast, then I set out for work, on time.
I start with a meeting, with some partner’s sales representative and with few of my colleagues. Then a little breathing space, before I lead a status-meeting with nearly 10 people on the new document-management system project that I manage. Meanwhile I am already thinking about my presentation in the afternoon, where I will introduce our resource-management solution to about 10 leaders of a telecom-giant company and to a few competitors of ours. This solution is one of the greatest successes of my career so far, I should be proud of it and excited about presenting it to others, but I feel something completely different. Pressure and a huge burden, that’s what I feel. Fear catches me in waves during the day, then short periods of relief, just to ride the next wave of nervousness. I hesitate whether I should fight or run away. The stake seems to be too big to risk it. What if I fail? What if I start talking nonsense and in a mess? What if I start crying or just faint? On a previous project I made a presentation in front of 300 people – including lots of executives – without any problem. I had some rough minutes at the beginning, but I went through it and I made a pretty good job. After that I trained tons of people, presented on company symposiums and press conferences. But I was just a careless youngster back then, without any stake or pressure, who had already overperformed all the expectations of his age. But now everything is completely different. Everything I’ve already achieved is not valid any more. I am not that young anymore. Now it can be expected from me to perform, to be able to give a marvellous presentation in front of many, and this is not that convenient to me anymore. My earlier feats have become everyday duties. Failure and flight is not accepted anymore. Besides, I live my life under unusual burdens for months now. My father’s cancer, issues in my private life, lost motivation in my work, my plans of living abroad, my own business plans, constant nervousness and frustration, and dancing on the edge of a complete break-down several times.
But if I really think about it, and about my behavior, I have to admit something. I like to exceed my competence and responsibilities, and try to do unexpected, extraordinary feats. It is tempting to think how brave I am because of this, but it is not true bravery. Because I do it all without risking anything. When I fail in that, nobody can blame me, because I wanted to do something that wasn’t my duty. When something is my responsibility and my duty, the same (or even easier) tasks can become very difficult and inconvenient. That is the truth. True bravery is when I undertake something where I really risk something and failure is a possibility. That is bravery. Like going there and doing this presentation today.
I don’t give it up, I don’t run away. I go out to the customer’s headquarters with my boss and a senior colleague, where a horde is already waiting for us and for my presentation. I know I’ll have to wait endlessly before I can speak, that is the worst part. Listening to other presentations, repeating my speech in my head over and over again. One moment I am calm and excited about speaking, feeling sharp and confident. The next minute my heart wants to explode in my chest, I can hardly sit on my chair, and I have to pull myself together not to collapse. I am fidgeting with my phone, thinking about pretending a fake call, then telling my colleagues I have to leave because something happend to my family. Then I calm down and reject this stupid idea and stay. Then it seems to be the best idea again. Then I come back to earth again, and realize that my boss is already speaking and introducing our solution before my presentation. Oh my God, what is going to happen to me now?! Eyes are focusing on me, and I see that few of them discovered my horrible nervousness. I don’t dare looking up, because I fear what I would see in their eyes. I just want to get over it. It crosses my mind another few times that I should run. I don’t really know why, but I stay. My boss is getting to the end of his speech, but they interrupt him and ask them questions. I still can’t start my speech. I am running out of patience and strength. Then I decide to interrupt my boss and continue his speech, because I can’t wait any longer. I am staring at the monitor in front of me and I am nervously tossing the mouse. I am trying to speak loud and strong, maybe it can suppress the trembling in my voice. I speak slowly, then I speak confused, I have to fight for each and every word and second to stay here in the present reality. Then I slowly start to feel the pressure easing a little, it becomes a little easier every minute, but it is still very hard. I only possess fractions of my abilities. My colleagues doesn’t notice anything at all about what’s going on inside me. They are men, with weak sensors. But the competitor chick in front of me can clearly see and feel every piece of my inner struggle of course. I can see it in her eyes that she knows. I still fight my way through the sentences. I am interrupted several times, I can hardly tell half of what I wanted to, but I keep pushing, because I want to answer all the questions, even with dusk in my mind. I am getting over it, it is coming to its end, another few questions and they let me go. Finally it is over. We stand up, do a little chat, and we’re leaving.
But true relief doesn’t come, tension lasts and total exhaustion joins it. I wait in vain for the deep sigh, it doesn’t seem to come. An hour later my legs are still tingling while driving home. Why is this happening to me? Am I just inpatient. I can’t and I don’t like to perform when it is expected by others. Constraints and duties are difficult to me. I prefer spontaneous things I guess. Or maybe I just prefer when things go my way. I hate when I have to wait before a difficult situation and it is not me who decides when to start. That’s why I hate waiting at my dentist. But the world doesn’t seem to adjust itself to me…