Permanent Change for a Temp: Learning to Surf the Current

Sometimes, changes in the way we react to the most mundane of circumstances serve as proof as to how much we’ve matured without even realizing it. There we are, going along minding our own business, when Pow! Shazam! something happens (or fails to happen). In previous times, we would’ve done or thought X, but now, it hardly merits a blip on our radar screen. What’s going on?


Case in point: this week, I started a low level temp job at a quasi-academic trade association, downtown. (Fifteen bucks an hour gets you very little in this world, but it’s a new year and I have to scrabble together enough money to purchase way more in health insurance than I need.) I’ve only been there a few days, but this re-dipping of a toe in the workaday waters has demonstrated for me just how much I’ve progressed during these years in the desert. Before, I would’ve been eager to dazzle coworkers and upper management with my charm and wide ranging skillsets, believing that once they understood how terrific I am, they’d leap at the chance to have me. It’s also true that I’d have chafed at being told what to do by junior staff. (The height of hubris, I know.)


Today is a different story. My identification with and approach to such work is transformed. I no longer see a job—any job—as the definition of who I am and my value to this world. This is a huge, huge evolution. (As you’re reading along, please keep in mind that this same line of reasoning can be applied to whatever role you have declared all-important: Enthusiastic! Spouse, Unflagging Parent, Loyal Friend, Supreme Boss of the World, Enlightened Political Activist, a Person Who Rides in Private Planes, etc.) These days, I actually like having so little invested in where I am going—is that a bad thing? I can do my work and be on my way without any of the sticky expectations: no cookies to buy, no bullshit memos to read, no jockeying with others for seniority. What “mandatory activities would you cheerfully leave behind? What does this tell you about how important being this person is to your Inner Self?


I’ve asked myself if my new, relaxed attitude is genuine or is it more a symptom of resignation? After all, I’ve been looking for work for a long time with little success; it wouldn’t surprise anyone if I did. But, that’s not it. I’m not lackadaisical; in fact, I’m far more at ease with myself than I’ve ever been. Why? I know more.


What does this mean, exactly? Well, it means that I’ve smartened up about how I communicate, whether or not I’ll kill myself over a project, and how much I worry about the approval of others. I’m a lot savvier about reading the tea leaves and I recognize that life can be unfair. Just because you are energetic or smart or steadfast doesn’t mean that you’ll snag the brass ring (let alone be thanked). Good people get screwed all the time. There’s no reason to be bitter or disappointed because that’s just…life. It’s how the cookie crumbles. What do you think? Does any of this ring true?


I may very well have never learned these lessons had I met with unmitigated success; I’d have had no reason to reconsider my initial assumptions. My previous naiveté now makes me chuckle. These days, I am a far wiser and humbled individual who has a lot more patience and compassion for those who get kicked in the ass, bewildered as to how they landed in the mud. I know now that there’s usually more to the story. I’m also far more resilient. This doesn’t mean to say that I don’t have moments of frustration or despair or panic, let alone more to learn, because I do. How about you? How have you changed in your perceptions of the world? What do you manage better now compared to how you did a few years back? What personal difficulty has engendered patience and compassion and a good, knowing chuckle?


I don’t know how “it” will all work out because life can change on a dime—we all get thrown off course. I’ve come to appreciate how much better it is to have confidence in my ability to surf the currents, swim past the divas, and allow the sea to support me rather than sink like a stone—even on those days when I feel caught in an eddy. Looking at it this way, I’d say these realizations are a pretty good swap for $15 bucks an hour.

 Eddy depiction 2

If a large rock sticks up out of the surface of a river, then the current has to go around it. Holes and eddies often form behind large boulders.


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