Drowning but desperate to live I slapped at the water ineffectually, my efforts barely able to keep my head from sinking below the lake’s surface. A man on the beach watched intermittently, occasionally calling out to me as his feet scattered the dry sand, his hands gesticulating as he instructed, repeating over and over his impotent words of life saving wisdom. “Swim,” he commanded, “swim.”
I continued to pound the water while he continued to instruct, continued to demand that I save myself. Grave doubts flooded my mind and spirit concerning the wisdom of having entrusted my life to the man on the beach, the man who had insisted he was going to do things for rather than to me.
I was drowning in the lake in to which he had dumped me, the lake where he had insisted I swim despite my insistence that I was an ineffectual and insufficient swimmer, and my acceptance of his edict now seemed decidedly foolhardy as I suffered and strained in water coughing, lung searing, fear filled retrospect. This sink or swim, this pool of panic and impotence into which he had thrown me felt decidedly like being done to, not done for, though I feared I might be exactly that: Done for.
Welcome to my work world, it’s experiencing a tectonic shift.
I have reached a point in life where the means required to meet my needs are few and having reached this wondrous plateau of income and expense equilibrium I work “part-time,” a part-time that too often involves overtime hours. I work mostly to give my days structure and I am blessed to work in the bicycle industry, an industry that allows and encourages me to go forth and evangelize the wonders that are two-wheeled-wonders, to promote the gospel, the good news, of cycling and to spread the word on how biking and bikes can help save us as individuals while simultaneously aiding our poor abused mother, Mother Earth. Yep, I sell bikes, bicycle accessories, bicycle maintenance and bike repair to the rarified citizens of Cary, North Carolina. It should be a good gig, but every day I grow less sure that it is.
I have a certain set of skills, (cue music from Taken) I have a comfort zone and I have expectations. I expect to work hard while at work and, other than devoting time to upping my game concerning product knowledge, to decidedly NOT work when I am outside the store. I expect to be given sufficient time and instruction to provide the world class customer service my new corporate masters tout and insist upon. I expect to jump through hoops and joyfully assist my fellow bicycle travelers on their cycling journeys. I also expect to have fun as I do my job.
Does it sound as though this drowning man is having these expectations met?
The work/play balance is important. The ability to provide guests with a “WOW!” filled experience crucial, and my need for selfcare is essential. Why would an old man who doesn’t need the tiny paycheck provided in return for his devoted service to selling cycling subject himself to conditions that make him feel as though he is drowning? That, the essential question, shall go unanswered but not uncontemplated.
If someone is drowning it seems that we have four choices we can make, four avenues of action we can take. The first avenue is to watch as he flounders, assuring him that he’s doing fine while making him suffer and wonder just how long it is before he goes under for the final time. The second choice is to throw our drowning man a lifeline, to pull him in to shore and provide him with the swimming instruction he needs; to listen to his warnings that his age and skill set makes him incapable of performing certain swim strokes and to provide him with a challenging but not defeating environment. A third choice is to pull our victim in just long enough to catch his breath and then send him back into the depths, into the life threatening pool that is over his head. The fourth choice, the choice that prevents drowning but addresses none of the drowning issues, is for the victim to struggle to shore where he can extract himself from the deadly, life sucking pool. Given these options a sane person should expect choice number two and if that is unavailable surely he would choose four’s lifesaving exit?
Thus far my tectonic work changes have been unpleasant and overwhelming but previous history assures neither future success nor failure. I’ll keep punching that clock, I’ll keep my head down and pedal as I peddle but either I get some help mastering the strokes that are expected of me or I decide that it’s time to exit the water and leave the pool for those who are all wet.