Money or Friends

I drive into the parking lot, my mind already thinking ahead to my lunch break, when I can take off and go for a walk in the sunshine. Sunshine…I look at the sky seeing only stars. Along the horizon is the merest hint of the day that is coming, but the sunrise is still an hour or more away, and I have to go inside or I’ll be late.

Sighing, I grumble at my lot—always having to work in order to make a living; trapped inside a dingy cube all day, every day, staring at a computer screen, tapping out messages that no one ever reads—when all I really want is to be outside in the sunshine, reading all the books I never seem to have time for, or walking and thinking and pondering the ways of the universe. Instead, I only see the sun (if I’m lucky) when I manage to grab a quick 30 minute lunch break, or as I’m leaving for home after working all day…or when I get a chance to sneak downstairs, escaping the confines of my cube, where I gaze through the lobby windows at that glorious orb of heat of light.

For me each day is just another round of meetings, and forced interactions with the other writers in my department. (I say forced, because given my druthers, I would hunker into my cube and do my work, never venturing forth except for bathroom breaks and to take my lunchtime walk in the nearby park. However, the department heads insist on everyone getting up and mingling every so often throughout the day; making us chat and “build a camaraderie”.)

I’ve never understood this “need” to force people to “bond”. What’s wrong with coming in, doing your work, and going home? But no, every place I’ve worked, the bosses have insisted on everyone being “friends”. The problem is, the older I’ve gotten the more difficult it is for me to care, and therefore ‘bond’ with the other people in my department (wherever I’m working at the time).

After all, I have little (if anything) to contribute to any conversation, I rarely go anywhere or do anything that anyone else considers ‘interesting’. So, I am ‘forced’ to listen to people brag about their new babies (been there, done that, don’t really care), or whine about their bad relationships (so, why don’t they change it?), or how much money they spent on some new ‘toy’ (a blackberry, an MP3 player, etc.), and it’s all I can do to keep from making faces or nodding off.

The complaints and whining especially get on my nerves, and they all seem to do it incessantly. I just want to rap my knuckles on their heads and say, “Then do something about it besides complaining at me!” So, inside I scream at them, while trying to look sympathetic and acting as if I care.

Does this sound self-absorbed? Well, picture it from my side of the fence—they tell me their complaints and I can see (both from their words and their energies) who did or said what, and exactly which monad or lessons are being learned and why, and whether or not there’s any awareness and understanding of what’s happening. And you know what? Usually, there’s none. They absolutely do not understand why every guy they choose to move in with turns out to be a cad and a philanderer, or why every encounter with their parents turns into an argument, etc. Can I tell them why? No, because until there’s some inkling of awareness, some glimmer of recognition that something bigger than themselves is going on, they won’t listen to me anymore than they’ll listen to themselves. So, for me, it’s frustrating, aggravating, and irksome to have to listen to them go on and on about woe-is-me, when the answer (to me) is so simple and right there in front of their faces.

Is it a test of my patience? Oh, you know it is. Does it make it any easier? No…but I keep trying to get past my apathy and care. And you know what…I think I did it.

Last week, I was working from home (or telecommuting as they prefer to call it here). Anyway, I needed to attend another of those myriads of meetings that seem to occur all the time, so I had the meeting coordinator call me and I teleconferenced (though without the video portion).

By teleconferencing, I was in a very unique position. Although, they all knew that I was listening in on the phone, without a presence there in the room, I quickly realized that people can “forget” that you’re around.

Now, many of the participants of this particular meeting were from my department, and as the meeting was gearing up and people getting organized, I listened to the conversations going on around the room.

They joked and kidded around, and I “eavesdropped” in on the different discussions that popped up here and there—one gal spoke about her daughter and some cute little trick she had pulled, another was commenting about the problems she was having with her car, and someone else made a risqué comment that had us all laughing. Then as the laughter started to subside and the meeting coordinator started to pull the meeting together and get started, I realized something—I liked these people. I liked these people a lot! That even if I weren’t working with them, I would like to have them as friends.

Now, while that may seem silly and somewhat trite, coming from a scholar it’s a great awakening. Scholars rarely let anyone inside (emotionally). We’re extremely stand-offish—the term “lone wolf” was probably coined to describe scholars. We do not like to be involved in life (our own or other peoples) and here I was ready to embrace each of those people in the meeting and invite them inside my life. That’s how profound the impact was—I truly welcomed each of them inside my heart at that moment.

Maybe we still don’t have a lot of things in common, and I’m not impressed with technology or fancy toys—cars, boats, mp3 players, etc., but I realize now that it doesn’t matter.

Somewhere along the path of my life, I had lost the purpose for working. I had started out taking jobs because of the people I met during the interview process, and somewhere, somehow, that got replaced by the job itself. I had begun concentrating on the work itself (the tasks and responsibilities) instead of the people. And once my husband stopped working, I became even more focused on the work and the payoff.

Suddenly, this brief moment on the phone made me recognize just how far off course I had gone. It also showed me that I had the chance to change my path. I could choose tasks and money, or I could choose people.

Well, I’m racing down that path that at one time made me so happy; the path of people. I’m not interested in the job and the money; I’m interested in the people. And as hard as it is for a scholar to become involved, it’s what I intend to do. These are nice people, fun people, and I want (and need) to be part of a group that cares about one another they way these folks do.


One thought on “Money or Friends

  1. A lady of integrity, courage, and loyalty you are. Thank you for so generously sharing your thoughts and observations of life. Your essay is lovely and thought provoking.


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