On working in the shadows

My generation has a fixation on finding purpose. I find myself categorized at the very front of the Millennial cohort. It's an odd label I hesitate to embrace fully, yet champion many of its values, except for one, self promotion.

One of my first jobs in the real world after school was with a fruit themed electronics retail store. A key piece of the company culture is celebrating individual success. I loved this idea at first and still do, but in routine practice, it became subservient to career advancement, all to make sure you were seen and considered for that position you so very much desired. This idea shows up everywhere with different names and is even codified into some company cultures.

I wound up rejecting the whole idea of talking up my successes as the entire exercise become distasteful and always felt contrived to me. I struggled with this for years until I found myself excitedly doing it again. Then it hit me:

I was with dear friends.

My context had been all wrong, and so had my mindset. In the pressured search for the limelight, I had abandoned my peers. With friends, you want their good more than your own, because you realize that their success is also yours. "High tide raises all ships" is the phrase, I believe. I had neglected to lead my own heart and mind in the practice of work and took on what I perceived to be management's path of least resistance.

But if you can work with friends, if you can forge those bonds that only come from struggling together for a worthy goal, you can genuinely share the joy of those successes with one another in the quiet moments of the seemingly mundane. And that can be enough.

I have found that I am happiest when I am with those who truly know me, my mind, and my heart. When we are together in the dark of our shared experience, making cave paintings to tell of a good day's hunt, a fire is lit. This fire brings warmth, light, and gently exposes the areas that need tending to.

Do good work! Fight hard to survive in the wild! Then, find your friends to celebrate with in the quiet retreat of a safe place. Far too many folks stay out in the sun, desperate that someone in the digital desert will notice them, an oasis of attention that never really satisfies.

Get into some shade every so often, for the sun, in all its dazzling glory, will burn, and ultimately kill you.

Coby Almond