You know how it feels when you’re trying to make a good first impression? With the new job, I’ve been too busy to run lately, but I’ll use a race analogy anyway. You’re at the starting block; you want to bolt out at the beginning to make a name for yourself. So you give those opening strides everything you’ve got… only to trip on a loose stone. And then, when you pick yourself back up, one of the stragglers bumps into you, and now you’re off the track again with a mouthful of dirt and grass. So you pick yourself up, yet again, and continue down the race track, well behind, limping and grumbling and utterly embarrassed.
On an entirely unrelated note, let’s talk about that new job.
Like most work, my job involves both regular smaller assignments and ongoing work towards larger projects, plus a few big-ticket items that are the real reason I’m there. I obviously wanted to make a splash the first time the latter came around. Luckily, my first major assignment was a newsletter. Between my blogging and design skills, I was looking forward to the slam dunk. Sure, I’d have to work within systems and programs I’d never used before, but I knew I’d win the race before it even had a chance to get started.
Instead, I stubbed my toe and went down hard. For a whole host of reasons I couldn’t control – reasons that no one could control, unfortunately – it all went wrong, the whole setup collapsing like so many dominoes. All I could do was try to fix it. So I did the best I could, and in this instance, it was…
Honestly, it wasn’t great. And it wasn’t because I was cocky or went in unprepared. I worked late nights and weekends, researched until my eyes bled, and sent so many test letters you’d think I had OCD. But for all my preparation, I still I got dealt a bad hand… and then another. In that moment, I wanted to die, and definitely not come back to life, regardless of how glamorous James and company make it seem.
But here’s the thing: the race was still on. It’s still on now, actually. I fixed things as best I could and went back the next day. The world didn’t end. Yes, I stumbled and crashed in front of all my new co-workers – but my efforts didn’t get me thrown under the bus, something I’ve unfortunately encountered elsewhere. That’s one of those great things about being on a team that works together. As one of them told me, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” I can’t deny that it seems easier to run a long marathon if you have people running with you, everyone cheering each other on. A good team sees you stumble and gives you a hand to help instead of pushing you back down. A good team rallies together, no matter who messes up. Even when everyone messes up. A team supports each other and keeps going. It keeps running.
Now that I know what went wrong the first time around, I have resolved never to let anything resembling that failure happen again. Round two on this newsletter is fast approaching, and I’m back at work. And this time, I know exactly what to do: keep pushing, and never give up.
End of story, right? Well, like I said, the race continues, but I took an unexpected detour recently.
I’d like to keep certain details of my offline life… well, offline. But I can at least tell you that I work with children. And recently, there was a kid where I work who was having trouble sticking it out and not giving up. Specifically, he was scared that Trump’s election meant that a black child like him was an unimportant part of this country. That the deck was already stacked against him and no one cared – especially, he said, not white people. It was then that my teammate, Red, stood up and brought the boy into our office and sat him down.
He spoke of the danger of condemning an entire race. He revealed that he, a black man, wouldn’t be where he is without the help of people of every color, including white; of every sexual orientation, religion, any sort of background. He said that we all have something to offer the team, and to discriminate against one group out of ignorance or fear only limits what you can achieve.
And then he brought me into the conversation, explaining that he’d grown up in a Jewish neighborhood and praising “Jewish soul food”. And by Jewish soul food, he meant a salt bagel with cream cheese, lox, and a little raw onion, the only way my people could get away with combining cheese and “meat”. The child listened with wide eyes, telling us he’d never had anything like that. John promised him that one day he would.
I was inspired. I wanted to help my teammate. So I took a walk.
The best bagel place in New York happens to be near my office. And they happen to make an excellent salt bagel with cream cheese, lox and raw onion. I know, because I got one for myself. But I also got a second one so that John could share it with our new friend (who has since asked me several times to bring more).
I’m not going for a humble brag here. It’s a bagel, only ten dollars out of my pocket (for those outside New York, yes, that is really what you pay for lox, and yes, there’s a reason we keep doing it). But small as the gesture was, it felt good to me and for me. Like getting my second wind. Like picking up speed.
The race continues, but maybe I’m not as out of shape as I thought.