I sighed deeply. Darn, if only this conversation could be postponed. The ever-ticking clock doesn’t care about personal requests though. It’s an unrelenting truth: sooner or later you’ll have to make (un)important choices. Although I’d put some thoughts on paper, I wasn’t looking forward to this inevitable moment. Damn it, be a grown man and face it. I took a deep breath, smoothed my shirt and walked inside towards the long-awaited appointment. The ladies were all set. My nervousness wasn’t because of them, a lack of self-confidence or fear of saying something ‘wrong’. Far from it. That company suits me well in many ways. They provided the effort of customization, the space for openness, the investment of sincere attention. The informal atmosphere and coziness were genuine. I was at ease in this stronghold, but not for now. I kept my cards close to my chest. My mood wasn’t right to hide nothing. I simply couldn’t, even if I wanted to. As more often, an internal conflict between feeling and mind was going on. Expressing a clear, unified message is too much to ask for in such a state of mind.
All right, let’s get this over with. Like most conversations, this performance review started off with some small talk before going down to business. I predicted that they were content with me, and my senses didn’t let me down. Unspoken appreciation got thrown out, which is always nice to receive. I seized the opportunity to do the same. Yeah, I know. This sounds like a sneaky game that (understandably) makes you vomit instantly. Luckily I kept my lunch inside since the appreciation was sincere. Otherwise it’s a lot like awkward or fruitless advances. Our imaginary dance went on gracefully with style. This looks quite promising, so someone will make a move. The corporate line was thrown with perfect timing. Hmmm… The seemingly tasty bait looks promising for this insatiable glutton. It was thoroughly inspected with cautious curiosity. Take your time. Know what you’re biting into, look beyond the horizon. If something is too good to be true, then often it is. The sea is (still) abundant with fish, explorations are so enriching and exciting. It’s not that I necessarily have ‘to go’, but I can always take the known route. Long story short: I didn’t bite. Well, not immediately. I might be back later.
On the way home I stared at the familiar Dutch landscape. My mind raced as fast as the Intercity. The window reflected the man on a stone. Bravo, postponed yet another decision to be made. This purebred Millennial did it over and over again. Somehow this almost laughable ‘achievement’ had an absurd touch. What the hell am I doing? I shook my head for the popular contract of ‘normality’ or ‘the real life’. There it was: a unilaterally signed contract of employment with improved terms, carefully written, printed on special paper and waiting in a shiny folder. All I had to do was signing it. This would secure an income, title, regularity and outlined path. Exactly what so many people yearn for. In addition to a fixated timetable, it also offers a practical answer to thé question: ‘what do you do?!’ Surely you can expect a clear answer by now from someone in his thirties. Right? After all the education, internships, courses, modules, seminars and junior positions, this is the stage of life to harvest (an income). Before that stage commenced, I had neatly spread and sown my seeds. I also thought about another pressing question from thé list of questions: where do you want to be in five years from now on? After graduation, I had a vivid picture of what I didn’t want. Back then I already felt little with yuppies, their bloated-up high-society and the puppet-show-disguised rat-race. The foreboding turned out to be very accurate (in my experience) after five turbulent years. During this time I came and disappeared as a self-selected ‘reserve-professional’. The role allowed me to see that world in much broader daylight. My eyes opened a little further. Obviously it was a turnoff leading straight towards a dead end. Instinctively I stayed far away from that no-go zone.
So where did the inner conflict come from? Deep inside I felt a (understandable) trace of temptation. Job securities or the ‘right to exist’ of (groups of) professions aren’t self-evident. The same goes for what we stand for as humanity, where we get fulfillment from or identify ourselves with. And that stings, being the sensitive group animals we are. Even if paid labor would be too traditional, bureaucratic, time-consuming, restricted, outdated, ineffective, boring, burdensome or politically/profit/short-term driven, then at least you still belong to something (as long as it lasts). Rather having a limited identity than being a total ‘nobody’, is the motto. At least it offers answers, peace of mind and a direction to follow throughout life. Everything is poured into an organizational/corporate box for clarification: options in budgets, choices in careers, achievements in reports, creations in copyrights, intellectual stimuli in price tag and motivation in a payslip. I saw it all happening during the train ride. The twisted mill of modernity would give me the final blow as well. I thought of the tribes that are defeated by the system. I thought of all the (young) people who are (already) completely ‘stuck’ and sorted out. I thought of those burdened by debts, contractual obligations or self-imposed limitations. Ben! Don’t take the bite, or get pulled into an unnatural world while squirming and gasping for oxygen. It would be a quick bite with far-reaching consequences. My mental numbness processed into business cards. My un-chased dreams vanished into an imaginary ladder. My precious energy lost to jam-packed agenda’s. My authenticity dissolved in soulless business plans. My nagging pain tranquilized by the grind. My stagnation faded into company pictures. My bore-out caused by meaningless sideshows. My demise triggering a mid-life crisis.
I smiled once again while cycling around. Why making it so hard for yourself while the choice is already made. Get this done and over with already, here and now. This clinical way of life isn’t my calling. Be honest; just say that you’ve had enough of it. I’m going to decline politely to the offer of prolonging this occupational therapy. Then the freed-up time will be used to regain control over the ship. It’s my responsibility to guide my home through stormy waters. It takes me to places full of exotic fruits, unusual creatures and valuable minerals. Yeah, it’s so obvious. I manage perfectly fine without consecutive work-experience, a so-called ‘job for life’ or straitjacket(s).
I want to serve the community in my own way, even if it results in my bankruptcy or downfall.
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