Have you ever surprised yourself in life?
Not with trivialities (though I doubt that surprising oneself is a triviality itself), but with what one considers a milestone?
What is it that we sometimes do when we are faced with decisions and are caught between feeling discouraged and needing to take action? What feeling do we follow?
In my childhood I heard the stories of Till Eulenspiegel, a braggart and scoundrel par excellence. In one of his adventures, he claims to have pulled himself out of a swamp with his own hair. How I laughed, because of course every child knows that this is impossible. But something more important resonates.
That can be found in every exaggeration, as long as one does not feel offended by it. Instead of railing at the nonsense that Eulenspiegel spouted, the message is nevertheless clear. Do the impossible in a situation that seems hopeless. Some people would say "Fight for yourself!" to this, but that's not what I want to express, as it connotes too much of a struggle. Rather the opposite of fighting. More of the ability to create a smiling moment out of a gloomy one. To trick oneself (instead of others).
I just came out of a situation in a job I had started only three months before.
It was one of the most unpleasant work environments I had ever experienced. A nest of vipers full of fearful people who were backstabbing, not helping, and in great competition with each other.
The fish that stank from the head
was the founder of this school where I started in the secretariat. He turned out to be a true despot and ruler.
People were afraid of him, which meant that they hated and feared him, while they tried to please and do everything right for him, immediately!
Unfortunately, I have to admit that this fear was passed on to me and my self-esteem gradually disappeared, while my colleague, who was supposed to familiarize me with the job, tried to pass on to me the despotism that she herself so detested and yet did not have the presence of mind to recognize. I felt sorry for her, as I disliked her at the same time.
One of the colleagues was standing in the office
when the boss, as usual in a boss attitude, came in and asked if the morning email with his latest instructions had arrived.
I replied "Yes, I have read it, but have more urgent tasks to do at the moment."
The colleague looked at me as if I had taken leave of my senses and hurriedly said, "No problem, G, it will be taken care of right away!" However, he neither reprimanded me nor otherwise bossed me in this situation, it was apparently sufficient that a servant was immediately on hand to assure him of "immediate asap completion". Perhaps he thought that this was how I would learn to behave? But perhaps I was able to retain a small corner of dignity. Who knows.
There was a constant stress and tension that after only a few months I decided I didn't want to have to endure anymore. No matter what I would have done or said, it became clear that no one would stand against the head of the company and I would have worn myself out trying to change something for the better. You have to know when to take action and when it's better to leave it alone. I decided to leave and then I did.
Without having a new workplace,
I ended up at the city employment office and after some time I received a request to visit a job fair. Adhering to the requirement, but in complete inner disrespect to the possibilities and prospects of success I assessed, I went there, more or less grumbling. I don't like to be told what to do.
I walked through the rows of presenting companies with less than an idea of what work I would like to do in the future. Only one booth immediately caught my attention. Here I developed - in an instant - a concrete interest, and with that came thoughts of what I could professionalize, what could build on my previous life and work experience.
Although it was a completely different industry than the one I had worked in so far. Participation in this training program, however, required a basic education in this particular field. Which I did not have. The lady at the booth then also told me that "an admission to the school program was not possible and she was very sorry."
My joyful spontaneous enthusiasm immediately evaporated and a heavy disappointment took hold of me.
It was devastating.
With this disappointment in my stomach, I headed for the exit. Just before I went through, however, I stopped. I don't know why I stopped, I don't know where the sudden, even violent, thought of going in another direction came from, to reconsider. I looked at the door and thought something like, "If I go through there now with this terribly hopeless mood, how far will that get me? How will I get home? What awaits me there?"
She was somewhat surprised to see me in front of her again.
In fact, she let me lead her on and gave me the name of the person in charge at the office with whom I could make an appointment.
To cut a long story short, despite the lack of background, I was finally assured of a place in the programme and all I would then "only" have to do is have my employment agent at the authority to take over the funding.
Now, talking to him. He didn't give me any hope at all - "even my own wife can't get a job in these economic circumstances and you want to get a foothold in this field as an unmapped person?" - and more or less declared the venture a failure. But I said: "Please stand up for me.", and stubbornly stuck to optimism. That is where sales comes into place.
Three weeks later I received a phone call from him, in which he told me rather good-humouredly: "Shall I sweeten your weekend?" It was Friday, of course. By then I heard the bells ringing and knew it was done.
This tendency not to let things get you down and not to drag out a seemingly difficult situation, but not to question decisions once made, has helped me many times in my life.
Woodcut. Illustration from "Till Eulenspiegel" from 1515.
I tend to be spontaneous.
It is this spontaneity that I perceive as a great enrichment, as something that stands out in a way from the planned. It's true, it could have been anything at that job fair, the main thing was that it ignited a spark of interest. My goodness, the industry could have been a different one, but what was important to me was that I could already mentally place my previous professional experience and technical skills there.
The whole thing was roughly ten years ago.
I worked in this new profession as a freelance consultant for about the same time. It satisfied me to a great deal. I learned a lot and I built up slowly but surely my customer base. Which in itself contains another spontaneity in "how to generate customers?" by not accepting a "no" and turn it into a "yes".
Sometimes it's good to be naive in this way. Not knowing everything about chances and estimates gives you the freshness to go for a goal you might otherwise dismiss.
Things have changed in the meantime. But that is another story.
Thank you, The Ink Well, for providing the prompt. Here you can go to the contestant rules.
By D. Dekker - This media file is from the collections of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, part of which is available on Wikimedia Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58140458
Following in order:
By Hans Baldung Grien (?) - rdk.zikg.net, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6807091
Von Autor/-in unbekannt - UB Gießen, Gemeinfrei, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8842978
Von Hermann Bote - Till Eulenspiegel, Gemeinfrei, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1557522