Work — Sailing Through

We never really work alone and we never truly succeed alone.

The social shrapnel still embedded in our consciousness almost two years into this crisis seems to point us in the direction of a neo-individualism: The myth of separation!

Often, we go through things and feel so horribly alone that we forget the one or two uncanny people that once dealt us a lucky card. Such has been my story for the last thirty years.

My very first job was a kind of apprenticeship working for my father in his electronics business. Within a couple of summer breaks, I became a technician, soldering components onto small PC boards. Towards the end of school, like any self-respecting teenager, I broke away from the patriarchal grip and took up a weekend and night waitress job. In those days and in that context, it was as simple as going into a place and asking for a job. Boom! There it was. No paperwork…just work for tips. I was a kid after all! All I wanted was pocket money. It was a rough learning curve wrought with conflicts and late night study sessions to pass what in South Africa we called Matric (the last year of High School). My parents weren’t impressed…but I was! I’d earned my freedom alone.

At university things got a lot tougher. I needed more than just pocket money. I had to pay for things, buy my own food and wash my own clothes. On top of that I needed fuel for my 1996 rugged, Ford Lazer. In order to make a success of my alternative events, I needed help from three older students. They were amused at this inexperienced, twenty-year old stepping on their turf but each was willing to give a bit of their resources towards my success.

Beyond university started the real world: life as a couple sharing costs, renting an apartment, making plans for the future. Already it was self-evident that it took two to afford living independently. A small irony right there. I needed a full time job and despite my student work experience, nobody would hire me. But I had a network! Those three students had opened the door to meeting other like-minded people. In my desperation I reached out to one such contact who’d sprung from the spring of my events. He was a tad older and wiser and understood my plight. He promised to recommend me to the manager of his music store. And the rest is history, as they say.

Many steps in my professional career have been taken alone, without recommendations, networks or luck. Most of my success has come from sheer willpower. If I would have halted at each negative response, I’d still be stuck serving burgers and filling sauce bottles at midnight. Despite all that, however, there were times when nothing worked. On a few occasions in my gypsy past, I reached ground zero: no work, no money, no legal rights. In those moments I had no choice but to let go of the trapeze and free fall into the arms of an uncanny ally. One such occasion brought me a fellow French student from the same social learning school. A man well past middle age, trying to make ends meet in our shared, foreign environment. I’d never given him much thought, despite our common heritage. My goal had been to learn and go. No strings, no friendships…no attachments. He always greeted me, sought to sit by me in class, joked at my military outfit and poked at my social resistance. I kept my poise of silent resolve until one day, the darkness in my mind obscured all my defenses. I was at breaking point, faced with a choice I didn’t want to make.

“I fix a lot of machines in restaurants.” He replied thoughtfully. “Can you serve?” He asked after more thought.

Could I serve? I thought sarcastically. It’s where it all began!

He helped me get my first job, this time as a student well past her prime.

I can’t remember his name and lost all contact in the haze of financial uplift and amidst the turmoil of a new romance. An uncanny ally whom I’d initially rejected as a friend…

“Attachment leads to the dark side” I’ve often jested, mimicking a Jedi Knight.

Yet without attachment, there is no cause. Nothing to fight for or work towards. We work and play and live around the other, whether significant or superficial. Few connections are reciprocal by default or even after meticulous effort. Networks are often cold and overrated.

It is, however, those few exceptions to the rule, found randomly during a lifetime, that steer the ship towards the shore after the storm.

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