First Jobs and Boredroom Kindness

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 | 1 Comment(s)

My first real job out of college was bartending in NYC.  I was the "new guy" at two different establishments and got all the shitty slow shifts to suffer through.  I was overworked and underpaid.  Then 9/11 happened and I had no work with no pay.

My second job out of college was as a psychology research assistant to the Medical Director of a  therapeutic community-style substance abuse center.  The MD was a small man with a big job title and while he only handed me the occasional assignment, usually web-search related, I had a bigger office than those with Master's degrees who were getting their hands dirty doing the actual work.  Those worker bees were also my only coworkers, and I liked them all without exception.  They were from all walks of life: a German-born thirty-something who put her heart and soul into developing the psychology branch of the substance abuse center,  a forty-something Jew-Bu who was both motherly and fierce simultaneously (I, appropriately, was both stupefied and enamored with her), and another young white dude my age who I sincerely can't remember anything about except that we would commiserate together until he left for grad school, or marriage, or something else equally important.  Suffice it to say, we were all pretty forthright about how ludicrous it was that I had the big office.  More than anything it was a passive-aggressive power move by the doctor to show the others who the boss was -- because he didn't have anything resembling the balls to stand up to those two women himself. You know, the women doing the lion's share of the work that he, I assumed, was taking the lion's share of the credit for. It was not an optimal work environment.

Be that as it may, at 22, I was confronted with a situation that placed me in a large room, by myself, with a internet-connected computer, for eight hours a day.  I familiarized myself with The Onion's Personal Ads.  Looking back, it is incredible to me that a satire publication had a dating website component, but I swear to god it existed.  After all those web searches, and believe me, there were hours and hours of them, I began to decorate the room itself.  My office was twice the size of my bedroom in Brooklyn, and the place just felt too cavernous and isolated when left white-walled.  Mostly I hung pictures of friends and family.

And then other times, I just sat in my chair and thought.  This was over a decade ago, and I was a needier person then, but this is one of the things I remember thinking about specifically.  While starring at the pictures of my friends tacked to a bulletin board, I thought, I wonder how many of those people have my picture up in their offices?

I know, I know.  You're thinking, "Go see a therapist and stop wasting our time with your clingy bullshit." If it were present day me saying that stuff, I would be in complete agreement.  Nevertheless, this already happened.   And though the sentiment admittedly crossed onto and over the narcissism line, I think I was attempting to touch on a more common truth about what people want or need from other people in their life.   We want to feel like we are making an impression in our friends' lives, particularly with those closest to us who we feel are leaving their mark on us.  Friendship is endlessly about reciprocity and the continued trust that someone will be there for you in the same way you are for them.

Which is why, when you get a letter in the mail from a college friend you haven't spoken to in awhile, or a Facebook message from an old high school buddy, it's an incredibly joyful feeling.  This person you care about was just thinking about you, out of the blue, and sent you some love with no real return request except the opportunity to put a smile on your face. It's as if they just sent you a picture of their cubicle, with your face featured prominently on the wall beside their computer.

And so, when I saw this post on my friend Julie's Facebook feed a few weeks back, I quickly signed up for the challenge.
Yes, so here's a little pay-it-forward initiative I am happy to join in on to practice the giving, sharing and generosity muscle...the first five people who comment on this status with "Im in" will receive a surprise from me at some point in this calendar year - anything from a book, a ticket, a visit, something home-grown or made, a postcard, absolutely any surprise! There will be no warning and it will happen when the mood comes over me and I know the item that I believe would suit you and make you happy. These five people must make the same offer in their FB status and distribute their own joy, inspiration, warmth, and awe...simply copy (or put in your own words/with your own sentiments) this text onto your profile. No sharing!!! So we can form a web of connection, generosity and kindness...
Kindness is indeed a muscle that needs conditioning.  So now it's time to put in my reps. The first five (non-familial) commenters to reply to this post in the affirmative will receive some token of my affection in the next year.  Unannounced.  And those that accept, of course, should continue this generosity in their own lives.

1 comment:

  1. Nobody has commented yet? A shame! Who are all those people who love you!! I'm here. Ani Po. :-)