On Wednesday, during the 47-second walk from the first floor stairwell to my car, I broke down. I felt totally incompetent for my job.
It was inevitable. I’ve experienced many “whattheheckisgoingonrightnow” moments and “waitisthisEnglishorPRspeakIdonotunderstand” emails, and there was bound to be an emotional tipping point. That point turned out to be this past Wednesday, at approximately 5:15 p.m. A combination of obvious mistakes (I make lots, hence the constant learning) and an end-of-day embarrassment (versus a mid-day, maybe) in front of my boss (boss: “You don’t know how to get to the App Store? How do you not know how to get to the App Store?” + internal me: How have I not visited the App Store in recent history??? WE MAKE ALL OF OUR MONEY ON THE APP STORE, AAHHH *heart rate rising as boss approaches desk*) altogether turned into a catalyst for a minute-long self-pity sob fest (before I headed off to an awesome dinner at Lyfe Kitchen with Anna – their chopped Napa salad is the bomb).
(Whoa, how do you like all of these parentheses, eh?)
About 24 hours later, however, I walked that same path to my car with a huge smile radiating on my face. The team had had a lot on its plate that day and, at least with the projects I contribute to, things progressed, were cleaned up and completed. Getting ahead of deadlines, being affirmed by superiors, and successfully racing the clock felt really good. Once again, the end of the day arrived in a flash, but not before assignments were submitted. I felt validated by certain coworkers. I felt great!
Until I realized what was actually happening. Within 48 hours, I had hit major highs and lows… caused by suspicions. Of others’ thoughts of me. At work. The moment it took to break down the vanity of this reality is the time it took for my huge smile to disappear. Though Wednesday felt like shame and Thursday felt like triumph, it was all counterfeit emotion. None of it was rooted in worship, prayer or praise to God, which I know are far more legitimate standards of a good day. But how fast I forgot! Last week’s intense volatility was a blessing, reminding me how easy it is to abuse occupation as a form of personal judgment. It then dawned on me how quickly I could turn that on others, as well.
This is going to be the beginning of a lifelong challenge. For much of the world, career status is the easiest way to determine someone’s value, i.e. how much we respect or admire them. Most of us say we “know” a person’s worth is irrelevant to all of that, but somehow it’s more difficult to execute that supposed knowledge at a personal level. I’ve been interning in a corporate environment for hardly two months, and already I’ve felt the weight of hierarchy and career-related egos in both me and others around me. One could get lost in this picture of the world. It’s a picture that leaves no room for love, grace or the Holy Spirit; it’s entirely material and visible. I also know that if I fit myself permanently into that picture, I would start cutting down everyone around me to fit into it, too.
My latest long-term prayer has been that, starting now, and for the rest of my life, I don’t fall prey to the delusion that careers define societal value… which is, simply, more.