This morning I was watching the clip for Battle Scars, the song by Guy Sebastian and Lupe Fiasco, at one point in the song various people hold up pieces of paper with single words written on them. One of them really stayed with me; it was a white middle aged white collar worker holding a piece of paper with the word SLAVE. It reminded me of a piece I wrote when I had just returned to Australia. I had been home for a week and a half when I went back to work. I found the whole commuting process and being back in the corporate world incredibly surreal. I wrote a piece that I titled “Observations of a Commuter” on my iPhone on the train home one evening, here it is unedited:
People all in one place together yet all so disconnected. Busy with the busyness of their lives. Sitting together as we are transported to where we will spend the next eight or more hours. Everyone looks straight ahead, rarely at each other. Little human interaction. There are few conversations, just between those already acquainted. The focus is on external stimulation; phones, iPods, computers, books, anything to distract us and make the time go faster. Is anybody present? Is anyone here? We arrive at our destination and stream out en masse with other commuters, hundreds of us lining up and swarming like ants, in a hurry to exit the station, rushing to our destinations. All through the city we are busily heading to our places of work, but there are grim looks on so many faces, nobody looks excited to be going where they are going. What will we all do when we get there? Does anything we do at work really matter? Do we make a difference in anybody’s life? If we didn’t do that work would anyone notice? At lunch time we move outside to eat and do more of our busy things. Later, back to work for the afternoon. End of the day we all hurry back to make our transport home. Again all together but so disconnected. We reach home to spend such a very short time with our loved ones before bed.
For tomorrow we must do it all again….
Or must we?
Clearly I was struggling with the nine to five after a year of living a life quite the opposite with people who have such different values and priorities. About a month later I started this blog as a way to sort out the shit and find some clarity in my future direction as I find writing quite cathartic. I have hardly been consistent or regular with it but it has been a great process nonetheless.
I never fully settled back in to that workplace, though I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity, loved the actual work but I found that I just didn’t fit at my desk any longer. I used to say I felt like an enormous square peg in a tiny round hole. I applied for a different position and I was lucky enough to get an amazing job working for what is undoubtedly the world’s most incredible humanitarian organisation. With this job I can confidently answer my earlier question that the work we do does make a difference to many people’s lives, but is it making a difference in mine?
I am feeling restless again, it feels like I am standing on the edge of that precipice, sensing big change ahead. I am reminded of the quote by Guilluame Apollinaire
Come to the edge, He said. They said, We are afraid. Come to the edge, He said. They came. He pushed them… and they flew.
Maybe it’s time for me to fly.