Since day one I’ve tried not to be changed by the job in the way so many talk of it. For lots of reasons, if not just because it’s the way I think the world could be a more peaceful place, I’ve tried to remain compassionate, empathetic, giving, believing, reasonable.
I believe I’m still quite fair and I’d like to be able to say I’m quite true to myself. But a thought which has crossed my mind this evening is how my work has hardened me, or how I feel I need to be hardened to do it. That doesn’t only refer to the things I’ll see and have to deal with but the hard environment I work in, the thick skin I think I need to fit in. The jokes I need to make and the innuendo I seem to need to anticipate.
My housemate’s girlfriend recently mentioned me being in someway rude because I jovially said something about a part of a woman’s body which was being overtly sexualised in a film. This after she’d made a comment about it being gratuitous and unnecessary, as if we still needed that pointing out. I immediately thought ‘oh! maybe I’ve been vulgar‘. Then I reassessed and realised that I hadn’t. I would talk about ANY body in that way and it’s important to me to be comfortable with human bodies in their natural state and not to exacerbate the big deal made of nudity. I talked about it with my housemate afterwards and he said something along the lines of ‘you weren’t inappropriate. She masks her insecurity with a false feminism.’ (I might have to touch on that second point another day but, of note – i have found some significant contradictions and hypocrisies in her ideas around women/ gender.) From our conversation i thought this was a false sense of or requirement for prudishness and ‘modesty’ and picking holes in more sound women particularly around her partner. I don’t know. But those few exchanges made me wonder if I’d be as outspoken as I can be if I worked in a different environment.
Over new year I got to spend some real time with wonderful humans but also someone held dear to my dearest and I really enjoyed a few days of getting to know someone new to me. Listening to an individual who seems so true to their own sensitivity, positivity and shares their feelings for other human beings so fully has been encouraging and possibly highlighted one way I might not be as true to my self as I had been prior to becoming quite embedded in my role. It’s a big cliche, but it made me see a fence I might put up to prevent any weakness being seen.
(Not for my love, my walls are built from straw for him.)
What I perceived was someone who lives by their values so well and doesn’t refrain from reaching out even if it’s at risk of a less than ideal response. I think what I’m trying for is a bit more heart on sleeve and less mouth in the gutter.
I think we can give ourselves a free ride sometimes especially if we can bend our day (and night) jobs into something that might seem like ‘helping people’ more than it does. I wonder often about complacency, in what is so often decided to be a subjective and relative environment. It may actually be that it’s quite objective, and you’re either helping a little or a lot but I suppose it depends what cause you think you’re helping towards.
Authenticity is important and facing things head on is important to me. Not shying away from reality, having the grit to take it, whether in ones stride, or with a bit of work to get past a challenge.
One of the parts of my job I struggled with initially was the bravado required, because i was (and hope i can still be) too honest and clear in my position and intentions. I was pleased about this, pleased I couldn’t fool someone that i was completely confident in what i was doing when i simply wasn’t. Making people think i’ve got the balls at work does help with the work, but separating that from the sensitive, careful individual i hope to remain away from that world is vital.
Someone new recently thought i was a Sergeant in a briefing because i appeared knowledgeable and confident, but it’s just because it happened that I had important information to share that day and a slight insight into a discussion point that other’s didn’t have. But it shocked me, because inside i feel so fresh myself, looking up in awe at some of my colleagues.
The brash assertiveness I’ve seen at times is not how I wish to be. I can feel it sometimes in my quickness to make a joke or to pick up an easy dig, to be sarcastic or cynical when there are other softer options available which others who don’t roll in a daily environment like mine would jump to sooner.
I don’t feel like I’m putting myself down here – I’m seeing room for improvement inspired by real people. Using others as examples to galvanise and be honest and open and hoping. Not growing a vulgar outer shell to weather one environment and then being unable to lose that for the more tender parts of life.
Despite the purposeful (or not) encouragements of my colleagues to remain true to myself and not let the job change me, it’s a tough break to hold off without some reflection. Looking to other human beings helps me to see that although I feel I give people chances, the benefit of the doubt, try to be kind, that doesn’t mean that I’m truly opening up, or that I’m making days as easy as they can possibly be for those around me.
There’s always room for more tenderness in the savagery.