Monday, March 06, 2006

'You can't just be a free spirit.'

Gertrude was the first one to say this to me. Over the years, many others told me the same thing. Each time, I resented it. I refused to accept it. Certainly, society could not completely snuff the flame of an independent spirit. Certainly, the brave and determined could still find a way in this world without sacrificing their dreams. The free spirit can live in this world and the next and I refuse to accept anyone's discouragement on the subject.

"No. I will. You'll see." That was also the first time I stood up to her. I was upset that she tried to dash my childhood dreams. But Gertrude had influence. She was, after all, everything the imagination could conjure. To the young boy, she was the double edged knife which is life - the balance between yes and no, right and wrong, smart and stupid, the sea and the land. For the sister, she was all the manifestations of fantasy; Santa Claus and Easter bunnies, a handmaiden for the princess, a silly notion with daddy teasing us all. To the wife, Gertrude could be nothing other than the threatening trollop. But to me, the young child, she was the voice of wisdom, the oracle of all things seen and unseen. Gertrude determined whether we moved or not. She was everything the imagination could conjure.

Down below, my father sweated over the giant diesel engine, the hot Bahamas sun baked the white deck as three children and wife waited to turn a key or push a button. Down below, with dad, Gertrude whispered to me once again, 'You can't just be a free spirit.'

"You just watch me." I moved away from the hatch and made my way to the bow of the boat, getting as far away from her and her sabotage as I could.

I still have my battles with Gertrude, but now we are both much better at the game.
'I am so tired of this corporate hype. Tired of arrogant little people frothing at the mouth for their next million dollar deal. Tired of ugly golf shirts smattered with ugly logos. Someone, get me out of here' - approx 8 weeks ago.

Working at Initech had lost it appeal. The glamour, the prestige, the bounty of rewards and recognition had somehow become tarnished over time. I no longer tingled all over at the prospect of an early morning conference calll. The tossing about of words and acronyms like ROI, EOD, MBO, RFP and especially the word 'webinar' left a sulphuric taste on my tongue that no volume of beer or scotch would wash away. Suffice to say, my heart and head were no longer in the game.

I had become numb, complacent, dead. Was it just Initech, or had my enthusiasm for the entire corporate world also died? Or was it only in a deep, deep coma? I wonder if I will wake from these slumbers and find a satisfactory filler to occupy this hollow in my heart. Will I find a desire to once again walk down those anonymous rows of cubicle farms? Will I ever endure another freezing cold convention center, clapping enthusiastically over powerpoint presentations and comic skits performed by sales executives? Will I ever again sit in a conference room equipped with whiteboards and projectors discussing my "attitude problem"? Will I be presented with yet another etched plastic trophy while my colleagues clap wildly for no other reason to make noise and assure themselves they have not expired? Everything is so uncertain.

If there is one thing of which I am certain it is that I am lousy at predicting the future. Sometimes I am equally bad at shaping the future. Years have gone by where my dreams have been shoved to the side because of the certain security a more conservative path would provide. These were years of groundwork, adjustment, triumph and success. They were, early on, quite satisfactory - sometimes even exhillerating. But towards the end, the suppression of my dreams made me ashamed; afraid I would someday die without ever mustering that small amount of courage it takes to at least try to follow my heart. I found a little grit, a little money, and a little hope and chose to leave Initech before I abandoned all hopes of resuscitating that little boy who grew up to be me.