Unflappable

Unflappable he has called me. He said he really appreciates my calm demeanor and has even derived strength from the fact that I never appear stressed. He has meant it as a compliment. Most of us would take this as a compliment but I have questioned myself. And perhaps my introspection leads me to believe that this calm quality may even be a draining of ambition, of not being as hungry as I once was. Believing a little too strongly in the adage, “This too shall pass”.

Many of my colleagues have gone through a similar shift in aggressiveness, ambition, in building a competitive edge for themselves at the workplace. I see it as a post 9/11 syndrome in some ways. Or perhaps it is just the process of maturing. I don’t know what it is.

But I am going to contradict myself now in saying that I really want this opportunity. I want this promotion. It will validate all my effort, the time I’ve put in, the sacrifices I have willingly made. It will do all of this. I really want this promotion. I feel as if I have emerged from a two-year long fog of inaction. I didn’t think about my promotability, I was happy doing what I was doing. I didn’t invest anytime in networking, in packaging myself as a marketable entity primed for the next rung up the corporate ladder. In some ways I felt contented. Paraphrasing Paul Simon, I had my books and poetry to protect me, I was a rock, an island and a rock felt no pain and an island never cried. Replace the pain and the tears with ambition and hunger for more.

And then they waved the carrot in front of me, I was asked if I wanted to throw my name in the hat. And yes, I was interested, I was sleeping not dead. I wasn’t that far gone in my literary pursuits to disregard the option of throwing my name in a hat. I answered in the affirmative, initially pleased but then increasingly disturbed as the depth of that one line slowly sunk in.

A name in a hat is never alone. It is pitted against other names in a hat. This became an increasingly disturbing realization. This calls for a fight. I had experience being a fighter in my upward mobility but I hadn’t expected to be drawn into a fight again. This went hand in hand with the demoralizing fact that I wasn’t, in the eyes of the powers that be, good enough to deserve a push up without a fight.

So reluctantly at first, but then with gusto, I did put my game face on and put my very best step forward. The resume shines with a glitter and a gleam that goes *ding* like the Orbit gum commercial, achievements, goals, future goals were all polished up and readied for inspection.

The drill happened. The experience was pleasing and extremely satisfactory as the faith in my intelligence and unflappability was reiterated with nods and smiles. There were no questions I couldn’t answer, nothing to test whether I could really be flapped. The process was smooth.

But were there any assurances given? Can’t say there were. I am told the hat has two other names. I was called a great candidate but where was my assurance that I am it? It wasn’t forthcoming. Those power lips are sealed for now.

My concern is about setting my own expectations for myself. Should I be secure in the knowledge that I did my best and let the chips fall where they may? And actually the rational part of me knows this is the only answer. But then the demons take control and make me hope, send mirages my way of how good it would be if the decision was in my favor, to the point that they take control of my thoughts.

Herein lies the danger. They might prefer another candidate, they will have their own reasons, they’ll try to craft an answer that won’t upset me and send me stalking out the door resume in hand. How will their well-crafted answer affect me? Will I be crushed? Will I turn into a formerly happy, now disgruntled employee? Or will I show my classic unflappability and make the best of the situation, to learn to accept and work well with a new boss? I tell my self that this may be an acceptable alternative if this boss is much senior, more experienced, more boss-ly but what if it is a peer, or worse, someone who I know is a good talker but a sham artist?

I really don’t want to spend the next few months harboring a grudge or feeling slighted. I don’t know if I can cultivate enough detachment for this undesirable outcome.

I want the job, I deserve the job, I have done what I can to show that I deserve the job, I would like to get the job. And if this is not what fate has in store for me then I need what it will take to accept whatever happens with grace. Therein lies the true test of this celebrated unflappability.

I pray I won’t be flapped!

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