Friday, September 08, 2006

Sharing Nugget #24

#24: The story of J.

Chapter I: The flight from reality

This story is inspired by real-life characters.

J lugs a briefcase-shape informal bag as she zips around the campus. She occupies herself with work-related meetings that distract her from her lack of social life. She loves meetings as it allows her to bask in the company of people. Dressed in smart casual almost all the time, she would seem out of step from the fashion-savvy SMU crowd.

J wears a smiley face – which she loses when in private. On the daily trips to and fro campus, she will stare out at the moving scenery, even into the darkness of the train tunnels, and wonders. Who can she ask out for lunch, or simply to ‘hang out’? J always runs out of names. I am just too busy for friends, she thinks.

Her footsteps always get lighter as she draws near campus. That is where her world starts.

“Hi Eugene! How’s your day?” J asks with a smile.

“Erm… I’m fine”.

“Going to class? What class?”

“Yah, I got to rush. See ya.”

Most of J’s conversations go like this. It rarely goes beyond polite exchange of pleasantries. When she needs to ‘bitch’ about things, she will usually resort to speaking to herself instead. However, this vomit-and-swallow cannot remain a viable outlet for long. It grows into loneliness. And it drives her to find salvation in indulgences that keep her mind occupied –thus distracted.

One of such indulgence is her attention to details in her work. It gives her a sense of control. It fills the emptiness. It is also a source of her pride. It makes her feel she is good in something. Another indulgence is her position as a project group leader. She will be very timely in reminding group mates to adhere to deadlines. One can count on her to compile reports in the most orderly fashion and go the extra mile to ensure that it flows. She will send each member little notes of encouragement before a presentation.

J believes that such dedication will make her a popular project group mate – and win her friends. She is half right. She is hot property as a group mate. However, as the average day draws to a close, she will look out at the moving scenery and wonder, why does none of her group-mates invite her to dinner, or for a drink? She cannot help falling into the empty hole that sucks her in when distractions fade away. Doubts about what she really want – achievement or friends – creeps in. She cannot think straight. Her heart and the head are fighting for attention. She does not know who to listen to. In response, she dipped into another indulgence – she brushed it off thinking that it all comes down to her invincibility. She is too good, she thinks, everyone can make lots of friends but not many are high-achieving. The peerless is lonely.

As J’s loneliness slowly deepens, a new pain surfaces. A gulf of contrast between her and a colleague begins to serve as a reminder of her emptiness. It hurts her. This colleague, Ku, is the president of a club J has joined half a year ago. Ku is popular amongst the student community, even revered with tremendous respect by some. Ku is seldom seen alone. He is always surrounded by friends. Ku runs the student group like a country club. He is always ‘out there’ building relationships – with peers, student life managers, and directors of offices in campus. Many will not give Ku much credit at the first impression, but he always breaks the schema with his eloquence and substance of thought. He will then expertly weave in his sense of humor, and the crowd is won. Partly because of the ties he has bridged, the profile of the club rose steadily.

Ku’s high-relationship-low-task working style irks J deeply. It is on the other spectrum from her no-nonsense working paradigm. Ku’s emphasis on external relations is seen by J as a neglect of internal efficiency. Despite this loathe, envy slowly creeps into J’s consciousness to take the dominant position. J begins to believe that she might get her acceptance if she replaces Ku as the president. With her ability to get tasks done, she will raise the club to greater heights, thus win people over, and be able to feast in a buffet of admiration, love, respect and appreciation. There is no need for pretentious networking.

That dream bubble bursts before J could even savor its sweetness. Ku announced his decision to handover the leadership – to Lin. Lin is a bubbly character, whose enthusiasm and sun-shine attitude wins her much affection. When she breaks into her smile, all is forgotten. Her matured and steady demeanor mirrors that of Ku’s. She would be an ideal successor to Ku. J will find Lin likeable too. However, Lin works too much like Ku. Lin is a female version of Ku. That is not acceptable.

This is war. And she is not going to lose this war. She will overturn the result. She deserves it. Lin is not as efficient as J. She relishes a fight. She is a high-achiever. She did not get here by letting others win. She will take all her time to plan, and then plan some more.

That will keep her busy. That thought put a smile on her face.

(To be continued...)


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