Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sharing Nugget #26

#26: The story of J.

Chapter III: Running into reality.

This story is inspired by real-life characters

On the bus ride home after the fateful meeting, J wears a half-smile. Her thoughts skip to and fro the changes she is going to make as a president, the glory and prestige she is bestowed upon now, the attention she will be basking in, the inspirational speeches she is going make and who she is going to tell the good news to. Yes, who can she tell the good news to? She tries to divert her thoughts to any but the last question. Then more questions came. Did I ‘piss off’ anyone with my heated attack? What will they make of me? What if I ‘screw up’? Will they do the same to me? Will Lin plan a counter-attack? What will they think of me after this? Will they think that I am a power-hungry ‘freak’?

J put her right hand over her forehead, unconsciously trying to hide her now frowning face. J tries to talk herself out of this mess. I am not a power hungry girl, J thinks, I am just trying to put myself in a position where I can serve better. Lin will not be able to bring the club forward. Neither did Ku. All he did was to walk in after we did all the hard work and claim the glory. In time, everyone else will know how capable I am and how dedicated I am to the club. They will forget the fateful meeting. They will thank me. They will know that all I wanted was to serve better. I am president now. I must be strong. I am not a bad person.

The days pass, and J hardly notices. Her days are filled with meetings, deadlines to fulfill, administrative work to worrying about, other presidents to meet, plans to draft. She immerses herself completely, determined to prove her worth. “In time”, she reminds herself now and then, “they will see”. The rest of the members did see – too clearly in fact. They begin to see J as ‘fake’. They start to feel that whatever J does, is to prove them something. J does gets things done, which the members appreciates. The club is running like a well-oiled machine, but there is something that is missing. They cannot relate to J - even her ‘supporters’. They cannot get beyond a polite conversation with her. They roll their eyes secretly whenever J starts on an ‘inspirational’ speech or stutters when conducting meetings. They begin to huddle in their clicks, and draw themselves further from J. Instead of just a cold war of liberalism and communism, the world has descended into scattered nations hostile to each other.

J believes that her ‘let everyone decide as one’ democratic style will give the involvement the members need. And she will continue her important job of making sure the club churns out the projects. In the name of efficiency, she makes it a norm to appoint members to tasks unilaterally. Of course, it is done very politely. No one voices their unhappiness, she thinks, it means they trust me with the authority. J loves to be introduced to new people as the president of the club. She indulges in the nod of respect that these new people always offer. She indulges too, in the feeling of being important. She is somebody now. Not just a petty project leader.

But still, J sits alone at lunch. Whenever J feels the pain, she will dive into the comforting pool of being an important person. Leaders are lonely people. No one understands them, she thinks. The bus rides home feels heavier. The weight is caused by the scurry of activities like meeting other important people – which makes the silence in the bus stands out.

It does not help that her work is, unlike the early days of her appointment, going too slowly for her liking. Emails are replied late, especially by other important people. She cannot call them as she does not know them well enough. Some members have disappeared into the background. Those who stay, are closer to Lin than J. J hardly talks to the members except during meetings, where attendance is low, with missing members citing all sorts of reasons. She begins to pick up the tasks and does it herself. Her workload piles up. She does not bother to hold regular meetings or update the members of what is going on. They do not care, she thinks, I, alone, will hold up this club.

It got worse. The office directors that gave a lot of support to J’s predecessor went quiet. The warmth extended to Ku by the other who’s who, went cold. The projects that come out from the club’s factory get lesser. And J takes credit for most of what is left of them. She deserves it, she thinks, because she is instrumental in all of them. She is the president.

Her trips home get lonelier and lonelier.

(to be continued)


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