(Again, I promise to have something lighter soon, something with funny illustrations. And a bit with a dog.)
I was once asked in an interview what I considered to be my greatest fault. You probably know that question, and you know that you will never answer it honestly. And they know that you will never answer it honestly. No one ever answers it with something like, “I have a rage issue where I hit colleagues,” or, “I’m mildly addicted to crack and I sometimes dabble in prostitution.”
So you try to come up with something that sounds positive in disguise, like, “I am a workaholic,” or “I’m always getting caught up in the details of my project.” I answered with my personal favourite: “I have trouble asking for help. I always try to muscle through things on my own.”
Again, it’s meant to look sort of good on reflection, as though I’m saying, “I always work really hard on things, sometimes to the point that I forget that there are people there to help me.” It is a conceit of our society of veiled lies that I can do that and not acknowledge the raft of serious, tragic faults that I carry with me everywhere. My neuroses, my pride, my envy, my rapidly fluctuating mood, none of that is expected to or ever will come up in an interview, mine or some other person’s.
The problem is that there is far too much truth in that statement I gave them.
Somewhere along the line, I forgot how to ask for help. I forgot how to tell people that I need them. I forgot how to allow myself the privilege of vulnerability where I say, “I can’t do this on my own. I’m not strong/smart/big/educated/talented/open enough to do this without you.” I let good friends drift away, I drive off people that offered to be there for me, and I find myself feeling more alone than I have ever been (and that’s coming from someone that had no friends through the first three years of high school).
And of all the stupid things to remind me of this massive and prideful failing of mine, it had to be Grey’s Anatomy.
I hate Grey’s Anatomy. I hate the stupid, contrived accidents resulting in idiotic injuries. I hate the gross lack of professional distance. I hate the libidinous looseness of the doctors and nurses. But that show does one thing right. It shows a team in action. It shows people that rely on each other, professionally, personally, and everything in between. It shows them coming to each other when they need it the most.
When I was part of a professional team, I was a team player. When someone asked for my help (usually to install or build something ), I was there. But I was always afraid to ask for help. I didn’t know how to approach people to say that I needed them. I’m sure I looked every bit the aloof, arrogant, know-it-all that I generally am. The irony is that the whole time I was so completely unable to bring myself to ask for their help because I thought it made me look weak and stupid. The whole time I was trying to hide an enormous level of insecurity that manifested itself into all kinds of low-level, destructive, anti-social behaviour.
My wife will tell you that my most frequently muttered line while driving is, “I hate people.” (It’s a long-standing joke between us, stemming from our friend saying the same thing without a trace of irony during a traffic jam). I don’t like crowds, I hate parties where I don’t know at least half of the people, and I loathe most social situations that aren’t of my making. But right now, I miss my people. I miss co-workers, both those close and those not. I miss being a part of a big team of people working toward a goal.
I kept telling myself that I would work better alone. I guess one really does have to be careful about wishes.