who’s the boss?

A bison and her calf near Glacier National Park in MT.

A bison and her calf near Glacier National Park in MT.

That was a great TV show. You can’t deny it. Segue!

We all like to think of ourselves as our own bosses, ardent individuals capable of anything, heedless of circumstances and controlled by no one. True, most of answer to bosses at work, but that dynamic is usually thought of as separate from our real lives, separate from our true selves. Never mind the fact that we spend more of our waking hours at work than at home. Our “real” lives are elsewhere.

Nowhere is this “I’m in charge of my own life” assumption proven more wrong than when you go on vacation for a week, are sick the following Monday, and come back to discover your boss jumped ship for a posher gig. Suddenly, you find yourself flailing. Even though you are naturally independent, you also, weak human that you are, realize you also crave leadership and direction. You discover, in other words, that sometimes you’re not so independent after all.

This is a metaphor for life, of course, and the best course of action in cases such as these is to ask for help. Yet our society tells us we shouldn’t ask for help, that asking for help is a sign of weakness. I am here to tell you that that is malarkey. Asking for help is human. You do want to be human, right? I mean, we invented showers. They’re great! We no longer have to lick ourselves clean! Being human is awesome.

As the Beatles so wisely noted, we all get by with a little help from our friends – and sometimes that includes asking for help from our coworkers. True, not everyone is going to be receptive, but it’s important to give people the opportunity to be empathetic. It’s so easy to get jaded and only focus on the bad people, but I truly believe most of us are inherently good. Even with ISIS and all that crap. Most people just want to spend time with their families, have enough food to eat, and chillax. It’s okay if you don’t want to run the world or be a well-known Jihadist. We all have our own niche, you know what I mean? It’s okay to not be ambitious all the time. Really. It is very important, however, to be kind.

There have been studies showing that toddlers are naturally altruistic. What this means is that humans instinctively want to be nice to each other. That’s not what we’re told, though. We’re taught that life is a competition and whoever dies with the most stuff wins. No one ever tells us what we win exactly. Whatever it is, I don’t think it’s precious enough to sacrifice relationships, to prize ambition and success over our emotional health.

Just remember – most of us are not the boss. Not at work, and not in our own lives. That’s actually a good thing. It releases us from feeling like we can control everything. It frees us to enjoy our lives. Enjoy not working this Labor Day weekend, everyone. It’s not what the holiday commemorates, but I think that in the modern era, it’s what it’s all about.

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