Thursday, November 22, 2007

Real World

"Be confident. People draw their strengths from your weaknesses," wrote my mom in an E-mail the last time I came back from Turkey. She also tells me to "keep the tail up" no matter what happens. I can't always follow her advice. I claim I don't want to pretend I'm better than I actually am. I claim it's dishonest. But the real reason is different, I think. First of all, I'm not smart enough. Secondly, I think sometimes being weak can be used as an excuse not to try harder. It's a comfortable place. I'm afraid I'll have to actually be better if I claim I'm better.

But I'm beginning to see my mom's point more and more. My year in London has been a crash course on real world: I've seen a lot that I hadn't before, but the more I see, the more doubtful and confused I get about myself, people, humanity. I discover and I forget - only to realize once again - we draw our strengths from others' weaknesses. Accepting this is maybe as genuine as we can get.

Everything is relative, after all. We need reference points. I'm intelligent if someone is less intelligent than me. I'm paid well if there are people around me who are paid less. If I take different reference points, I could well realize I'm actually not what I thought I was. I guess when you move up the ranks, you get more resistant to different contexts, you reach a more absolute, more robust feeling of success, value, confidence.

A couple of nights ago I went to have drinks with my new colleagues. Our big boss foot the bill (what's the past tense of "foot"?) so we shamelessly kept drinking. At first I really enjoyed the mood, much more relaxed, warmer, friendlier than in the office. But soon after I noticed that people were either gossipping about people not present (whom I didn't know) or talking about the competitors, the business. In the end, you couldn't really learn more about them than you could in the office.

So there's virtue in professionalism, putting on your poker face sometimes. But it's also important to let it down eventually, around some people. I guess it comes with time, trust.

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