She gave it a second thought. Scrap it.
She barged into his office.
“This whole thing sucks,” she said.
He shifted his glance from the pile of papers on his desk to her tense face. She could feel his eyes screaming, what is it this time?
“I don’t feel like coming to work anymore,” she said. Her hands gently held her head, maybe to prevent it from rolling onto the floor. She looked lost.
A smile spread across his face. Afternoon entertainment.
“Take a seat,” he said.
For the longest time, he was just another expressionless face at work. Cold logic. A brain that appeared entirely divorced from the human needs at the workplace. A pair of eyes that viewed people as nothing more than a balance sheet: profitable or non-profitable.
Did it matter that he was highly knowledgeable? Or that he displayed the strength of a lion. Determined. Steadfast.
Did the lion in him care about goats like her who often lost their way in his office cum jungle? Maybe he was born to rule, but only some rulers command respect.
Author note: let’s call “him” the lion, “her” the goat, and “office” the jungle.
So the goat stayed away from revering the lion.
Perhaps the sensitivity and respect he showed six months ago in managing a colleague undergoing bereavement planted seeds of goodwill in her heart for this lion. A sapling of respect for the lion emerged when she saw him fight for the recognition of a temporary worker’s contribution to their team when this worker was conveniently thrown under the bus by a miserable direct report.
A lion who was an idealist. A hunter with a moral compass. A predator who cared.
More than necessity, curiosity led the goat to take baby steps toward befriending this lion.
Questions. Service. Herbs (in tea). The goat supplied a carefully curated assortment of gifts to the lion.
It took a while, but slowly and steadily, the lion started reciprocating with jewels from his treasure. Brief smiles that stopped short of a roar, tips to survive in the jungle, and occasionally, jokes and banter.
A lion who enjoyed playing!
An unlikely friendship emerged between the lion and the goat. The jungle started appearing less intimidating to the goat in the company of a friendly lion. It wasn’t long before the lion’s cubicle became the goat’s first stop whenever she landed in trouble.
The lion became the goat’s safe space. *Irony*
“I am finding it all very boring. My work. My tasks. Nothing is exciting anymore,” the goat said. The lion was all ears.
“It is natural to feel bored at some point. You can’t have a cake of your choice every day. But you can find ways to make your working day exciting, even if the work you do is boring,” he said, his chest swelling with pride. She could see the confidence oozing out of his eyes.
“It is not just that. I am also finding it quite hard to motivate myself to do basic tasks. It’s like – it’s like slicing vegetables all the time without tasting the dish. Does that make sense?” the goat said.
The lion took a minute to visit the alleys of his mind palace to scan for knowledge relevant to the situation before him.
“What you mean is the feeling of being a cog in the wheel. That can be frustrating. Ask your manager to give you more autonomy. Take up a challenging workstream and lead it. Stretch your brains a bit,” the lion smirked.
The goat’s eyes squinted a little. The lion needed to be more on point.
“I see. The problem is deeper,” he noted, recognizing the goat’s disappointment.
The goat nodded.
The lion sipped some water, rubbed his palms, and then took a deep breath.
“A few years ago, I was working on a terrible assignment. High stakes. High expectations. I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. I had zero support from the top. Didn’t feel like getting out of my bed on most days,” the lion said. His tone, soft and plain. His eyes, somber.
The goat’s pupils dilated with horror as she saw, for the first time, the most dreaded expression in the office on the lion’s face.
It was criminal to be vulnerable in the office. One must always wear a mask. It was the most important rule.
But now, the lion was opening up. And he was telling her about a time when HE couldn’t get out of bed.
“What did you do?” the goat asked, her voice shaking as her mind struggled to accept the newest handout from the lion’s treasure.
“I said to myself, my terrible assignment is temporary, but if I lose a day sulking, I lose a chance to enjoy all the other wonderful things that the day has to offer. Like my exercise routine. Protein shake. The books I read on my commute. The trust of the people who depend on me.”
The goat’s shakiness stopped at the lion’s U-turn. The lion was playing it safe. There had to be something more.
So the goat used her most deadly survival tool.
The lion’s shoulders dropped, and his chest deflated. He sighed as he realized his shield had cracked. He now had to share the rarest jewel in the jungle with the goat.
“Okay. The real thing that helped me was the quality of my relationships. I have consulted many times with others about my mistakes, fears, and challenges. It all happens behind closed doors, and I try to be discreet, but from time to time, I lean upon others to keep me on track. You can get through anything if you can laugh and cry with people you like. Pursuing success can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Relationships are the real treasure in this jungle. Focus on cultivating those,” he said, his eyes bouncing up and down to hide the awkwardness of speaking emotions instead of knowledge.
The goat’s eyes lit up. The lion had given her a true jewel today. A piece of advice from his heart, not his mind. It made sense to her now why the lion spent so much time having coffee with others in the jungle.
“If you still feel demotivated, then I can swear by the power of crunches and push-ups,” the lion quickly added. The crack in his shield needed immediate sealing. He had been embarrassed enough.
The goat didn’t care about the crack in the lion’s wall. She had received her gift. Perhaps even more.
She got up, gave the lion a high-five, and marched towards her desk.
She was not being silly. There was a reason for her madness.
Who knew even the lion had struggled to get out of bed in the past! Maybe other lions in the office were as much a goat as her. They were probably just better at hiding their madness. Be discreet.
It didn’t matter now, for she had a solution to her madness.
A smile crossed her face as she signed up for her first gym lesson.
This post is authored by Nikki S, a London based aspiring author. If you would like to get in touch with Nikki S, please drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org