The Great Leap Forward!

Originally published on 1 March 2017 in the form of a short poem, titled ‘Seasons Greetings,’ this piece has been substantially revised.

Yesterday was summer. Today is autumn, or fall if you will. I started my job on Monday the 29th of February 2016, a leap day in a leap year. Much will be made of this anomaly, herein.

So, I won’t be celebrating my first work anniversary today. Well, I can’t. Not for another three years! Presuming I will still be in the same role, how then should I mark my work anniversary in the intervening period? I don’t know. I suppose when 2020 finally arrives, I could happily exclaim ‘Hooray, this is my second leap year in the job!’ But that would sound a bit trite, wouldn’t it?

Starting a new job not just in a leap year but on the day that gives the year it’s eponymous name is not only uncanny. It’s a rich source of symbolism. Depending on how you look at it, this phenomenon has both a temporal and spatial quality. In a spatial sense it’s an in-between zone. Grey, not black or white. Indefinite. Unbounded. Ambiguous. In a temporal sense it’s fleeting and rare. Ephemeral. Of course it was pure chance that my first day in a new job fell on a leap day. But it did anyway and the question is what should I make of it?

Unlike most other people, I’m precluded from celebrating my work anniversary every year. But only in a calendrical sense, not a duration-based one. To clarify the distinction, the calendrical date, Feb 29, only comes around once every four years. In terms of duration, 12 months is simply 12 months, irrespective of date. Getting back to my point (about being precluded) does is it really matter anyway? The short answer is, no. Does anyone even celebrate their work anniversary, like they do say a birthday or wedding? Apart from the good folk at LinkedIn, probably not.

But even then, this anomaly may render me susceptible to bouts of paranoia. An unlikely scenario but picture this: Cutting a lonely figure in an empty cafe there I quietly brood. Hunched over in a corner, glowering suspiciously, I rail against the invisibility this aberrant date has cloaked my working life in. Slowly stirring my luke-warm coffee, I turn over a crazy plan that involves alleging social exclusion in the workplace! Without a doubt, airing such a grievance would raise immediate concerns about the state of my wellbeing. However, the experience of exclusion can play out upon the subtlest planes of the unconscious mind. So who knows. Maybe a visit to the employer subsidised counselling service, Employee Assistance Program (EAP), might uncover some kind of disturbance to the underlying seam of my equanimity. Maybe not.

On the other hand I could take a sunnier view, which I’m inclined to do, and draw on the affirmative qualities I raised earlier. On a symbolic level, the accident of starting a new job on a leap day is a little blessing. In fact, I relish ambiguity. Not because I pretend to have a natural affinity with a state of prolonged uncertainty, but rather because I accept, without caveat, that this is how life and industry is: Messy and unpredictable. That I, in my mundane fallibility, strive for order, clarity and consistency in all that I do, only serves to accentuate and lay bare the utter hopelessness of such a project, especially when things don’t go to plan. That’s not to say, however, that one should abandon such ascetic ideals. On the contrary!

In my opinion, aiming for predictability, systematicity and simplicity are essential foundations for great communication, critically important in collaborative environs. I won’t elaborate further here because it’s probably safe to say this is first-hand knowledge for anyone working in a functional team based dynamic. Notwithstanding that, reminding myself that I started work on a leap day can serve as a source of inspiration. In fact, I have sought to distill the essence of this novelty and put it into service as the True North of my compass!

Taking the conceit further, here then are cardinal points of the compass which guides and informs my daily outlook:

  1. North: Maintain an open mind
  2. East: Question commonplace assumptions
  3. South: Entertain new possibilities
  4. West: Embrace novelty.

Novelty, not just in terms of difference, but in the sense of fun and laughter. Joy. Indeed, when you’re knee-deep in work and under fathoms of pressure, it’s helpful not to lose sight of that.

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