Bumps & Bruises

As a kid I knew my share of punks and bullies. Kindergarten, fourth grade, fifth grade, tenth. George, a girl with a boy's name, attacked me in a parking lot - I was only eight or nine. True, I got her pretty good. But she left me beaten up on the pavement, and I cried in shame as my parents carried me home.

Life is about bumps and bruises. My mother had no mercy about that. "Turn off the waterworks," she would admonish me when I started to cry. "It's enough."

It was better in the olden days, at least in some respects. We played outside - a lot. Chalk on the sidewalk, jacks, skipping rope. Plastic pool in the yard. Barbecue at Grandma's.

At camp I ran as fast as I could around the track, sprinting till I lost my breath and fell. Skinned my knees so many times. Picked at the scabs - why? Trying to make it go away was useless.

A child of the consulting life, moving every year till I was ten, I learned to live the solitary life. New friends in new places meant a whole new set of bullies. I took my mother's advice to heart and toughened up.

But then a funny thing happened...somewhere along the path to adulthood I began to make friends that stuck with me. Got married, started a family, went to grad school and began to enter the workplace, forming new friendships there.

What I learned over time, particularly working for the federal government, is that we don't toss our working relationships away all that easily. My mental model was the private sector, where you're employed "at will" and they can fire you for as little as an ill-conceived Tweet. 

But in the civil service, people can literally work together for life. And in the course of that working together, they know joy and sorrow and pain. They argue and misunderstand one another. They celebrate great achievements and mourn the awards they should have been given. Say things out of turn, write the angry emails you're supposed to hold - and then send them anyway.

And yet somehow they stick together, they muddle through. Eventually, once time has passed, they find a way to laugh about it all. 

There is something really beautiful about that. 

Here's to the beautiful thunderstorms, to the way they gather up in ominous swirls of clouds, wind and pouring rain, then leave the air cleaner tomorrow.

* All opinions my own. Photo isn't me.


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