Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The Myth of the Handcuffs: A Story
"What else am I going to do?"
There was a time you never asked that question. But that was before, when things were different. It was another century when you thought they cared about you and about what you might contribute to the organization. When you believed. Before it became clear that it was only about the money, how much and how fast it could hit the ledger. .
"What choice do I have, do any of us have?"
You try to move your hands but they are locked behind your back. You shift your body. The handcuffs hurt today, more than most days. It seems the more you twist the deeper they dig into your wrists.
"There is no other choice."
Everyone around you agrees. There is no other option. Not for any of them.
"Besides, how can you possibly leave all this?"
There is too much at stake. Money. Benefits. Retirement.
"At least we're all in this together."
Those handcuffs are not yours alone. Everyone else seems to have a pair pressing against their wrists. They come in a variety of colors, some tighter and larger than others. But you're all locked together, each at your respective desks, all convinced you have no other options. You laugh and make jokes and rationalize that this is just the way things are. Because really, what is the other option? You can't really get out, can you?
"But there must be a way."
In the back of your mind you are sure there has to be a key around here someplace. But where? And who holds it?
"They've got the key. They've got the power."
You hear that so much you start to believe it. You are just a cog in the wheel. "They" are the only ones who can change this. But that can't be right. Can it? This is America.
"There has to be something else I can do !"
You're getting stiff in this chair. You start to struggle. You're trying to get the feeling back in your hands. You look around for the damn key. You wiggle your fingers. You feel a button. You press your thumb against it. You push and the cuff on your right hand releases. There wasn't a key after all! You weren't locked in. Not really. Your wrists are sore and the cuffs have made a mark. But you've escaped!
"But what are you going to do now?"
The voice in the chair next to you, their arms still stretched around the chair's back, not moving, sounds worried.
"I'm not exactly sure. But I've been thinking alot. I have some ideas."
An energy floods your body that you have not felt in such a long time. Excitement. Anticipation. Possibility.
"Ideas? But isn't this safer?"
"Maybe. I guess it's how you define safe."
Your workmates looks confused. They have never seen this side of you before.
"You know, you're not really locked in either. I can show you where the release button is."
"No, no. Mine are different. There is no way out for me."
Their heads shake, convinced they are right and you are wrong.
You understand. You wanted to believe that too, for a long time. It was easier that way.
Are you handcuffed to your job?
Do you believe you have options?
Is it scarier for you to stay or to try something new?