There are many posts I could and probably should be writing (not to mention the edits) but at the moment one thing that’s playing on my mind is the nature of achievement, and how we recognise it. In part these musings (rather more philosophical than is my wont) have been brought on by work, and in part due to my edits, and also because a year ago I signed up to FutureMe.org and wrote myself a letter.
FutureMe.org allows you to basically send an email into the future. I wrote one to myself specifying that I should have released at least two items on ebook, be in edits on the third and have the paperback out by this summer – and guess what? ODS1 and Parallels 1 are already out in ebook, I’m in edits on ODS2 and I plan to have the paperback out by summer if not before. That’s quite cool – I have done as planned, though it isn’t necessarily in the same order I intended!
The thing is, though, that these are concrete, measurable achievements and so they are easy to specify and tick off. There is another type of achievement which should also be celebrated – perhaps more so because it is more difficult – but is rarely ever noticed, never mind celebrated.
What type of achievement is this? It happens around all of us, every day, and the chances are that we never even notice it, even when we are the ones who are doing it. Quite simply, it is working hard to do what is necessary, day in day out, with no hope of any amelioration or recognition but doing a superb job just because you believe that it should be done well.
That’s fine short term, and can even be exhilarating if you have an end date; but long-term it gets so that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. That’s why it’s so hard; there’s no pay-off, and no let-up, and no feeling of achievement. You never finish the job; you just finish the day as best you can, and soon enough that becomes just the way it is and you get too ground down to even think about it.
We all find ourselves in this position at some point. It can be something you do at work – after all every office has the arsey person who kicks their feet, the pointless person who says “yes” and never gets it done or does it so badly you end up redoing it yourself – and the conscientious person who you go to because they might be busy as hell but if you ask, they’ll help and they’ll do it to a superb standard.
It can also be at home though, and you will find it in a variety of forms; the parent who is always there in time to pick you up from school, the partner who always has all your clothes washed and ironed or makes you a delicious dinner every night; the child who quietly comes in and lays the table for tea or picks up after their messier siblings without being asked. It can be the grandparent who babysits three days a week and is always on call when your child is sick and you’re at work. It can be the friend who you don’t even have to ask to give you a hand with moving the sofa or painting the wall, because they’ve already volunteered. More importantly, when someone is sick or elderly, it can be the carer who is always there to help, quietly cheerful and making the sufferer feel that they are not a burden on their carer but a friend in need.
These people – all of these people – are the people who we should respect and appreciate. You find them everywhere, and they are so under-appreciated.
(Those of you who have read ODS will know that I even made my heroine one of them, because I thought she needed to be someone with that strength of will that they display. The main character, Nereia, spends long days trying to scrape together enough money to keep herself and her younger sister Mary fed and to buy their freedom for another week, and that of her young friend Bet too, when she can. Nereia goes through some bad times but this hopeless, unthanked determination of just surviving the day gives her the core of steel she needs). Nereia would be shocked to hear it, but she is one of these people; she gets on with it, and though she is in hard circumstances she does her best to help her friends when they are in trouble. Fictional characters have the advantage that change is planned for them, however, whereas we in the real world do not.
All around us ordinary people are doing extraordinary things, and it has become so ingrained that they don’t even know it, never mind question whether it will get better. They don’t look for attention; all they do is get themselves through the day as best they can, and help those around them to do the same. This is an extraordinary thing to do, though; when you have barely the energy or the hope or the time to drag yourself to the end of the day, to expend energy and humour helping other people on their own journey is no small thing either.
So this blog is for all of you out there who know just what I’m talking about here, who do what you do quietly, cheerfully, well and almost totally unthanked. People are noticing and appreciating what you do – but it sometimes feels a bit weird to stop on a perfectly normal day and say “Hey, thank you for everything.” Doesn’t mean they’re not thinking it, though.
So let me say:
Conscientious workers; I am so proud of you. You do sterling work, stay cheerful and helpful, and never get recognised. You are the backbone of the office, and without you everything falls apart. It might not get you a raise, or a certificate or anything like that, but it is a privilege to work alongside you.
Family members: you work to keep the family afloat, and often don’t ask for or get much in the way of appreciation. Sometimes you get taken for granted; but what you do makes a difference to the way your family’s life runs, and that is important.
Carers; you have such a hard job, because apart from all the work you do for them, you keep your charge cheerful. When you’re tired and stressed, that is no small achievement.
And everyone out there who struggles to get through the day; remember tomorrow might bring something new. Nothing goes on forever, though often it feels that way. Keep hold of the hope and sometimes (not always in the way you’re expecting) things do get better. Hold on just one more day… and tomorrow, hold on for just one more. You’ve been doing that for a while now, but things will let up, one of these tomorrows.
There are a million people out there who should be appreciated and given respect. These are just some of them – so who would you like to put forward? If there is a special person that you think should get a bit of appreciation, give them a shout-out!
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