I have a job that sucks. It slightly crushes my soul every day I punch-in but that isn’t the point of this post.  This post is about how I am not an animal.  It starts with the fact that California is in a severe drought. No, scratch that, it starts in the 80s. I’m a child of the 80s. I was raised on the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. So when I walk in to the kitchen at the job that I hate and see the faucet dripping and no one around, I see red. It’s hard enough to deal with my coworkers on a daily basis but when they cannot literally take one extra second to make sure the faucet is properly turned off, I kind of lose my mind.

A few of my colleagues understand that I’m neurotic. I’ve made this clear by my rants about perpetually abused homonyms, the phrase “that’s not my job” and micro-management. But the point of this entire blog post is that I saw the running faucet and turned it off. It wasn’t that hard, it didn’t take any extra effort or even a second thought. So, why am I writing? Because apparently  in my hyper-focused moment of rage for Mother Earth, my actions were noticed by a muckity muck. This dude is prime middle management. He’s taken every six-sigma course offered, gotten his MBA and makes it a point to learn ever employee’s name. What happened when I turned off the water is going to be one of those things that sticks with me for a long, long while. This muckity-muck saw me turn off the water, and stared me in the eyes and said “Thank you, Stefanie”

The part that strikes me, is that his gratitude was genuine. Not because he is some secret tree-hugger. But because he bleeds middle management. In that moment, he didn’t see me as some hourly employee who was doing a good turn. He saw me as a leader. In my one innocuous moment, this dude saw a life and career path that I never imagined nor wanted for myself. He saw me advancing to a supervisor position, and maybe moving to another start-up to get some much-needed management experience because I wouldn’t find the respect from my peers that I deserved. He’d hope that a short time later, I’d return to this company and be a respected middle manager myself. Maybe even his direct underling. We’d get lunch, and I’d present innovative ideas that he could only dream of. He’d admire my “think outside the box attitude” and my “never takes no for an answer” demeanor. He’d encourage me enough to stay with the company through stagnant years and to never jump ship because we believed in the mission. But there would always be a part of him that would hold me back. He’d want me to be his protegé and never to eclipse him.

I saw his entire vision for me when he said “thank you, Stefanie” and it terrified me. Because I’m not meant for that life. I’m meant for more. Bigger, greater things. I’m meant for opportunities where turning the water off is the norm and not the exception. So I’ll go back to ranting about homonyms, I’ll still suggest big changes that will spur new ideas but I’ll also suggest cake Thursdays to keep the muckity-mucks from dreaming too big.

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