Lightning Dance

_Lightning Forest_He and I were sitting in what we called “Production”, where I had wandered down and found Greg. I’d been working at the company, in the same department, for about a year and was fairly isolated from other members of the Test Equipment Department because I was working with other departments since I started. My boss, Matt, had tasked me with doing something with Greg.
I was in my mid-twenties, Greg in his 40s. At meetings, I’d see Greg quietly sitting through meetings, not contributing anything, answering only what he needed to, and after the meeting he couldn’t be found. This was the first time that he and I were having a conversation about a work project, much less any other sort of conversation, and it wasn’t going well.
Greg was making it a point to tell me all the stuff he couldn’t do because of all the other things he was doing, and I’d be left with the majority of the work. He had nothing really to contribute about the ‘how’ or the ‘why’. I think he noticed I was a bit surprised at his responses, because he asked me, “Do you mind if I tell you something?”

Well, of course. That, to me, would be something.

And he said something along the lines of this:

“This isn’t personal. I don’t really want to work with you. You attract too much attention, which is good for you because you do get things done and you do a lot of things that management wants to get done.” I was drawn in. He was telling me some truth and it was completely alien to a young hard charging software engineer.

“I’ve got some years before I retire. I like to do my 40 hours and go home. I only work so that I can do other things in my life. You’re a lightning rod. Work just keeps dropping on you. You’re young and you probably don’t understand this, but this is not my life.”

I was puzzled by all of this. He was senior to me. He was trying to give me some advice, maybe, but he was also telling me why he didn’t like me and it was the same reason a lot of people seemed to like me. It was confusing.

At that point in life, all I did was work. All I knew was work. I had grown up with work in family businesses, and everything had always revolved around work. This made no sense to me. Life?

What I didn’t understand was that he would go home to his wife – it was before his divorce as I recall – and kids, he would hang out with friends. Meanwhile, I would go home and… read books on software engineering, feeding myself with a firehose, and then drinking with friends. I’d average 60-80 hours a week at work. This Life thing seemed inefficient.

It would take me years to figure out what he meant. Others there also tried with me, inviting me to this and that, and I would often go, but for the most part I would just keep doing what I did. It would be later when I found myself reading stuff other than technical and mathematical texts, where I found the humanities that lead me to question everything.

To this day I’m still a bit of a lightning rod, though I perch away from everyone because I don’t really enjoy being a lightning rod… and no one really appreciates a lightning rod except during storms.

The conversation sticks with me because it was a sincere observation and expression of a completely different perspective that I had enough good sense by then to allow for and remember.

It was a landmark of sorts, where lightning was dancing around a tree that had seen much lightning… and survived.

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