When some time ago I read that Gwen was starting a Best of 2009 string of prompts for December, I grinned and clapped, thinking how very fabulous, I am gonna do them all. Then the prompts came and the problems started.
There was no Best of 2009 for me; there was just one heck of a supermassive black hole filled with disastrous memories, with internal struggles and ferocious recriminations, with tears and rejections, with wading through black treacle up to my waist. 'There ain't no BEST OF!' the disenchanted me boomed from deep inside, there have just been non-developments, call that best of anything if you can! Rararah-dirahrarah! Self-pity? Anger? Stalling? Sadness? Shock? Yes, all of these and then some, tenfold.
Yet, late last night I noted that today's prompt was going to be CHALLENGE and some flicker of recognition lit itself somewhere within eyeshot, in that uncanny way that attracts us like the sales at Harrods and repulses us like the stench of vomit. You see, over time I've grown to hate the word challenge. It happened because of my cubicle nation years of leveraging integrated solutions of key enablers that were to be thought of as out of the box whilst the objections were to be raised off-line in a pre-meeting. In those days, everything was called a challenge (except understanding corpo-lingo which, really, was ironic).
There were challenging timescales, challenging budgets, challenging clients, challenging bosses, challenging timezone differences, challenging statements, challenging validities, challenging coffee machines, challenging tokens and challenging parking restrictions. Everything we had to do was labelled a challenge, even when it was self-imposed, such as queuing for the Starbee while balancing a laptop. That's not a challenge, it's over-inflated self-importance. The result yielded a workforce de-sensitised to challenges proper; refer to everything in your life as a challenge and I can assure you that you won't be able to recognise one when it meets you with an axe.
Not only will you be unlikely to recognise it, you will also find yourself incapable to navigate the no man's land without a precious compass you never knew you needed. When I woke up in 2009, free as the proverbial bird, finishing my PhD at last, ready to take flight in any direction I wanted, I soon enough realised that I must have looked (and felt), like hummingbirds immortalised by wildlife photographers: flapping their wings fast and yet forever poised by the same flower. Where do you go when you discover that the crossroad you wanted to reach has no directions? How do you get to there when you don't know where there is or what it looks like?
This was my Best Challenge of 2009, and, in fact, the best challenge I've ever faced. It has left me a little shaken, a lot more weary and worse for wear but has empowered me in ways that I never expected. I went from over-paid corporate git to skint writer in a flash and a hundred doors have now flung themselves open. I've been working on my new pro site for a while, a site that will be complemented by a YouTube channel. I am taking steps to improve my visibility to the world and to blossom into the person I had already become through years of study, research, travel, education and damn hard work. Now I feel on the cusp of something great, less fearful and more excited than I've ever been. But do you know something odd and even a little annoying? I myself was holding the keys to the now open doors, all the time. There were right here, right in my pocket. I guess I never reached deep enough.