“Failure is hard, but success is far more dangerous,” warned Erica’s Starbucks cup. “If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever.”
Great, she quipped, I came for coffee and they gave me a fortune cookie. Shrugging, she slurped some whipped cream off of her mocha so that she could snap down the lid. “See ya later, Tom,” she said to the barista as she headed for the door.
“Have a great day,” he said, “Don’t work too hard.”
Erica smiled and chuckled a little. That’s easy for him to say, she thought. He’s just returned from a month-long European vacation with his wife and kids. She has two months of unused holiday time and a cat who provides all the companionship she has time for. Men, she’d decided, are more work than they’re worth.
From an early age, Erica knew that she would make something of her life. She had always had high expectations of herself and she knew they weren’t hers alone. First in her family to graduate high school and first to go to college, she was the golden child. In her family’s eyes, she was destined for great things.
Now in her thirties, Erica wasn’t so sure about greatness. She’d landed a good job after college and spent the first few years earning her stripes, steadily rising through the corporate ranks and earning the respect of her bosses and coworkers along the way. She became the one to go to whenever there was a tough job or an impossible deadline, and somehow she always pulled it off. To her coworkers, she seemed unstoppable.
That was the problem. Erica’s career was on the fast track, but she could no longer be sure that the place she was hurtling toward was a place she wanted to go. Was this success? It seemed that everyone around her thought so. Not so long ago, Erica had believed it too. Before the relentless hours and the endless workload, before the back-breaking expectations and the isolation that goes with them, she’d believed this was what she wanted. The perks weren’t lost on her, but they weren’t all they were cracked up to be. The travel was nice, although never the “working holiday” her colleagues thought it was. The pay was good, but she had little time to enjoy it. Erica was by all the usual measures “successful,” but she felt drained.
Erica felt tense just thinking about the vicious conundrum of it all. She took a sip of her mocha and let the sweet marriage of coffee and chocolate soothe her frayed nerves. She studied the quote on the side of the cup once more. “The Way I See It #26.” She found it strangely ironic that of all the people she knew, only she and her coffee cup saw eye to eye.
It was little comfort to her as she pulled an envelope out of her pocket and knocked on her boss’ office door. This was it. She knew what she had to do, and she hated herself for it.
The door opened to her boss’ smiling face, “Good morning,” he said, waving her inside and closing the door behind her, “What was it you wanted to talk to me about?”