I’ve slightly got back in the blog-reading swing this week. This morning, I read Being You is Hard by Neil Morrison. At the risk of detracting utterly from his point, the blog gave me pause particularly at the point of “some people have to walk up the down escalator” and then again with “never be afraid of being yourself”.
I’m someone who is drawn to walk up life’s down escalators.. actually, I prefer to run, to be honest – it means I get somewhere. This leaves me exhilarated, but in need of a breather usually. Yet as an escalator-runner, I recognise a paradox in myself. I know I’m pretty much going to stand out and despite my propensity to take the more awkward path, I’m also someone who is oft afraid of being herself and being truly seen. So I sometimes find myself a little torn.
Because folk are going to look at the person going against the flow, against the sensible path… and probably point a bit and say stuff (I know this, because I would too). So going on the basis that I can’t wear an invisibility cloak AND run up life’s down escalators (health and safety); I figure I end up faced with a choice: Be exhilarated, exhausted and seen, or be less awkward, less visible, less knackered and maybe just a little less alive.
You don’t get to stand out without consequence. That’s not how it works. You want to run up a down escalator? You have to commit to that action or you won’t get anywhere – and even if you commit, there is a high chance of falling over, of getting too tired & having to ride the flow back down to the bottom.
But if you make it all the way– Oh. My. Imagine that.
So you have to choose to go against the flow AND keep making that choice – and if you are a leader, in an organisation and you are pushing for change, for transformation, for a restructure or a re-navigation of “The Way Things Are Round Here”? You are going to be seen. You are going to be tested.
People will whisper. They will point. They will say you won’t make it, can’t make it. You might face sneering. Or outrage. It might tap into old wounds, insecurities and doubts. You may question yourself deeply.
But not everyone will question you– and that’s the point. Some people will look at your antics and want to join in. Some will ask you how you got up the down escalator and work out new and easier ways to do it. Some will gamify the process & have fun with the journey. Some will cheer.
The very best will walk down the up escalator beside you and yell you on and put their hands on your back to push you forward every step of the way
But at the core? At the heart of whatever reaction you have evoked and provoked? I reckon you end up with a few things:
You made your choice to be yourself.
You broke ground for others to follow.
You know exactly who has your back.
So for those who choose to run Up life’s Down escalator, I say this:
Pick your battles, then run at them hard; understand that invisibility isn’t an option, given the choice you made; love and thank the folk who put their hands on your back.
And smile to yourself – because you did it.
Image of the Copenhagen Metro – by Bill Lancaster