| "Once upon a time, there was an old woman and an old man, who nurtured a puny piglet. One day the old man mentioned the king's plan to give his only daughter in marriage to the one who could build a bridge of gold from his house to the palace. The piglet, now a mighty pig, declared to his astonished parents that he would do it. He performed the feat and the king gave him the princess in marriage. The girl froze at the sight of the groom, however, she accepted her fate."
I remembered the story I read in a book with time-worn pages I found in the attic. Probably, the look on my face was similar, when I considered my small desk at my new workplace. A six-figure salary at a hot start-up in San Francisco right off the college was a genuine golden bridge to my future. I didn't expect the large warehouse with rows of small desks. There was one on my left and one on my right. I pulled my laptop out and heard my coworker on the right.
"I see they told you about the BYOC policy."
I ignored the smart grin on his face, and I went to work. This is what I did for the next year or so. Arrive early and leave late. Hard work paid off, and I even found out that my coworker on the right could clean up nicely on a Saturday afternoon. I guess I received the nods and smiles mostly because I did what others considered dull. However, I found it engaging and rewarding when done right.
Sometimes, at night, I'd open the old book I found in my great-grandmother's trunk.
"And the pig would shed his skin and change himself to a handsome prince."
"A pig, indeed" I used to whisper with a smile on my face.
On Thanksgiving that year, my parents welcomed me home with a special party. I could see the encouraging look on my father's face and the worry on my mom's. She took me on the side.
"You must get yourself a promotion my dear; your good work shouldn't go to waste. All it matters is to prove you're the best."
To tell the truth, I was proud of my achievements, and I strongly believed I deserved that promotion. So, when my boss asked me why he should promote me and not Jamie, I answered without hesitation:
"Did you check the test results this morning?"
Never mind that Jamie confided in me last night, never mind it was an honest mistake. How else would I show the whole world the beauty of my work without that promotion?
Jamie, the coworker on the right, the one who cleaned up nicely on a Saturday afternoon, came by my desk and just said.
That night I read again the story from the old fairy tale book:
"The girl felt an iron circle around her waist. And the prince said:
When I'll lay my hand on your middle, then and only then this circle would break. My name is Jamie, and you can find me at the Temple of Myrrh."
The prince's name in the book wasn't Jamie; however, I was sure the princess felt the same sharp pain in her heart.
And for the next year or so I arrived early and left late. My job was safe, grace to my boss, who trusted me completely. The iron circle never left so for another year I buried myself in work and drove the company to new heights. I almost forgot the passage of time when a high executive took me under his wing. A new house and a new car were the reward for my efforts the next year. I was the smart and successful kid everyone talked about.
The kid who opened at night a weathered fairy tale book.
"And Mother Wednesday gave the princess a golden, magical distaff. Then Mother Friday gave her a golden spindle that turned by itself. Mother Sunday gave her the golden hen with her five chicks and a lame raven to show her the way to the Temple of Myrrh"
I sighed and thought I also had the safety of the distaff, of my job. I controlled each project in my company, the never stopping spindle of production, and I seized the golden hen with an above the top compensation.
Only the lame raven to lead me to Jamie was missing. So for another year I just did what I knew best, trod along, with new successes and an iron circle around my heart.
Later, that year, I went to a trade show. I expected the speeches, negotiations and after parties. I didn't expect in the stand next door a man nursing a sprained ankle. He measured my booth.
"We're a non-profit and we have a website for people with special needs. Ah, here's Jamie, we couldn't have done it without him. We could never afford to pay him for what he’s worth..."
I didn't hear the rest. I muttered a breathless "Hi Jamie."
He looked at me, and I felt the iron circle crack.
"I'm leaving. We're moving the operations to Midwest. We could use a good executive."
I struggled for weeks with the decision to leave career, power and money. I remembered the old book, with pages yellow of age.
Like the princess in the story, I threw to the old crone, to my pride and greed, the golden distaff, the never stopping spinning wheel and the hen with her golden chicks.
I turned in my resignation to my speechless boss and rented a car for the long trip to Midwest. There Jamie would lay his hand on my middle, and the iron circle of regret would break.
I lowered the hood of the rented car and turned on the radio.
"I'm not running anymore, but I'm on my wayyyy." The radio belted.
Yeah, I thought; I was on my way!