I was on a long flight recently where something happened.
There were no mechanical failures, no bomb threats, no unruly passengers. We didn’t land in an unforeseen city due to weather. There were no snakes on our plane.
The woman I was sitting next to opened up her laptop after the all-clear sounded. She opened the lid, and the desktop appeared after a few quick seconds.
Amidst a cluttered array of shortcuts pointing to documents, powerpoints, and spreadsheets, there was a thumbnail of a picture. Under the icon, the title appeared:
“A picture of Donna as a baby”
From what I could tell from the miniature version of the pic, it was this woman, her husband, and Donna (as a baby).
I can’t tell you why it caught my eye, but I found myself wondering things like:
“Why is this the only picture on her desktop?”
“Why did she need to remind herself Donna is a baby?”
“How does this woman get any work done with such a cluttered desktop?”
And, probably the most logical one, “Who is Donna?”
Part of me felt like a stalker. But the other part was fascinated by the questions formulating in my mind about my seatmate in 4D.
As the woman began to work, she opened resumé after resumé, presumably finishing the work of recruiting for a position at her company.
I couldn’t tell you for sure if she liked her job, but I had my suspicions. For starters, her emails included words like, “uniformity,” “corporate,” “timely manner,” and “patent recognition programs.” I don’t know how those phrases could be a regular part of someone’s job and it still be enjoyable.
Second, she was reading a romance novel during take-off and landing. I think Fabio was on the cover, even. Books like those always raise a red flag in my mind that says, “escapism.” Not sure what she was escaping from, but I have my guesses.
And then there was Donna. Sitting quietly, patiently on the desktop, waiting to be consulted when things got tough. When the emails, spreadsheets, and corporate powerpoints took more from this woman than just the effort exerted to create them, Donna was there, as a baby, waiting to fill her back up.
It brought me to a question I asked recently to my newsletter. A question which revealed over 60% of respondents wanted to quit their day job and follow their dreams. Finding this out was an accident, really. Not the intention of the survey.
But there it was, loud and clear: most people aren’t doing what they want to be doing.
I couldn’t help but wonder if the woman in the seat next to me was part of that 60%. She needed Donna to remind her of why she was putting up with all the nonsense, office politics, cubicles, water coolers, and never getting to do what she wants.
But the picture will only work for so long. Sooner or later, Donna will grow up. She’ll see her mother working in a job she doesn’t want to be in. Donna won’t know why Mom is frustrated on a daily basis, but the reason will be clear to her.
My seatmate will have a decision to make. It might already be in front of her. She’ll need to take the scary, frightening leap from taking inspiration from Donna to providing inspiration for Donna.
The question is, will it ever happen?