Two Weeks Two SHORT Stories of Optimism

Ever since I started driving, I have never had to deal with the dreaded traffic jam. Complaints and exasperation from friends over traffic jam never earned my commiseration. On top of that, I passively criticized those who had nothing better to do than to sway my positive mornings askew with their traffic catastrophe. I then came to realize it firsthand.

During my two weeks assignment at a company in South SF, my commutes, both ways, were equivalently 1/3 of the time I spent at work. Traffic jam was the culprit.  I had never thought my commutes would be this terrible. I felt so disturbed that each day I would rather arrive at work an hour before and nap away in the car till 8 o’clock. On one hand, I can’t say that I disliked all of it as, en route to work, NPR seemingly shortened the travel distance and I enjoyed being educated about our national social contemporary issues. On the other hand, at the end of each day, going home was in fact the last thing I looked forward to as it entailed idling through the congested highway at 30mph or less. But what made driving, fatigue, anxiety-buildup worthwhile was all due to the employees and their stories I learned during this brief placement.

As a temp, I didn’t expect much. Going in as a problem-solver, my objective was to get the project done with another hired temp and move on. Nonetheless, to ease the discomfort that usually exists initially between the temp and regular, I made small talks with the regular to 1) learn about their opinion of their employer. 2) to learn about them.

There were many nice people. May of the Analytical Lab, for instance, expressed more enthusiasm than us when answering our questions. Ray of MCD Dept. spoke with a firm, warm, fatherly tone as we exchanged our backgrounds. My boss, Nand, with his background as a K-12 science teacher, was rather generous with his time when it came to showing us around especially things regarding equipment/policies in his department. Nand held fast to safety guidelines and he hoped we left the company ready to confront emergency with an emphasis on personal safety. However, among all the people I met, Suzy of Molecular Cell and Development Dept. and Mike of Environmental Health and Safety, the department under which I contracted, were two of the most positive ones.

Suzy is positive for her future. Despite having her MS degree in Biology, Suzy thinks that her current science position is still whetting her appetite for something greater. Suzy told me that she didn’t see herself being in the biopharma industry for the rest of her career. This is partly due to scarcity of opportunity to move up. Costly overhead is another factor that stands between her and her goal. She then proceeded to share her dream of owning her own bakery. As she was telling me, I started to detect her increased rate of speech. The sparkle in her eyes also became more visible as she carried on. I was shut down by her immense energy; I was speechless but continually smiled and nodded along. This was because Suzy spoke of something that I haven’t yet heard by most scientists.

Many pursue professions in the tech and biotech in hope of realizing their scientist dream and the financial security that comes with the titles. Suzy’s story is inspiring as it takes courage for one to resign from a position in what economists call secondary sector, which accounts for only 20% of U.S. labor force, to join a tertiary sector—where 80% of the U.S. labor force competes to strike rich. Nonetheless, even though money is one of the motives for which one struggles hard, this is not the case for Suzy as I do believe that it’s been a dream of hers to run her life/career to the fullest even if it means she has to forsake a highly-regarded job title. Her passionate bakery dream told me so.

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As luck would have it, I ran into Mike before I left. Mike is a stout man. He’s about 5’8 but packs a muscular 200 lbs frame. Mike never failed to smile. A lot of people who have met or worked with me would describe me as optimistic and light-hearted. But Mike would be a stronger definition of them both, in my opinion. Mike told us briefly about how he landed a job here in EH&S. He had worked for companies around the area and had once been a temp of his current company. Three months went by and he was called off. Mike then persisted in similar companies around the area. One contract after another, Mike finally was called back to his present company as a result of his excellent review during his contract period. Mike went on to say that finding a job had been tough, but so long as the positive spirit was in check, light in the tunnel would gleam. And that is the reason why he is spreading his smiles like Ebola in all the areas of his duty. We were fortunate to have been at one of the places. “Stay positive, gentlemen!”, said Mike as the other temp and I shook hands with Mike and bidded goodbye.

These two coincidental encounters during my job as a temp did really feed me spiritually. What I mean to say is, in the face of hardship and hopelessness, optimism  and positivity are only what is left in us for us to come home to. Suzy was able to stay put despite possible hopelessness in realizing her dream. And Mike was able to utilize faith to actualize a humble, beaming smile that he was later able to share with everybody else on the job. Their journeys are different but their optimism was cast in the same mold. And in the end, this is what I would like to leave my readers with. Just like how Mike did it, I am going to cyber-shake your hands as this post is coming to its close, “Stay positive!”

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