The Adventures of Alan – Hold Your Nerve
I work in retail. Did you know that? I think I may have mentioned it once, or twice or maybe even every single issue since I started writing for Grow. You might be sick of hearing it but it’s my only frame of reference so far as nine to five employment goes and, given that this is the Adventures of Alan and this edition focuses on careers, my retail career is probably my greatest adventure so far.
I must admit, putting it in those terms probably gives it a rich and wholesome quality that it really doesn’t deserve. But this isn’t Up! This isn’t ‘old man flies balloon house to top of waterfall in heartwarming tribute to dead wife’. This is Tom Hanks in Castaway. In the beginning, you’re living a life filled with prospects. You get engaged to Helen Hunt. Things appear to be falling into place and anything is possible. Then, you get on the plane, there’s a storm, the plane crashes and there you are stuck on a desert island talking to a volleyball for four years.
And there’s nothing wrong with Wilson; indeed Wilson is one of the greatest characters of all time, it’s the island that’s the problem.
What I’m saying is that at present, my time is used fulfilling an obligation rather than actively pursuing a career with purpose and meaning. Retail can be rewarding but as with any career, it is only rewarding if you want it and I know that not being where you want to be is a universally relatable and uniquely frustrating feeling whether you’re a customer assistant or a company director. Some of you may have conquered it before or, like me, you’re still trying but if there’s anything to take away from Tom’s time on that island it’s that, at the moment that he was at his lowest, he survived. When the opportunity presented itself to escape. He took it. He made it back.
Even if Wilson did not (spoiler).
That’s cheesy, I know, but it’s undeniably true. When I’m locked in a conversation with an older, allegedly wiser, individual delving into the intricacies of the composition of a microwaveable cottage pie; when I’m bristling with incredulity listening to another grown adult recount how unacceptable the idea of an 85-15 split in favour of mash over mince really is, it’s then that I feel an overwhelming sense of abject loss in the meaning of my actions as if I’m floating in a void of disbelief thinking “what the eff am I doing?!”
But then I remind myself that the right opportunity to escape hasn’t yet presented itself and I have to keep working at it. Rather than succumb to the urge to check out at the earliest available point, I need to hold my nerve, keep surviving and wait for the winds to change.
Ok, it may not be as extreme as literally surviving on an island on your own, eating nothing but crabs but you can only play the hand you’re dealt.
Also, lest we forget:
In memory of Wilson. Friend. Companion. Volleyball. Forever in our hearts.
Written by Alan Hancock
Illustration by Peter Clayton