“The only people for me are the mad ones…desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road
I realised recently that I have been influenced by crushes in a ridiculous number of quite serious decisions that I have made over the years – I was describing how I chose my current career to a junior colleague and I found myself stating terrifyingly frequently that I had a crush on this boss or that colleague who persuaded me to look at each job differently and, eventually, changed my plans. In fact, without these crushes, I sometimes wonder if I would still be in the same job as I am now!
I should clarify what exactly I mean by ‘having a crush’ in this context – of course, there were some regular crushes with regular fantasies about filthy and ill-advised behaviours at work, but the majority were more innocent than that, only ‘work crushes.’ In fact, sexual crushes on colleagues are just…distracting! The barriers that I have constructed to keep my work out of my life and prevent me becoming overwhelmed function equally well to keep my life out of my work and ensure focus. Sadly, when the object of my desire is standing in front of me, these barriers just melt away and it all becomes a bit messy…dreaming about being pushed roughly against the wall in the dark of the back stairwell with hands and mouths all over me does not exactly leave much room for directed thought…
Luckily, despite my work crushes sharing many of the characteristics that I look for in actual crushes, by definition, I am not physically attracted to them. I have work crushes on senior colleagues who impress me, on charismatic and inspiring individuals who I look up to and admire. They’re intelligent and usually outstanding in their field. This is actually a feature that does translate across to regular crushes – there is nothing hotter than a smart man who is good at what he does, particularly if it’s something that I have limited knowledge of myself. It’s why Brian Cox is more attractive than his looks would suggest, and why I have sweaty fantasies about celebrating Andy Murray’s championship wins with him in a manner that is perhaps not that acceptable at Wimbledon. Often, my work crushes are in a position to teach me and, once they have taken me under their wing, oh my God, do I want to impress them. I study and practice, I seek out opportunities to show myself off. Work crushes undoubtedly end up making me better at my job – I hate to look stupid, but to do so in front of a work crush…nightmare!
As someone who has been single forever, I have wondered if my work crushes were why I was so content and happy being alone – I have never needed to look for validation from a man or a lover. I know who I am and I like who I am…yes, I can be introverted and awkward, but I’ve made my peace with that. It turns out, however, that I do look for validation from other people, and they are my bosses and colleagues. I do think this is safer somehow than building my self-esteem on the opinion of someone who could hurt me personally. Yes, a bad opinion from my bosses would devastate me, but it would be fixable and does not fundamentally criticise me as a person, as a similar critique from a boyfriend might. And does it matter that I am trying to be better for, perhaps, the wrong reasons when it doesn’t change the fact that I do want to be better? I just hope that I don’t ever end up in a job without a work crush and I have to motivate myself…that is unlikely to end well!
The more I described these choices and how my crushes had changed my mind, the more I realised that they had led me to the right place. I love my job and cannot imagine doing anything else. It’s hard work, but it is intellectually stimulating and challenging enough that I’m unlikely to get bored. Did the work crushes change my mind, or did I realise what I really wanted because I was attracted to people with qualities that I admired and wanted for myself?
I’ve also started wondering if I should be using this same reasoning in the rest of my life. My career is the one part of my life with which I am truly satisfied. I have allowed myself to be directed by wiser men and women, I have trusted their advice and leadership, and have been influenced for the better. Maybe I should start trusting these same instincts to see in other people what I want and just go after it. I’m quite excited to see where that leads me…