By now, those of us not living on a desert island know who Steven Slater is. The fed-up JetBlue flight attendant. The gutsy guy. The one who did what millions of employees across the land want to do – express how you really feel, use the escape hatch and get the heck out of dodge with a beer in hand.
And then there’s broker-wannabe Jenny, whose series of 33 photographs of herself holding a white board with not-so-conventional words of resignation to her slacker boss, and the subsequent reactions, reinforced just how sick and tired Americans are of taking crap at work. This one turned out to be a hoax, but the ripple effects were real.
Imagine that. Slater and Jenny have people all over the country fantasizing their ideal getaway. Could there be a better mirror to hold up to the American psyche? What do you see, people? What do you see? The comments on Facebook and on the articles themselves show a neat divide between the straight, dutiful, responsible-at-all-costs citizens and the ones who have buoyed these two to hero status.
“Guess she doesn't need a reference from him to get her next job -- and she's ready to face the worst job market since the Great Depression,” writes one commenter about Jenny on The Huffington Post. “The bad boss may have the last laugh on this one.”
Really? That’s what you get from watching a woman get all creative as she exits a job that was clearly doing nothing for her? A potential lost reference? Oh, the horror of not getting a reference from the alleged Farmville-playing, nasty boss.
Perhaps it’s my life coach lens that makes me see it differently because, boy, did I get a good chuckle out of both stories. But more than that, I tend to like big gestures. My thinking: Follow your bliss, baby. I mean, I hope along the way you’re smart enough to have stashed away some cash for a rainy day, but regardless it’s a gutsy move that will ideally propel you forward.
By no means do I want to make light of unemployment, particularly in these rough economic times, but there are plenty of people who will admit when pressed that losing a job can be a good thing. It forces us to dig deep and change course and sometimes it’s just the jolt we need to try something completely new.
Last week I had a long conversation with a neighbor who was laid off a few months ago and she admitted it may have been a blessing. She also said she probably wouldn’t have had the guts to leave on her own. I must say this resonated with me -- a rules-following, diligent, responsible worker -- because it’s how I eventually came to feel about my own layoff from a television producing job in 2002. My life is richer for it.
It’s not just employment surprises that prompt change, of course. I ran into another neighbor this week whose sudden need for an operation made her put her health first and retire early. She was glowing as she told me she never would have left on her own because she didn’t “have the nerve.” Her hospital stay put the decision squarely in front of her and she hasn’t looked back.
In this context, what Slater did was not only shake-your-head funny but courageous. What Jenny did was not only crazy calculated but kind of admirable. The life coaching profession wouldn’t exist if so darned many people weren’t working in jobs they’re only marginally good at or just don’t like at all.
Like most, I have held jobs that were just for the money when I was in transition. Sometimes that’s a necessity. The point is, we were all given gifts and the idea is to use them, if not 100% of the time then at least the majority of the time. Maybe Slater was using his gifts as a flight attendant and just had a bad day. Maybe he’s going to be in jail pondering his next move. Perhaps Jenny will become a broker because that’s where her gifts lie. Even though her story was fiction, don’t you want her to be? Maybe they’re both headed for reality TV.
Whatever happens, they’ve closed one door. Here’s hoping the Universe opens up a big, fat window somewhere.