The Walls Make the Arena

I work on the fourth floor and often drink my coffee on the back staircase. It’s a good place to take a breather from everything happening in the office. By everything, I mean the natural roller coaster of working in an ad agency. 

Most days are full of curveballs, high pressure, silver linings and that think-on-your-feet stuff that leaves you feeling equally accomplished and exhausted. 

So the fourth floor stairwell has become my sanctuary of sorts. I process things that went well, things that sucked, and everything between. My inner dialogue shifts from gripes to celebration, annoyances and joy, and that 4 minute reprieve often has me momentarily convinced that I’m the only one in the whole wide world who’s trying to make it as a working professional. Silly, but it’s the truth. 

Then today I looked down and saw two workers from another business on the floor level. I don’t know what words were exchanged or the story behind them, but I surmised from their body language (flailing arms, nodding heads, hands on hips) that they were processing through something that really wasn’t going according to plan in their world. I stood there, amazed, as they acted out the nature of the challenges I thought were mine alone.

I realized it’s easy to assign work challenges and hiccups to the four walls that immediately surround us. “This kind of thing only happens here. It must be better over there. We are the only place in the world with this crap.” We do it at home too with our marriages, lifestyles and relationships. We get caught up in our own stumbling blocks and assume we are alone. 

What if the walls don’t contain us as much as they set the stage? What if the walls make the arena and we have the chance to be the hero? We can shift the tide. We can win the game. 

The stairwell isn’t an escape. It’s a halftime pep talk, and we can come back stronger in the second half. We just have to recognize that the walls make the arena.