Mzangila

In the dust

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You and a few others are seated in a meeting. It is around five and the meeting has not officially begun. So you are all engaging in some informal conversations, sharing jokes, laughing and generally feeling good as you wait the rest to join you, because in this world there is always that one person who never gets into meetings on time. Not even once have they ever considered being late an offence. They always suffer this lateness syndrome, and they know it. Deep inside they have convinced themselves that they were naturally designed to be late, in whatever circumstances. And that there is nothing they can do about it.

These same people, usually troublesome, hold that meeting on end. Despite their chronic lateness, they are usually the idea mongers that we need in meetings. At times they talk too much, unless you are integral as a leader, they will sway the meeting with stupid talk. They can make you idle on trivial issues. They are tripping always. Apart from that, they carry this charm to meetings. The charm that brings life into scenarios where hawk eyed leaders with serious faces run meetings in astounding dictatorship. These life bringers will always find a hole to break from the rules, ruin the processions but release the tension.

This day looks good. Good because it is the last meeting you’ll probably ever sit in for that year. No more meetings! Hurray there. Who wants to attend meetings anyway, boring meetings, excepts these obsessed leaders who have got nothing else other than sit around tables and order you around. So such a meeting is a marker for happiness. It signifies the beginning of free weeks, a break from the weekly meetings that only aim at adding boredom to your already miserable life.

Meetings are mostly boring, if your main aim there is not about making money. If it is only about seating your ass to listen to people discussing things that do not relate to you directly then boredom will creep up your brain. It will tear your concentration down, and soon you will be peering out the window, up to two birds flying far away in the sky. And then you desire to have that freedom they have. Freedom to fly around, perch anywhere they want and even go anywhere in the world without having to make a long line down at Nyayo house to get a passport. Not worried about interviews to acquire visas. Not troubled by space laws or space eyes that keep roaming in the skies hunting for foreign objects in their space. As if they created that space they call theirs.

read more: Outliers

The people in the meeting are all familiar. Same old faces. Faces that do not find delight in sitting in meetings anymore. They are not making a dime out of it, but for the love (if we may say), they find themselves seated in that same room, every Tuesday. Nothing new, only different chairs and new sitting positions. Even as you chit chat, gibberish, jokes, or just trying to hit on each other, you can feel this emptiness.

The room is hugged by this emptiness. You are not sure if the others feel it. It is so pronounced that it keeps knocking on your heart softly. Days ago, the room used to be full, teaming up with lots of countenances, new ones. Eager faces. Young faces. Hopeful faces. Happy faces. Faces full of expectations. The faces are long gone. Now all that remains is this emptiness among these familiar faces. Many of which have no slightest idea of what goes on beyond the meetings. They just seat there, watch you talk, form faces, talk lowly, look away most of the times, shake their heads instead of talking when told to do so, steal glances into their phones when the hawk eye is off the radar, and somewhere during the meetings, leave- they have more important stuff to attend to. Always.

And then the meeting commences with the usual preliminaries. The boring intros because you want to follow protocol and be courteous. Leaders have to be. And have to follow the book. And some other unwritten rules that are considered as socially desirable or bundled in this term common courtesy. Everyone looks at you. Unrelentingly because you are their leader. You have all the words, decisions and power to give direction of the meeting. If you say No, it remains so. You have the power to point a finger right onto someone’s nose and no one will question. You can overrule people’s suggestions as you are the final decision maker. You can confiscate someone’s phone to grab their attention, and they will call your actions as appropriate measures to make a meeting fruitful. I mean you can do anything, except raping someone.

Read also: A man

In order to appear humane, and blooded, and accommodating, a drive actually tells you that you are different. That you, as a leader, you are special. You were born and trained to be unique. That you have feelings, emotions and that you care more about the team around you.  That to some extent, you share feelings and other things, among them ideas.

To obey this drive that keeps poking your ego, you allow each member to join the conversation. You want to believe that you really embraced democracy even before its discovery. That is what you want to believe. That you are above board, and feeding people like a preacher while denying them a chance for feedback is not a road to success. This of course, is the right thing to do in the right thinking society as the changing times have recommended participatory communication as a vehicle to expected or projected success.

If you have ever been keen, you might have discovered that being nice at times does not pay. At times it gets costly. It pains. It is a gateway to misery instead of pathway to being appreciated. People find a chance to ride on small loops to test your skills. They find joy in it.

Look here. You have been working on this project for a month now. One which they brought to the table because it was a way to end the year in style. Si you want to do that too, end year in style? Isn’t that the reason we have ceremonies like Christmas? Everything has been on progress, and is going on well. It has been discussed in details. Discussed and professed by the same people around you. And now it is three days to launch the project.

Then there is one guy. The latecomer. We all appreciate his nerdish acts, they save our ass from mess in most cases, and in other cases land us into shit. The mess you, as a leader, have to clean because you hold the mantle.  He then dismantles the comfort we have been having all along. He brings a new dimension to this project.  One we overlooked because for the project to go down well, we had to overlook it.

Then he gets backed by another lady in the room. You’ll always fret when she starts talking. She can talk.  She is really talented and has always been a dissenter for many reasons. Listening to her will make your mind sick. Sick in that you’ll have to reorganize the whole project again.

The two talk. And talk. And talk. You can only listen as they have already sucked all the sup from your thinking cap.  Since they have charm, they are able to voice their ideas out, convincing the whole lot. Except you. One against all.

Inside your brain there is this war. War because you are a loner now. Redesigning the whole project is energy draining. You understand that you’ll have to bleed. Them, they just pull suggestions and beyond that, they never care how you implement them. You have to. And this war, is war because you need to start afresh. For you it is not the end. It is not the end of the job for you, it is just but a start.

You give in. they are all looking at you. All of them as you haven’t talked. Fiery eyes. Not imploring. They need to hear that yes. They need to see you crawl down your seat and say okay. You feel like saying let’s not do this, but how can you when you are alone? Compact majority.

Having being beaten, you give up. You lose. It is a time, as a leader, you cannot do anything. A great test. It leaves you bleeding. And seriously compromised. The meeting ends. They all walk out happy, but as for you, a war has started.

It is a time you feel like downing the tools. Or just go hang yourself. Or just vanish. Or even step down in public. But you got to move on. You have to hold on, and face the challenges. They have to be faced, no matter what.

Let us meet next Wednesday.

Foot note

 “One of the things you realize fairly quickly in this writing job is that there is a character people see out there called Mzangila,” … “That’s not me.” Is because I never believe in my own hype.

Cheers!

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About Mzangila

Mentor, media consultant, photographer, editor, poet, writer, and counselor.

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