Congratulations! You survived another week.

Your joy at finally reaching the point where you can get a full night’s sleep is tempered by the realization that the weeks are going by faster and faster, and you’re not getting anywhere. You’re just getting a little more tired and a little farther behind each time. It’s like Tetris: your reward for completing each level is to do it over, but faster and more challenging.

You succeeded at becoming your department’s auditor! How would you like to also teach company-wide classes on a subject of great legal importance to the company’s continued operation? You’ll need to jump from thinking like an auditor to thinking like an instructor. You’re also going to need to write your own curriculum, because it turns out that we don’t really have one. And yes, we expect you to accomplish all that while continuing to perform your current duties.

Wow, you did a really good job on those classes! The training department is highly impressed. How’d you like to do all of the above while training a revolving group of new hires?

Don’t blink.

You’re doing a great job up there, so we hired an ex-cop who’s going to gravitate to wherever you are and regale you with stories about how he used to find excuses to beat village kids. He’s going to tell you about how he routinely forgot to Mirandize suspects and locked them up without food, water, or bathroom breaks until they confessed to crimes they probably didn’t commit. Every time you look up, he’ll be watching you. Asking prying questions. Bragging about blatant human rights violations.

Don’t blink.

The ex-cop allegedly hurt himself, so we’re going to put him on light duty. That means he’s going to be your trainee eight hours a day for the next week. That’s cool, right? We’re sure you’ll be able to train him and still accomplish all your other duties.

Enjoy the adrenaline. Don’t blink. Don’t look down. If you slow down, you’ll fall.

You walk the razor edge between letting your silence consent to the cop’s horror stories and coming across as unprofessionally outraged. Eventually he gets the hint that you’re not impressed. His silence grows, although he still spends a lot of time staring.

The adrenaline buzz that’s been your more-or-less constant companion for the last month is starting to wear off. You’ve lived with the thrill of imminent danger for so much of your life that you’ve adapted to it: you’ve harnessed it to mute your fear, motivate you through your hopelessness, and keep you moving through your exhaustion. It’s your legal high. It does what caffeine alone never could.

Now that buzz is sputtering out like a candle burned down to a stub or a flashlight whose batteries are out of juice. You’ve lost an unprecedented 10 pounds in the last month. Your body says you can’t keep doing this forever. High alert has a limit.

Don’t blink.

In its absence, you can see the yawning chasm through the cracks of the confidence you project. Your old friend the abyss is down there, whispering. You can’t trust anyone. You aren’t safe. There is no one you can talk to. Sooner or later you’re going to slip, lose your balance, fall…

Don’t blink. Don’t let them see you stumble. They can’t know you’re having a hard time keeping up.

You receive the news that your workload is going to quadruple June 1st. You’re running out of time to find a decent place and move. The weeks and months are flying by, but you haven’t accomplished anything.

Don’t. Blink.

Perhaps the only good thing about moving so fast is that you never have time to stop and think. If you did, you’d hear the abyss whispering, crushing the last tiny embers of hope with its cold logic. You’d wake up in the empty hours before dawn and stare at the .45 beside your bed, weighing the instinct to survive against the desire to stop suffering.

Instead, you’re too busy late at night and early in the morning to hear the whispering darkness. Then it’s off to the Other Job that has eaten your life like some kind of cancerous mass of responsibilities and obligations and stress. While you’re there, you’ll be so focused that the abyss almost ceases to exist. You’ll become your mask: a hollow automaton, a robotic shell for technical knowledge. Adrenaline and caffeine are the gasoline that keeps you in motion, and you have no hopes and dreams beyond your next promotion.

Whatever you do, don’t blink.

Next thing you know, it’ll be Friday and another wasted week will be behind you. For one or two short days you’ll be able to sleep the dreamless sleep of the dead for as long as you want. For a few short hours, the hourglass will cease to run in any meaningful way for you.

Until then, don’t blink.

Don’t Blink is an ode to living life at the speed of light. You can’t afford to take your eyes off the prize even for a split second. You can’t rest. You can’t refocus. If you blink, you’re dead– so don’t blink.

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