Herald Journal Columns
June 20, 2005, Herald Journal

Trying to fold the map of life

By LIZ HELLMANN

If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

How often have those words crossed your mind?

If you’re like me, it’s pretty often.

We all like things done our way, and why not? If that’s the way we want it, then it must be the best way, and doesn’t everyone want the best?

I would label myself somewhere in the category of a perfectionist. This quality has been instilled in me, both by way of nature and of nurture.

I’m definitely not on the extreme end (I have a friend who cannot set the volume on the TV to odd numbers, even though the numbers disappear after three seconds), but I do need order.

This quality can be helpful when you are working alone, but it can become a curse worse than the seven seas when trying to work with other people.

Now, I like working with other people, but it can be tricky, frustrating, hair graying (and I’m only in my 20s), and absolutely draining.

The most simple, common sense things become debatable. Even rearranging a room.

What? You mean you want the TV over there? No. That is obviously not going to work.

You see, at exactly 6:15 p.m., the sun will shine through the window onto the TV.

I will then have to get up from my dinner – three ounces lean protein, one cup fruit, two cups vegetable, with one whole grain roll to meet the new food pyramid requirements – and close the curtain three-quarters of the way. Thereby, allowing enough light in so I can still see my food, but blocking the glare on the “Friends” rerun.

And who knows? Maybe after all that, the sun will shift again right before the end, spoiling the last scene.

Why would you do that to me? It’s just common sense.

Before you start thinking I have a problem, this syndrome doesn’t just affect me.

Everyone wants their own way, even if your ways are different, and somewhat less psychotic, than mine. We all want what we want.

I’ve come to decide that is where the joke, and over-used sitcom parody, of people not liking their bosses has originated.

Bosses get things their way!

They are the people who can legitimately say, “It’s my way, or the highway.”

Unless you are independently wealthy, or are such a bad actor you can make a living off of reality TV, you must abide by that saying.

It’s not all bad. Many bosses are very nice and understanding, and value the opinions of the lowly minions like myself.

And no, my bosses didn’t make me write that. I have no problems with the powers that be at this fine paper.

In fact, my bosses are the best in the world, end quote. (Okay guys, I wrote it, now can I finish my column?). Just kidding.

Anyway, our life becomes a struggle to fight against what everyone else wants, and what we want.

Whether that struggle is waged against our family, friends, co-workers, bosses, or sometimes even inanimate objects. (Do not tell me you’ve never been frustrated at a map that wouldn’t fold the way you wanted it to.)

In a fair world, only the absolute best ideas would rise to the top – ahem, mine.

Unfortunately, people just can’t see brilliance when it’s right in front of them. Sometimes, it seems, it doesn’t matter much what the idea is, but whose idea it is.

For example, say I was in charge of organizing a celebrity get-together of all the famous couples in Hollywood. (What? Can’t a girl dream?)

My idea is to have a lovely Grecian style affair with flowing gowns, golden accessories, silky fabrics, a soft color pallet, and thousands of lilies decorating the ornate columned pathways and marble fountains.

The food would consist of Mediterranean fare, sumptuous red wines from all over the world, shrimp cocktails, and a festive Greek band.

(I’m available for all your private party planning needs; now back to your macaroni and cheese.)

However, let’s say Donald Trump also volunteers a theme idea.

He wants everyone to dress in homemade duct tape costumes, with no shoes.

The decor will consist of pots and pans (literally, just silver pots and pans) hung from the ceiling of a warehouse, where the floor will be covered in tiny pine cones and tacks.

Dinner will include coddled liver, brussels sprouts, and coffee Jell-o (trust me, it’s awful).

Emanating from the speakers in the ceiling will be the musical accompaniment for the evening, the recorded sound of nails sliding down a chalkboard.

Every half hour, 20 screaming little children will come running through the warehouse, banging on the pots and pans with long metal poles.

Whose idea will be used? Trump’s, of course. He always will win. He has status.

But people are stubborn, including myself. We are just like the mules farmers used long ago. Like us, the mules were beasts of heavy burden, subjected to the wishes of the farmer.

We all have people to answer to, whether it be our parents, children, bosses, teachers, co-workers, teammates, or clients.

But sometimes, mules got too stubborn and resisted. They were then either beaten into submission or put out to pasture.

Wait, that couldn’t have been my point.

The point is we don’t have to be mules. But, even if we reach the same status of the farmer, we’ll realize he always has a wife to answer to, and trust me, you’re never going to get to that kind of power.

With that shining picture, keep in mind one thing. The mule and farmer can, and should, work together.

I like to imagine the possibilities if my ideas could work with Trump’s money, but back to reality.

My way can, in fact, become our way. It’s a little word called compromise, recently being rediscovered in the depths of the English language.

Be warned though, compromise doesn’t mean a promise to do it your way.

You still might end up with a little glare on your TV, but at least you won’t be watching it alone.