After the shitstorm that descended upon my career yesterday, I could have definitely benefited from a figurative shot in the arm. Unfortunately, I found out I’d have to settle for a literal one – I signed up for a free flu vaccine at work a month ago (needles don’t seem scary at all when they are a month in the distance) and then promptly forgot about it until an hour ago when Outlook calendar alarm went off.

In line to get vaccinated, I listened to the nurse talk with the people getting their shots in front of me. She was utterly, refreshingly, no-nonsense. A timid woman ahead of me said, “I hate needles!” and the nurse guffawed and said, “That don’t separate you from the crowd, sweetie.”

I thought I was pretty calm and cool until just before she stuck the needle in my arm – she was so frank and fast that I felt like I was jumping into a cold pool or something – she was skipping all of the ceremony. I said, “Isn’t this the part where you tell me it won’t hurt?”

“I’d tell you that if I were lying,” she said. “Of course it’s going to hurt. I am about to bore into your skin with a sharp object. You will feel pain.” And then, boom, without waiting another second, she did it.
As much as I still don’t like getting shots (which do indeed feel like a sharp object boring into your skin) the few minutes I got to watch the nurse in action were absolutely refreshing. Especially at work, I’m used to niceties, sugar-coating, euphemisms, red tape, reassurance, and straight-out lying. To meet this woman – this all-business, blunt, candid, forthright nurse (who, at the same time, successfully held a position of caring and nurturing) gave me hope.

Why aren’t more people honest and open, even about things like needles? To keep going with this lame metaphor, isn’t it better that we know about the pain we’re about to feel than to be told it won’t hurt and be shocked and hurt when it does?

Going back to my situation at work, which isn’t terrible but isn’t all that great, I have to wonder if I wouldn’t have taken the news better if they had told me outright what my new position would be like. No “This will be an exciting new opportunity!” or, “You’ll have the chance to work with new people (i.e. a second boss)!” Maybe if they said something more like, “Yes, this sucks, but so do office jobs” or, “I hope you understand that it’s not fun being as low as you are in the totem pole during mergers like this,” it would have made me feel better, not worse.

After the shot, I asked her, “Do you tell children it hurts, too?”

She laughed and said, “Children don’t ask. They look at the needle. They already know.”

It’s another good point: why do adults ask for reassurance? What happens to us between childhood and adulthood that makes us ask people to tell us something different from what we instinctually know? It’s a couple of simple lessons well (and quickly) learned. I got my figurative shot in the arm after all.