I’m an Elephant and So Are You

Why our work shouldn’t be so cushy.

In Dublin, even the Elephants are gingers.

Let’s imagine for a second that you’re an Elephant.

An Elephant who lives in a zoo. You’re waited on, day in and day out by the best zookeepers and veterinarians in the world. Your food arrives magically twice a day and is enough to keep you well fed and you have a very comfortable space to sleep soundly every night in a protected area. You don’t need to make any choices, you can kick back and relax. How nice, right?

Well, not quite.

Deep within your brain is the instinct to search for food and protect your young, to avoid predators and to migrate. But because you live in this zoo, most of your autonomy has been taken away from you. You’re not sure that your food will show up tomorrow but you can’t hunt or scavenge to find any for yourself. You can probably smell the lion in his cage not too far away, but have no place to escape to.

The added stress captivity ironically has shown that elephants live half as long in zoos as they do in the wild, even with the risks of predators and weather.

We’re all elephants in some way.

In the Fall, I told my boss that I was going to be leaving my freelance job. It was a pretty easy job, the pay was pretty good and there were lots of snacks and start-up-y vibes.

But I was bored and unhappy. The work I was making wasn’t really portfolio-quality and although I felt incredibly supported by my manager, I felt unchallenged day-to-day. I had to leave.

Deep within my brain (and yours) is the instinct to need to be useful and work to solve problems. To be challenged in a way that keeps you on your toes, healthy, and alert. To hunt or find our own food, to migrate when the season comes, and to care for ourselves.

If you’re feeling like an elephant, maybe it’s time to plan an escape. Or to find a zoo that has space for you to feel free.

And if you’re feeling like a zookeeper, maybe it’s time to open the cage and trust that your elephants will thrive fending for themselves.

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