Size Isn’t Everything

What you see is what you get? We know appearances can be deceiving. It tells us just how easily we can be blinded by what we only see on the outside or on the surface. Drawing on that, mental health is something we can’t comprehend fully unless we dive into it deeply and learn it from inside out. Writing a post on this subject won’t be an easy task for me but regardless I feel a strong desire to say something about it. My intention is to break down the stereotype and bring an open conversation to the table, in the hope that will change the way we view mental health – to be less judgmental and more open-minded. Here we go…

In the early part of 2016, my company was looking to move to new premises. As an Office Manager, I was called upon to assist with the relocation alongside my boss, CEO of the company. In the process, we worked closely with a property broker whose primary role was to assess and screen properties on the market, then advise us if anything that may be of any interest to our company. If we liked what was presented, she’d go ahead and arrange open inspections for us to attend. From there, it’d be as simple as meeting with commercial real estate agents and commercial property managers on site, who’d then give us a guided tour around the office floors while discussing our needs and requirements etc. On a typical day, we’d inspect 3 to 4 offices in succession. As a first timer, it was a great learning experience for me.

Well into the second week of inspections, we had already seen a considerable number of offices in the city and the North Sydney CBD areas. None of them seemed to offer something that quite met our budget’s bottom line or suited the team size. Compounded by the lease with the previous landlord that was due to expire soon, we were under increasing pressure to find a right office in a very a short time.

Later that week, just when we thought we had enough of it and decided to call it a day, we were suggested at the last minute to inspect one more property before we’d start it all over again the next day. My boss agreed to give it a shot and that’s when we met Daniel, the commercial property manager for this office now which we’ve been leasing and called it our own since. Daniel arrived a few minutes late for our appointment and was very apologetic for it. It really didn’t bother us at all. I just wanted this to be over and done with like others. Seeing him break out in sweat, I immediately felt a bit empathetic. He must’ve just finished one job and rushed to get here to meet us. My first impression of him was his massive build and over-the-top height. I didn’t know who he was in terms of his public profile till my boss recognised him as a former sportsperson. Judging by his credentials, on paper, it looked like he’d got his life figured out, had a successful career in professional sport, a degree from one of the top ten universities in the world, a great transition into a business/civilian life post sports.

Shortly after, we signed the lease and it was all business as usual going forward. Then almost a year later, came a dramatic turn of events. I received a shocking news from my boss saying Daniel has passed away. The tragic loss of his life was confirmed a suicide. I was speechless. I only saw him talking on the phone in the lobby less than 2 weeks ago. I remember he briefly nodded his head when our eyes met. What made it hard to take was Daniel fitted the stereotype of what we perceived as a tall, strong, masculine man and an elite athlete. So, automatically we assumed someone like him was supposed to be a role model, stay at the peak and on top form physically, emotionally and in all pursuits, aligned with what the society expected. Nevertheless, from my limited interactions with Daniel, on a professional level, he came across as a polite human being with a gentle soul and a sensitive heart, contrary to his stereotyped public figure image.

Enough said up to this point but the question now is: Where do we go from here? Looking around, our lives, people, space and things, how do we measure up? Shouldn’t we come clean and get real about the yardstick for success or happiness? Can’t we give our vulnerability more recognition it so deserves and be open, comfortable and OK with it? Paradoxically, when we can, it means we’ve seen the power in vulnerability and turned it into strength…

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