There was much expected of Naila. Her very name meant success. She was put into foreign language courses before she could even fluently speak her native tongue. She had a private algebra tutor at age nine. Her parents praised her wretched violin practice sessions for months on end before she was any good with the bow. On Wednesday evenings she was taken to her father’s Toastmaster club to see how public speaking could be done well. She was expected to be with friends on Saturday mornings, soccer practice on Saturday afternoons and working on her coding skills Saturday evenings.
Naila was smart, driven, well liked- loved even, talented in nearly every endeavor she pursued. Naila made it out of her childhood a model of what strict schedules and helicopter parenting could accomplish. Naila was a model adult, not even a decade into the title and already the phrase “Why can’t you be more like Naila” was commonly uttered by her mother’s friends when scolding their own children.
Naila was bored out of her mind.
From time to time she found herself staring out windows, wondering what adventures awaited just over the horizon. She so seldom read for amusement, but when she did it was always a story of some lonely creature treading unknown paths. She wished she had the nerve to do so. To wake one singular morning, as the sun crested in the east and poured light through her bedroom curtains, to simply walk until one found a troll or a dragon’s horde. Adventure called, but she knew little of being adventurous.
“Deep breath. You’ve earned the ability to ask for assignments. Just do this,” she told herself outside her boss’ office. She pushed open the door and looked to the desk chair behind the big glass desk.
“Chester, I want the Nadolia account.” She spoke in a tone more demanding than she had ever managed. She kept her eyes on the chair, instead of her boss. She knew how to speak to crowds, but asking for things she wanted was a new concept entirely.
Chester laughed, his walrus sized belly and mustache bounced with each chuckle, “have you read up on the Nadolia account?” He managed to speak between the gut busting laughter. “Oh, you get the account. This is going to be amusing. I don’t even care about the lost revenue. Honestly, I don’t. I do need you to,” he paused to rummage through his desk drawers.
“Why is this so amusing?” Naila was confused.
“Here it is,” Chester pulled a recording device from his desk, “you need to record every meeting and send the recordings to my email. Get over there now. Grab the file from Brenda on your way out.” Chester barely stopped laughing.
Naila’s concern of the meeting did not subside on the long drive to the client’s office.
When she entered the building the first thing that caught her eye were the sun dresses and shorts of the employees. She stood in the lobby and felt the glances of every single person in the building fall on her. She wore a $2,000 pant suit and stood as quite a contrast. The young man at reception informed her of the meeting’s location, provided directions down a long hallway covered in a mural she was fairly certain told the tale of a rather special ping-pong game.
She knocked on the door of an office pulsing with loud bass and a repetitive squeal. A muffled, “come in” rose over the music.
She pushed open the door and felt deafened. In the far corner was a short man with long hair bobbed his up with the beat. He held a dry-erase marker in his right hand and scrawled numbers and lines over the giant white wall that covered his side of the room.
“Hello, I was supposed to be meeting with,” Naila started.
“Me. You’re with that big marketing firm, right? Totes chill. Couldn’t do that myself. This is actually the first scheded meeting I’ve had in months. Let’s chat finances and branding strategy though, right? Only so far social media can take us,” he said. He took a chair, flipped it around and sat backwards, laughing. “Remember, Saved By the Bell? Hilarious.”
“I missed most of….television,” Naila said. She put a stack of papers on the table and started talking branding.
The meeting went as normal. She was impressive, made her company’s case and laid out a solid plan. She was proud of her work. It was exceptional.
Halfway through she heard a phrase she was most unexpected.
“It’s an ok plan. But, you know, like, where’s the adventure?” The client asked.
“Excuse me?” Naila was intrigued.
“This is a fairly typical outline. I’ve seen a half dozen start ups use this same road map and they’ve all done very well. We’re already doing well, by being ourselves. Can’t we do better by being ourselves as well?”
“Well, certainly, there’s plenty of room in the plan to allow for more of your culture to show through,” Naila said.
“Let’s do something crazy then. People know us for being outlandish. Why don’t we go on an adventure in this new campaign? Let’s get out there, find a troll and slay it; ride a dragon!” The man was nearly jumping with excitement.
Naila smiled. She had come to an office that was a mirrored version of her life. She had stepped into an evil version of world and some of those walking around here even had goatees to highlight the point. But she found a kindred spirit in the funny little man with the dry erase markers. Her adventure may not end with a treasure trove of gold and diamonds, but she had a traveling partner and a quest just like her books.
Thanks for reading!