I sometimes think of myself as the Cowardly Lion. That character only came to mind recently as I watched the much-loved motion picture, "The Wizard of Oz," based on the book by L. Frank Baum, and reminded myself that my astrological sign was Leo. Not that it was supposed to be of great significance but it just felt very odd to be a Leo and be so cowardly. Hence, the Cowardly Lion.

I am not a sunny personality, nor bold and aggressive. I am not the center of attention nor gregarious and fun-loving. I do love to have fun but I suppose it would depend on what kind of fun it was. Spontaneous? Sometimes, yes, but no, not really. Planning would be desirable. I do not lead the way for the crowd to follow, neither do I follow the crowd. I much prefer to sit on the sidelines and observe and maybe later make up my mind as to whom I should follow. Or maybe I just go where my path leads me, whether it is popular or not.

And I am cowardly because I would rather risk my attendance at work than go in with head held high even though I might dread the work environment, the sometimes incessant conversations that had nothing to do with work, the games that were sometimes played (whether it was a co-worker or a supervisor), the gossip that sometimes took precedence over the tasks at hand. And yet those who worked were expected to finish the work whereas those who would rather be social butterflies were seen as fun and popular even though their work habits were frowned upon by their co-workers.

I am cowardly because ... I am. Or I was. And maybe I still am if ever exposed to that sort of environment again.

The knot in the stomach tightened. I was supposed to get along with the others but that didn't mean I should, nor did I want to, partake in their chit-chat (sometimes, not always) or taking sides against a particular co-worker. The knot in the stomach tightened because another didn't hesitate to tell the supervisor that so-and-so wasn't really doing her job and the supervisor sought more information and even talked about so-and-so with her subordinate. The knot in the stomach tightened because the supervisor was supposed to be in charge but didn't do anything which sometimes resulted in a chaotic work environment. The knot in the stomach tightened because it wasn't right.

I desperately needed to get away from that unhealthy work environment and for a while, I did. And although I couldn't get away from it completely, I was away from it for the most part which certainly made going in to work so much more pleasant. Wherever I was, I was still productive. But once I went back to the previous work environment, I remembered what I had left behind. And knowing that someone else agreed with me did help for I realised that I wasn't alone. But still it wasn't enough. I was so very pleasant on the outside but angry on the inside. There were times when I could let it go and go on with whatever I was doing. Then there were the times when I had to smile on the outside and seem agreeable to everything but my insides were twisted into knots.

I was seen as a nice person but I really wasn't that nice, not if I fumed inwardly and even sometimes complained behind their backs. Why I couldn't be strong enough and speak out, I don't know. I'd always hated confrontations in both my personal and professional lives. Plus I thought that once one brought it to the attention of one's superior, changes would be made or, at least, discussed. But then I suppose sometimes one could always discuss something to death and nothing would be resolved. For it seemed that there were those who preferred to "talk" about the injustices rather than "do" something to remedy the situation.

I was not blameless. And I didn't like who I was.

Many years ago, during my late teens, a friend of my cousin once asked what my astrological sign was. When I mentioned that I was a Leo, she seemed surprised and said that I didn't look, or I didn't seem, like a Leo. People usually are surprised and I honestly used to think that it was a good thing. Maybe it's nice to surprise them that way, that things aren't always what they seemed. And I would sometimes joke that I was an evolved Leo which prompted smiles or laughter.

I have never liked labels and I realise I'm the one who is labelling myself as cowardly. And whatever the astrological sign, to have all of this happen is not something that I'm proud of. One good thing was that I stayed for a while, and I had to, for I had responsibilities and commitments that required me to. I also realised that every workplace had its own personality and its own quirks. I could get along, and I did get along, but at what price?

Wasn't the Cowardly Lion courageous all along? I tell myself to be courageous, to step out there and take a risk, maybe even to speak out and not be afraid of the consequences.

I think I am slowly inching my way along. There is still that familiar pattern of one step forward, two steps back. I think I may have improved it to two steps forward, one step back. It is not really ideal but it is an improvement. And in a moment of bravado, it may even be one giant step forward and no stepping backwards.

I am still learning to be courageous. Sometimes it even takes forty-one years, it seems. And sometimes I wonder what else I have yet to learn, what other courageous steps I have yet to take.



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