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Joining the circus

This is a first for me.  I'm actually writing this post in response to a request that I got.  (As a side note, I welcome requests from anyone--let me know if there's anything in particular you'd like me to talk about.)  Since I wasn't sure exactly how to answer the request with direct monologue, as most of my posts are, I decided to give it in the form of a short story.  While I certainly welcome any feedback on my writing, note that the point isn't literary excellence, it's merely to get the point across.  And, no, I'm not trying to hide what I'm really talking about here--I expect it to be fairly obvious.  I'm just writing it in story form because I feel it will convey the point better.


Jack was an eager and ambitious young man.  He wanted to see the world.  He wanted to get out of the small town he grew up in.  He's always wanted this, since he was very young.  His teachers would tell him about the different sights to see and the wonders of the world, and he wanted to go see them.  He wanted to meet new people and discover new things.

One day, his opportunity came.  A travelling circus.  Machu-pichu Circus was hiring for their new tour.  It was a four-year contract.  That's fine.  Jack didn't mind dedicating four years to traveling the world and seeing all of the wonders he always wanted to see.  So, he signed up.  He was happy to do so.  And his family and friends were all happy for him.  They promised to keep in touch and to come watch him perform whenever they had the chance.  And off he went, skipping and smiling along.

He loved the circus.  It was so much fun.  He had great friends.  And after a year and a half, he even found a woman, fell in love, and eloped with her.  Oh, it was a happy time indeed.  He couldn't possibly have been happier in any way.  He had the perfect life.  He was traveling the all over, seeing amazing sights, with a wonderful woman by his side.  He was on top of the world.

Every once in a while, there might be something he'd hear or see that would trigger a thought in the back of his mind.  Is this circus really as wonderful as I think it is?  But, he'd just push it aside because of all of the happiness that it was bringing.  He was so glad that he was with the woman he loved and seeing all of the amazing things he always wanted to see.

Then, one day, as he was cleaning up and about to head home, he heard sobbing.  He didn't realize anyone else was left in the building.  He saw the fat woman--the one that people would pay a dollar to see.  In the past, he'd heard her mention how sometimes the jeers would get to her, but she had decided long ago to just be happy with who she was and let other people have their own opinions.  He had even expressed to her concern for her feelings, in light of some of the things people would say.  But she reassured him.

So, he went up to her and asked her what was going on.  Why was she troubled?  "I can't do this anymore." she said "I just can't."  Jack holds her in his arms, lets her cry a bit, and does what he can to help her out.  He didn't realize all of the pressure that the management put on her.  He thought that she was happy with the circus, but she never really was.  She was just putting on a front.  Jack didn't know that she was forced to eat more than she ever wanted to eat.  She was required not to lose weight.  She was often scolded by the manager for not eating as much as she should.  "Who'll pay to come see you, if you're not fat?" he'd demand.

Jack went home and told this to his wife.  He really didn't know what to think.  He didn't realize that it had been that miserable for her.  He just assumed everyone else was enjoying the circus as much as he was.  It was the first time he really thought that maybe they weren't.  His wife told him how sweet he was for reaching out to the poor lady, and tried to reassure him and tell him everything would be alright.  But there was that nagging feeling in the back of his mind now.  It wouldn't go away.

He saw two of the elephant trainers one day, arguing very heatedly with each other.  The one stormed off, and he went up to the other one.  "What was that all about?"

"I don't feel good about this.  I think that we should be kind to the animals.  I've felt uneasy about some of the things we do to them for some time now, but I just didn't say anything because I'm new and don't know how to be a trainer.  But, this is just too far.  How can we keep beating these animals?  How can we keep them locked up all the time, except when they're expected to perform?  I don't. . .  I can't. . ."

Jack just realized that he hadn't even given one thought to the animals before.  He'd never even considered whether they'd been treated humanely.  He just assumed that they were.  He assumed that people were good to the animals.  He would never do anything cruel to an animal, and it sickened him that anyone else would.

These thoughts now came flooding into Jack's mind.  The pressure from management was felt by everyone in the circus.  In fact, he himself realized that he was often pushed further than was comfortable because of the demands of a better performance.  He always dismissed that as simply one of the rules of the trade.  But, now that he was aware of it, it did bother him a bit and it made the experience far less enjoyable.

By around the end of his third year in the circus, he would talk to his wife every night--sometimes for hours--about his concerns.  He wasn't happy here anymore.  He couldn't keep going.  He didn't believe that the circus was doing good anymore.  Yeah, they might be entertaining some people.  And maybe the guests were having fun.  But he started to realize that the people in the circus--and the animals--weren't enjoying it nearly as much as he thought they were.

How could he stay?  How could he remain?  What was he to do?  He couldn't support a business that, in his perspective, was so cruel to its employees and to the animals.  But, he had signed a contract, and there was still one year left on that contract.  He couldn't just bail.  He was legally obligated to fill that contract.

He was so torn.  What to do.  What to do.  Should I breech my contract?  Should I just stay and remain quiet?  I could go to the authorities, but if I do, will they even believe me?  Will anything really happen?  He knew that the circus was fairly well-known and respected and if he tried to make a public revelation of what they were doing, people would just think that he himself was a bitter employee and was simply trying to make them look bad.  It didn't seem like it would do any good.

"You can't breech your contract, honey.  We really do need that money to support our family." his wife reasoned.  Well, he decided to stay.  But it wasn't the same.  It wasn't fun anymore.  He wasn't happy.  He was trapped.  He didn't enjoy his time there.  Even when he'd go out and see all of the great sights to see, there was no joy in it.  It seemed so empty.  Just a statue.  Just a painting.  He was living his life, but he was not alive.

His wife was greatly disturbed by this.  "You need some happiness, dear.  You need to be yourself again.  You're full of light and love and joy.  I know it because I've seen it in you.  That's why I married you.  That's why I'm here with you.  Let your light out again.  I want to see it.  I want to enjoy it."

"How can I be happy when I work for a company that's so wrong?  How can I enjoy myself, knowing other people in the circus are suffering so greatly?  My heart is so heavy, I don't think it's capable of the lightness and radiance it once exuded."

Day by day, he would mull over all of these thoughts--all of the many things he had seen, all of the suffering he saw, all of the things that he couldn't personally agree with.  And one day something clicked.  I was happy, at one point.  How could I have been so happy if everything about this company is bad?  I really did enjoy seeing all the sights.  I really did enjoy doing my act.  I hate it now, but it was so much fun a year ago.  And, now that I think about it, I still enjoy it.  I really have learned a lot from this circus--even if it's not necessarily just the skills that the circus taught me.  There are still some good things to hold on to.

No, I don't have to condone what the circus does.  I don't have to excuse their treatment toward animals, or the copious amounts of pressure that they put on all of their actors.  I don't have to be comfortable with all of the negative things that I see.  But, I can appreciate all the good that has come of it.  I can enjoy my time here.  I can be a source of positive energy for the people in my life.  I can comfort the fat lady and spend time with those who are overwhelmed by the pressures of performing.  And, I sure as hell better enjoy all of the wonders of the world that I'm seeing.  That was the whole purpose of coming on this tour anyway.  Even if nothing in the circus gives me joy anymore, I can still admire all of the amazing things I get to see and learn while I'm with them.

So, the last few months of his time with the circus was good.  It wasn't excellent.  It wasn't the thrill of his life that he had expected it to be.  There were times when he really was discouraged by all of the things he saw going on.  But he learned how to enjoy his time.  He learned how to appreciate all of the good things that he had learned.  The joy is found in the journey.  Even when you're forced to walk a path that you aren't sure you want to be walking, there are flowers along the way to admire.  There are people along the path who are suffering more than you are.  Reach out, touch the life of someone else, and see if you can help them out.  This is what he had decided to do.

And then, his contract was up.  He was so glad that he longer had to work for that circus.  They offered him a contract renewal, which he emphatically declined.  And he found a job that he could really enjoy.  One where the employees were respected.

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