I start my new job in two days. At-freaking-last. It is by no means a perfect situation, but it really feels like it should be a good fit in a lot of ways. The short, mass-transit-only commute is a huge advantage to me, as are the generous hourly rate and (from the outside, at least) the well-defined scope of the job.
One problem, though. I hate starting new jobs. You wouldn’t know it to look at the way my resume reads up until about 2003 (when I changed gigs like clockwork about every 12 months), but my most comfortable work environment is one where I feel like I know what I’m doing and have a good sense of the personalities and politics of the company. I’m going to have a lot to learn here, and while everyone already knows that, I know that one of my biggest challenges will be to avoid the temptation to dive in too quickly and to push too quickly. Intellectually, I know that the early part of the job will be my only opportunity to really learn certain aspects of the project (or at least the only opportunity to do so at a time when “just learning” is my primary job function), but I have a well-established pattern of wanting to contribute immediately, and sometimes that mindset has worked against me.
I’m aware, then, that one challenge will be to deal with the discomfort of being the newbie on the project. I thought it might be instructive to draw a card today, while this is really up for me.
Question: Entering a period of uncomfortable “apprenticeship,” what card can I look to as an ally?
Card: The Devil
First impressions: Are you fucking kidding me?
About the card: Well, all right then. The background of this card is black, all the better to add to the shiny, happy, optimistic imagery. Perched on a black pedestal (altar, perhaps?) is the Devil…well, sort of. He has wings and goat’s horns, and looks more like Pan than, say, a “traditional” interpretation of Lucifer. Above his head is an inverted pentagram. In his left hand, he is holding a torch toward the earth, and his right hand is held up in a position that I am incapable of seeing as anything but the Vulcan salute.
No, Jason, the devil is not a Vulcan. He is not telling you to live long and prosper. Let’s move on.
In the foreground are two nude people, one female and one male. They both have horns and are bound to the pedestal/altar by chains around their necks. Each of the figures also has a tail – the woman’s tail ends in a bunch of grapes, while the man’s is flaming. Looking at them, I sort of want the figures to be the same ones from the Lovers card, though the connection might go no farther than the fact that they are both naked and standing before a supernatural being.
Although…well, okay, let’s look at the Lovers for a moment.
One other thing that stands out for me when looking at the two cards (other than, you know, the nudity) is that the symbols are similar. In the Lovers, the man is standing before a flaming tree (is that actually right? It looks like it to me, anyway) while the woman is in front of a fruit tree. So we have fire and earth both symbolized in the Lovers – but there the symbols are not connected to the human figures. In the Devil card, these elemental symbols are literally part of the figures. I have no real sense of what this means, but it sure is interesting.
The other obvious thing that jumps out in the Devil card is that the figures, while bound, aren’t exactly trapped. The chains around their necks are very clearly loose enough that they could slip out of them quite easily. So, why don’t they? I can make up all sorts of stories as to why that might be true, of course, but I’m not really sure it matters. The fact that the chains aren’t actually secure implies that one way or the other, they remain where they are by choice. There are lots of reasons why one might choose to be (or to feel) vulnerable and bound, some perfectly healthy and others not so much. Psychology aside, once I dispense with the idea that they are being physically held against their will, a fair bit of that “Oh, crap” value of the image goes away.
But what does it mean?: All of the “Hey, you know, it’s not actually what it looks like,” stuff aside, there’s not a lot in this card that gives me warm fuzzies about my question. When I flipped through the deck to pull out the Lovers so I could compare the images, I thought, “Well, what card would I have liked to see come up today?” The most obvious one is this:
Now that’s what I’m talking about. A person with well-prepared, consecrated tools and the will to use them? That would have been a little more comforting, is all I’m saying. Of course, part of the point right now is that in starting this new job, I will need to spend some time getting ready to really do it well. I have a lot of confidence in my ability to do the job (it’s nothing particularly new, just a lot of new systems to learn and some interpersonal dynamics that I expect to be rather challenging to navigate), but I’m stepping into an established group without a sense of where I’ll fit just yet. So while the Magician is a much more comforting image, it’s not accurate just yet. I’ll be there soon enough, and one of my temptations is to try and shortcut the process of learning so I can be helpful and contribute more quickly. It’s better to look at the Magician as something to aspire to, rather than my ally today.
Back to the Devil, then. What in this card can be an ally? I guess I see two things here. The first is the vulnerability symbolized by the figures’ nudity. It’s rather difficult to be anything but open in that state, after all, and while it might not be comfortable, there’s something to be said about embracing that. One of the things that I find difficult about learning sometimes is that asking for help feels uncomfortably vulnerable, after all. A reminder to sit in that place is probably a useful thing. The other helpful piece is the realization that the figures aren’t trapped, despite what it looks like at first. If I’m not trapped in this place, then I have the ability to leave it. So the challenge, I think is to choose to remain in that place of vulnerability and discomfort as long as it is the right place to be, learn what it has to teach me, and then step into what comes next.