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Open and closed recycle brown carton delivery packaging box.

Filed Under , on June 8th, 2019

The Unboxing

By Seth Kabala

Shortly after moving to Portland, I asked our office administrative specialist to order me a footrest. I asked for the footrest for a practical reason: lower back pressure relief. I have a stand-up desk. This works well to get my stand hours in during the day–Apple faithful, you know what I’m talking about. Represent!–but I do like to have the option to sit–thus the footrest to complement my high stool.

The stool has a bar where my feet can theoretically rest, but it’s too low to be ergonomically correct. What better way to solve this problem than to get a real footrest with adjustable height and roller balls to massage your feet? There’s only one flaw in this plan: when the box comes, you have to open it.

I stored the box under my desk and on top of a file cabinet. At the time, I was working in another corner of the office. The box was positioned, unintentionally, so that people who walked by my cube and cared to take an interest in me (which was, naturally, everybody) could see the unopened box.

People commented on the box. These comments ran the gamut from how they’d also like to get one, said in a defeatist’s tone (side note: why are people so afraid to ask for what they need?), to joking about stealing mine, since I wasn’t using it. Jokes aside, they were right; I had used budget resources to acquire a useful tool to be used for admirable purposes (keeping me sprinting on the hamster wheel and off of the chiropractor’s table), but since I had never opened the box, I had, in effect, wasted resources.

Then I was promoted (no connection, I’m sure). I moved to another corner of the floor, got my own office, complete with locking door to allow for max concentration on important things, like calling and complaining to rental car companies about overcharges. In the midst of using my new, locking door to engage in only the most high-impact work, my back languished. Why? Because I was too lazy to open the box with my footrest in it.

I’d taken great care (like transporting Rembrandts care) to move my degrees, certificates, and other ego wall detritus in their frames from my old cube to my new office. Included in one of those trips was the unopened footrest box. Moving the box, totally; opening the box, whoa, whoa, whoa!

The picture on the box boasts of multiple height settings, sturdy cross-member construction, and roller balls in the middle to massage your weary traveler’s feet from all those runs back and forth across the office. Hey, if you’ve worked in an office while it’s been under renovation, it can be quite hairy making it from one side to the other. Almost as hairy as Basic Training–right, several-members-of-my-family-who-are-or-have-been-active-military? Totally the same. [insert all manner of emojis to make clear that this is a joke]

From the time the footrest arrived until I finally opened the box a few weeks ago, almost four years passed. I told myself that my reason for not opening the box wasn’t laziness; it was avoiding the inevitable hours-long ordeal of assembling the contraption. Surely my work took higher priority. There was always somebody new overcharging me. Even if my back suffered, I couldn’t take the time to waste a second of my employer’s time. If you’re looking for a contradiction in this paragraph, don’t. My logic is flawless.

Then I got one of those unexpected gifts of the working world: an afternoon without meetings. All of a sudden, my excuses for not opening the box had run out, so, with trepidation for the assembly hell I was about to endure, I opened it. I pulled the footrest out of the box, took a look at the directions, said, “Huh,” and held onto the base while pulling the platform apart. The mechanism snapped into place, and it was ready for action. The whole process took less than 30 seconds. No assembly required. Not even any of those extra pieces rolling around that will haunt your dreams.

Foolish and exaggerated worrying, thy name is Seth.

What have you built up in your mind to be some enormous challenge, important, but not important enough to take your valuable time? What if it’s as simple as opening the box, snapping the mechanism into place, and moving on as a more productive and pain-free human?

What do you want to do with your life? The identification of your passion isn’t as simple as stating what makes you happy. Oftentimes we don’t realize our capacity to be excellent at something until we’ve done it for a while. A career can be like Pandemic Legacy, Season 2.

*Spoiler alert if you’ve never played the game*

The Pandemic game series pits you and your fellow surviving humans against viruses that have ravaged the globe. Your mission: to cure, eradicate, or otherwise contain the viruses and their effects while completing objectives, and before the viruses, to use box vernacular, put you in the recycling compactor and then the re-pulping machine.

In Season 2, the gameboard is a global map, only a portion of which is visible. As you play and complete objectives, you add more stickers to the board, revealing the previously obscured regions of the globe, also revealing new possibilities for survival, or horrific death.

A career is like that. Life is like that. You start out with a notion, try a few things, find what works and doesn’t, sometimes fail hard, pivot as necessary, and keep moving forward, discovering the blank spaces on the map as you finish your objectives. If you’re really sucking it up, Pandemic has these special “event” cards that will allow you to avoid a previously certain negative outcome. These events come out of boxes that you open as you move along in the game.

More boxes. More opening. More discovery. More tools to help you win. Unboxing has power, but only when adding the prefix to the noun form and converting it to a verb.

You and I need to open those boxes, dear reader.

Our backs will thank us.

As will our lives.

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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, and musician. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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