Understand who you are
One of the wonderful insights I gained as I watched Rings of Power was the fundamental ethic and core essence of each group.
Elves, for example, strive for harmony above all other things. Their buildings mirror the surrounding natural landscape; their language practically glides along the air currents between speaker and listener; their weapons act as an extension of the person wielding them; their writing flows on the page as if the ink were merely following the already-present curves in the fibers themselves.
Meanwhile, Dwarves seek value. Not monetary value, but intrinsic, durable, possibly everlasting value. Their tools are built to withstand the test of time and use; their writing is etched so deeply into the stone that millennia can pass and the words will still be readable; their excavations expose the ore and gems they seek, but also make their entire mountains both stronger and more livable as a result.
Orcs, as may be obvious, seek power. Theirs is a strict hierarchy of domination and submission in all things, from personal interactions to their geo-political activities to their relationship with the physical world around them.
And what of hobbits? For all their migratory and wandering nature, what hobbits seek most of all is comfort. For sure, comfort for themselves: tasty berries to eat and warm beds to lie down on; but also a desire that everyone around them should be equally comfortable and comforted.
But what's the lesson for you? That, like the varied people of Tolkien's Middle Earth, your tech career and work must come from a place of honesty about who you are. A hobbit can certainly make a go of life among Dwarves (and vice-versa), but they will never quite fit in. You need to be honest with yourself about your fundamental, essential core. What motivates and drives you? What scares you? What bores you? What repulses you? Only when you understand that can you find your place within the work.
But don't stop there...
But our place within the work is only the start. We have to find our comfort zone and build from there. But once we have that, the true adventure lies in going out into the wild world (or at least the wild IT department) and seeing what else is out there.
Elrond didn't remain in Linden. He made friends with his Dwarven neighbors and even learned their language and culture. Humans, both in Númenor and the mainland of Middle Earth, learned Elvish. The harfoots took the risk of welcoming a stranger who fell out of the sky and as a result created a bond of friendship and respect that ultimately saved the world.
But I think the best example of this can be seen in three moments from the arc of that stranger from the sky. After learning the meaning of the word "peril," the stranger exclaims, "I'm peril!" Nori reassures him that no, "You're good." But it's clear that in the stranger's mind the truth of this is still very much in question. In one of the climactic moments of the series, the stranger again expresses his fear that he's essentially bad, and this time Nori retorts, “You choose by what you do!” This time, the stranger is convinced. As he defeats three evil entities, the stranger shouts, possibly as much to himself as to anyone else, "I'm good!"
You may start from a core set of values, but ultimately who you are will be determined by the work you choose to do, whether it comes naturally and easily or requires daily effort and struggle.
...and never let it stand in the way of making a friend
Pushing yourself to work outside your comfort zone will yield many benefits, but chief among them is making friends with folx who aren't like you. Yes, I'm saying the dev and the DBA can not only get along, they can be allies and a powerful force for good within the organization.
You see this in the series with the aforementioned Elrond and Durin. Nori and the stranger allow friendship to overcome initial confusion and missteps. Miriel, the Regent of Númenor, and Galadriel work past history, mistrust, and politics to forge a powerful alliance. But it's perhaps most evident in the relationship between Arondir and Bronwyn. "You are the only kind touch I've known in all my days in this land" may be one of the more overtly romantic lines in a series focused on politics and the struggle for survival, but it's equally powerful if we take it at face value. It doesn't take much to make someone feel welcome, worthy, valid, and accepted. When we do, it can (literally) change someone's world.
But there's another friendship to call out, and that's the one between Galadriel and Halbrand. While it's ultimately revealed that Halbrand is, in fact, Sauron in disguise, the truth is that the actor (and even some of the writers for the show) were left in the dark about that detail. Until the final episode, Halbrand was as much a mystery—seemingly created out of whole cloth for the series—as Nori, Arondir, Bronwyn, and others. And in that time, the growing respect between elf and human was an incredible example of the way everything can change (for the better) when we take the time to get to know those around us.
We just keep walking
Believe it or not, I still have a few more thoughts to share with you beyond what’s here and in the previous post. So if you can remain of good faith and strong heart, the next entry will tie things together nicely, I think.
Until that happy day…
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