As long I can remember, I've worked as a personal assistant. While I don't know my boss, Future Colin, perfectly well, I've a reasonable idea of his habits, his ways, his likes and dislikes. It helps that we're pretty similar guys, though differences between us do arise, often unpredictably. The fact that we've never met, let alone that we never will — I guess he's something of a recluse — both simplifies and complicates matters. And while I can affect him, he can't do anything to me: by the time he feels the effects of what I've done, I'm invariably long gone. This creates no small amount of resentment, I'm sure, but he's never expressed to me. In fact, he can't express anything to me; our communication flows but one way.
It's almost funny, the degree of power I wield over Future Colin. I control whether he's in shape or out of shape, whether he has a lot of money or a little money, whether he's experienced or inexperienced, whether he's prepared or unprepared to face the world and its myriad challenges. He's helpless without me, nothing, a babe in the woods. My job has me constantly rolling out the red carpet, clearing his way and scheduling his minutia. Were I to fall asleep at the switch, he'd be finished.
You might infer that Future Colin is stupid, some sort of half-functional imbecile ever teetering on the edge of disaster. But you'd be wrong! He's actually smarter than I am, though how much smarter depends on how much knowledge I manage to give him. I read, I research, I talk, I write and I think things through, and for what? So I can unceremoniously transfer the digested intellectual content to my boss as a mother bird vomits into the mouths of her young. But I suppose he knows best — at least, he does if if I've done my duties.
My accomplishments are Future Colin's accomplishments. I selflessly hack away at various creative endeavors so that he might claim them as his own and stand atop them as a platform from which to reach higher things. While he undoubtedly wants books, broadcasts, articles, recordings, videos or at least a few decent blog posts to his name, I would be remiss in relying on him to produce them all. I've assured myself that "Future Colin will do it" in the past, and let's just say I won't be uttering that particular assurance again. Future Colin can be admirably capable, but only when I take on tasks delegated from him. Not only out of propriety is my place to refrain from delegating to him.
Nor is he a man from whom to borrow. Though I've had plenty of times when it seemed to make all the sense in the world to ask Future Colin for a couple of bucks to get me through — as in, "to get me through this unendurable time without that vintage boombox I spied on eBay" — it's never worked out to the good. While some can hit up their boss for a twenty here and there as if it's the easiest thing in the world, any financial lending I receive from Future Colin seriously puts the hurt on us both. And let's not go into what happened when I asked him to cut his spending instead of cutting my own. Lesson learned: as much control as I have over Future Colin overall, I have none over his spending.
Whenever I question the necessity of planning out Future Colin's days, maintaining his connections to society, making sure he has money and figuring out how to keep him in good health, I try to ponder, if only for a moment, his sheer busyness. Future Colin has so much on his plate that I don't even know — can't even know — what it involves in detail. Given his unenviably demanding situation, I strive to complete as many of his tasks myself as I can, but the fact remains that I don't know as much as he does. For projects requiring Future Colin's privileged information, I humbly attempt to take care of what I can, ensuring that these lesser duties don't fester incomplete and thus complicate his more important matters.
Future Colin, I also have reason to believe, has access to opportunities the likes of which I can't comprehend. Imagine his anger if one floats by and he's unable to seize it just because I left him with unwashed laundry, no money or errands still to run. Despite knowing next to nothing about the many fabulous chances life offers Future Colin on a daily basis, I can at least do my best to allow him the resources and breathing room to take fullest advantage of them. If I determine that he could perform more effectively with certain skills — being able to lift 200 pounds, say, or speak Korean, or program a DX7 — I must first hit the gym, attend the classes and experiment with the green buttons myself. If I don't do it first, Future Colin won't go near it.
Unbearably demanding as this might sound, an upside emerges: my life has gained an immensely helpful point of focus. No longer must I worry about my own thousands of petty considerations when deciding what to do. I now look to only one unequivocal heuristic: what action would most help Future Colin? One more press of the snooze button is unlikely to help Future Colin, as is wolfing down a plate of fries in lieu of a proper dinner, as is electing to stare hazily at Wikipedia articles on the Voynich Manuscript at 3:00 in the morning instead of sleep normally. Alternatively, collecting and organizing information relevant to Future Colin's tasks will almost certainly do him good, as would running a mile or shunting a couple hundred dollars into savings.
After all, I, too, am no stranger to subordinate incompetence. Because tending to Future Colin's affairs consumes so much time and energy, I must delegate all I can to my own assistant. Alas, this young man, a fellow by the name of Past Colin, possesses perhaps more enthusiasm than diligence. Just today, I'd been looking forward to a lunch of fish and potatoes when I checked my bag and realized, dumbfounded, that Past Colin had neglected to pack it! Now I'll be stuck gnawing on a miserable energy bar or somesuch. Maybe it's for the best; while I do find that Past Colin has kept up a decent exercise regime for me, I see enough room for improvement in my physical shape that I could do without more potatoes.
Why would I endure such an unending grind of a job, you ask? Two words: upward mobility. Fact is, Future Colin can't sit on the throne forever. The time will inevitably arrive when he steps aside, and I'm a shoo-in for his vacant position. It's thus in my own best interest to make his a pleasant, rewarding place to be; soon, it'll be mine. I've seen other assistants really junk up their boss' existences, and when their promotion comes — as it always does, no matter how shoddy the assistant's performance — it does so as a rude awakening. I remember vividly the deep existential despair jackhammered into my lazy business associate Oswald's face when, after a lord-knows-how-prolonged stretch of negligence, he suddenly found himself occupying the dissolute role of Future Oswald: morbidly obese, six maxed-out credit cards and reams of to-do lists crammed with such items as "last year's child support payments," "learn to read" and "fake own death." Poor Oswald; he had a cushy time of it as an assistant, but at what price?
None of that for me. I have adopted as my sworn duty — my very raison d'être — the utmost assistance and servitude to Future Colin. When I step into that house, I'll step into a palace. But let me tell you, Past Colin better straighten up and fly right before even thinking of coming with me.