Lately I’ve been teaching opposites. In order to teach more about backbends, rather than doing a hundred of them, we’ve been exploring the contrast of a forward bend. Understanding via the opposite is used in many contexts. We appreciate life more when we brush up against death. We understand what marriage is against a backdrop of divorce. An injury will shine a spotlight on taken for granted wellness.

In my exploration of opposites I was reminded of one of the most infuriating characters I have come across. Marty-K. More formally known as Martin Kaye. Marty-K bought out the worst in me.

In the first year following my promotion to Leading Seaman, Marty-K fell into my team. More accurately he was kicked from where he was and my watch was the first place he landed.

Now the job wasn’t hard but there were a few no-no’s.

Don’t hang your god awful smelling joggers over the ducted air-con vent for the smell to be evenly dispersed throughout the entire base.

Don’t turn up to work late. Turning up at the start of your watch is considered late in the defence force. Being on time is turning up 15 minutes before the start of shift. We call it a handover.

The job required top secret clearance. This, Marty-K implies the need to be more rather than less discreet.

Our relationship was on a steady downhill trajectory from day one. What sealed its fate was the very last time I got hauled into the COs office for yet another Marty-K debacle. The boss didn’t know the exact origin of this latest debacle, only that it belonged to “my part of ship”.

Damn you Marty-K.

Never again.

I went back to my unfortunately completely glass office and called the 6 foot sloth in. Round one began and this is where the worst in me came out.

I would like to say that I began with the following…are you ok fella? Is there anything going on at home? Do you need more training with this or that? Do I give you enough support and guidance? What do you need from me to lift your game a bit matey?

Not one of those words was uttered.

I, in the words of the defence force, ripped him a new a******.

It escalated to the point where Marty-K began sobbing. He reached out, presumably for an invisible tissue but the closest thing was a big cardboard bag of flags. Flags that are normally reserved for hoisting up a ships mast were now dubiously patting away his tears.

My response and this is a low point in the story. Go to the bathroom. Sort yourself out. Come back because I haven’t finished.

Two things came from this. The system didn’t give a sh*t about how I handled the situation. It wasn’t seen as inappropriate. That’s concerning.

The second thing was glass offices are not the most respectful arena to rip someone apart in. Noted.

I like to give credit where credit is due and I think Marty-K may have had a hand in my now much more loving and far less a-holey conflict management approach. My skills then to now are in stark contrast of each other. The old approach didn’t bring out the best in me and it was never going to bring the best out in Marty-K.

The opposite is a powerful teacher.

My experience with Marty-K means that I now ask all the questions I never asked him. I get the back-story, the side-ways story, all the stories so it’s an empathy fuelled interaction. An interaction that shortens the gap in between rather than divides.

Marty-K, I don’t think the defence force was your place to shine but I know there is a job out there for you and I do hope you’ve found it.

Marty-K, wherever you are, thank-you fella.

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