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Quod licet lovi, non licet bovi

What is permissible for Jove is not permissible for an ox.

I have this phrase written on a notecard. When I lived and worked in D.C., I kept it in this stack of notecards I carried around as a to-do list. Now, because I mostly use a notebook, I taped the notecard to my computer monitor next to a photo of Charlie Duke at the CAPCOM desk at NASA Mission Control.

These are anchors.

At work, and in life in general, double standards exist. Some people get perks other people don’t get. Some people have to follow rules and other people never do. That’s how the world works. I’m a relatively low-ranking employee, with a relatively un-prestigious job, so I follow a lot of rules. I can’t get angry at other people because they don’t have to follow the same rules, because they don’t have to jump through all the hoops I do. I can’t be envious. I can’t be jealous. I can’t waste time because I can only keep working.

Charlie Duke is the youngest man to walk on the moon. Before that though, he was on the backup crew for Apollo 11. When NASA set up mission control, and developed the systems of how to run itself, some genius systems engineer figured that there should only be one person to talk to the astronauts in space. Instead of a bunch of different people relaying messages, everything would go through one person. And the person who would know best, and be the best capable to relay these messages, would also be an astronaut, and usually be someone on the backup crew for that mission.

So on Apollo 11, when Neil Armstrong landed the lunar module on the surface of the moon, the person he told was Charlie Duke.

Charlie Duke was born in North Carolina, and has a distinctive North Carolina accent. When Armstrong said he landed, it’s Duke who answers “Tranquility, we copy you on the ground.”

I’m not the star. I’m not the Neil Armstrong of my world. I’m not “The Guy.” I’m the guy the guy counts on. I’m the person who has your back. That’s who I want to be, who I’m best at being, and there’s no shame in that.

In high school, I served as stage manager for a big musical we put on. A lot of my friends were singing and acting in it, but I knew that wasn’t for me. I was in the wings, wearing a headset, giving lighting cues and pulling the curtain. It was a K-12 school, so sometimes there were little kids around at rehearsal. In the play, there’s a scene set on a TV stage, and there’s a Stage Manager character who places the actors and then walks off. Instead of having another person do it, they just had me do it. One day after rehearsal, a little kid told me that maybe next year they’d let me have a real part. I explained that I did have a real part, and the best thing about my part was that if I did it well, nobody would even notice I did it at all.

I have to be resolute. I am a cow.

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