Last week in the office, one of our engineers was up to his usual routine: giving one of our H-1B hires an impromptu English lesson.
“I’m not sure what the word is, but you see them in cathedrals all over Europe.”
“Doesn’t matter. They put statues in them, off to the side of where people worship.”
“Wait,” I interrupted. “Do you mean a ‘crèche?’”
The first engineer looked thoughtful for a second. “Aren’t those in nativity scenes?”
“Eh, I think you’re right,” I said. “Hold on; googling.” I try not to lapse into Guy Answer Syndrome, but it’s hard to fight biology.
recess + statue + cathedral
“Got it,” I said. “The word we’re thinking of is ‘niche.’” As my mind processed the definition, a light went on.
I always assumed carving out a niche meant burnishing one’s credentials by becoming proficient in a specific field. Of course, that’s true, but there’s another step required; you must elevate yourself.
A niche is more than a hole in the wall; it’s adorned and embellished so a worshipper are reassured; “this is the saint I’m looking for.” A niche draws the eye and sets expectations; it’s a frame for the devout, but for the uninitiated, it’s a billboard.
I’ve already chiseled some space for myself. Now, the really hard work begins.