Thursday, March 10, 2011

Loving the Work

You spend a third of your life sleeping, so you find the best mattress you can afford, you're picky about the sheets, and when you settle in for the night, there's a certain amount of tossing and shifting before you get completely nestled the way that feels good.  You're going to be there for several hours, so you take a little time to get yourself completely comfortable.

Did you take that kind of time with your work life?  Did you shift around a bit, get comfortable?  Did you pursue a career that you love?

Most folks couldn't answer that with an affirmative.  I suspect - but have done no research - that most people are doing what they can do so they can get the paycheck.  Their involvement with their careers is no more than what it needs to be to get the job done.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that.  It's not a bad thing.  But it isn't a good thing, either.  You've left your home and your family and gone to a completely different place from where they are, and are spending time and energy with people you don't care about, for causes represented by a company you don't care about.  It makes complete sense to me that you do this in the name of supporting your loved ones, for the sake of keeping a home.  That's a worthy goal and more power to you.

But if you have the option of doing whatever it is you do, while doing it with people you do care about or in support of a cause you do believe in, isn't that a better choice?  It makes for a more satisfying work experience.

I have worked in retail, and found it dull beyond comparison.  The people who were shopping struck me as the emptiest vessels I had ever met, spending their time and money loading up on material dross that would add nothing to their lives or homes but clutter - not a good attitude for a guy working at Kirkland's.  I didn't last very long there.  Maybe the managers noticed; my option wasn't picked up at the end of the Christmas season.  And I was younger then, kind of obnoxious.  I've mellowed a lot in twenty years.  However, I still don't have much liking for the retail sector.  I could do it - and probably a heckuva lot better now than I did then, but I would do it while searching for something else.

I have been a janitor.  Believe it or not, I enjoyed it.  In terms of intellectual stimulation, janitorial work is a wasteland, a featureless plain of emptiness.  The coworkers, while good people, weren't interested in the kinds of things I was interested in.  But at the time I was taking some evening classes (in education) and listening to my recorded notes while performing my duties, so the lack of intellectual stimulation wasn't a problem.  I kept my brain busy.  And I didn't work with the coworkers very much, we had our own territories to be responsible for.

If you really enjoy a solidly scheduled work environment, where the day's progress is very consistent, janitorial is good.  It's easy to find a cause to get behind: people need clean work environments, accidents need tending, that sort of thing.  And since I was working in a school, accidents weren't uncommon.  There was always plenty to do.

I was often annoyed at the utter lack of respect and consideration some children were showing, but that's a complaint I had against the parents, not the job itself.

But I loved the work.  It gave my mind time to go where it would, to go back over classwork, and sometimes I was invited to come read for the kids.  Doing that just once got me quite a reputation, and I was invited to a few classrooms to read for a while.  That was a big treat - not for them, for me.  I had a blast.  I hope the kids enjoyed it.

Would I go back to that kind of work?  Absolutely.  In a heartbeat.  Rude kids are outnumbered by nice kids.  I would want to vet the principal, first.  My first principal was pretty good, the second one was a letdown.  But the cause is good, the work is good.  The paycheck was good.  I don't worry whether I'm providing something that somebody doesn't need, I don't see the buyer wearing worn-out rags and looking too thin walking out of the store with some ridiculous knickknack when what she really needs is a trip to the grocery store.

Where I work now, I've been there for a long time - over 20 years.  By any measure, that's a long stretch.  There was a gap in the middle there somewhere, but I would have taken a pay cut to come back.  If I didn't need the money, I'd probably keep working there anyway.  What I do is important.  I do building maintenance for a facility that is serving a lot of people who really need the help.  I could make similar money in the private sector, maybe even better.  But I wouldn't love that job.  Then, I'd just be the handyman for Thus-and-Such Apartments or an A/C technician.  And if you're a handyman or AC tech, I'm not slamming your job.  It's the job I do, too.

Do you love your job?  I hope so.  You spend more  time with your coworkers than you do with your family, during the work week.  If you have to spend that much time away from your family, then at least spend it with people you like, doing something that you think is worthwhile.

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