Now that I am not working, I look back over my career years and wonder just how good or effective I was at my many jobs. I don’t mean all the babysitting and sales work I did in my teens; I refer to the jobs I had when I was newly out on my own, and going forward from there. Looking back, I now realize that many of the mistakes I made was because I was young and inexperienced in a real workplace. I learned the hard way (and I expect most of us have learned this as well) that you have to go along to get along.
Someone one told me once that, with very little exception, anyone in any position could be replaced. What she said was this: “Put your hand in a bucket of water, then take it out. In the time it takes for the water to close over where your hand was is just how fast you could be replaced.” And you know–she was right.
I won’t bore you with all the jobs I had over the years, but suffice it to say that some of them ended for me because of me. Oh, you hear things like ‘we’re cutting back in this department,’ or ‘we won’t be renewing your contract this year because of budget cuts,’ or the like. Often this is the truth, but sometimes it’s way of getting rid of someone who just doesn’t fit in.
I won’t pretend that it didn’t hurt; it did. But I always learned something from each experience. When I finally got into my ‘real job’ of technical writing, I felt I had hit on the career I was meant to have. I wrote all kinds of instructional manuals for many different products and companies, and loved both the precision and the clarity of it. I enjoyed breaking down complicated constructs to simple steps, and I liked knowing that I was helping someone by making their job easier.
What I didn’t see at the time was that my idea of clarity and consistence in my manuals wasn’t always appreciated or needed. Often a manager would tell me to just do the absolute minimum to satisfy the shipping list that called for a manual. But I believed that a good manual would save a lot of Help Desk calls and misunderstandings. I believe it still, but now understand that these things aren’t necessarily important to everyone. I was egotistical enough to believe that I was right and knew better than those who hired me.
I also made the mistake of thinking that those with whom I worked were friends. There is of course a relationship you develop with co-workers, but it is a work relationship only. This means that you need to be careful of what you do or say. Of course people are going to be looking out for themselves; why would they not?
I always knew that I worked for the money, not the job. For the most part I liked what I was doing, especially writing, but I never had (or wanted) what it took to climb the corporate ladder. Don’t misunderstand–I give credit to anyone who has a dream of succeeding and works hard to get there. I say more power to them. But it never was my goal–I knew I needed to work to pay rent and my bills, to buy food, gas, and so on.
But now that I am not working, I finally know who I am and what work I’m supposed to do. All that time spent working for a paycheck was never a mistake; it helped me get to this place and time. Even jobs I lost because of my mistakes and misunderstandings were learning experiences. I now know why I am here—why we all are here. I am here to love and to be loved, to share my gifts and talents, to give comfort and support–and accept that same comfort and support. I am here to share the things I’ve learned, to be a better person, wife, grandmother, daughter, friend, pet owner, and so on. I am here to strengthen my talents, to be kind as much as possible, to take the high road as much as possible and not devolve into self-pity or passive-aggressive behavior.
For the first time in my life I have clarity on what my real work is and why it must be done. While love can lift us up on wings of joy, it can also break our hearts to bits. The people and animals I have lost in my life have taken their toll on me to be sure. But their hand prints (and paw prints) are stamped indelibly on my heart. Each time I get a hug and give a hug, it is confirmation that we are here to be our true selves and to give as well as take.
My dad appreciates a pithy bumper sticker, and his favorite reads: “Love is our soul purpose.” Isn’t that the truth!