Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Worklife.

It's probably inevitable that the American worker steps back periodically to reassess his/her choices. It's certainly something I am tempted to do. I have a pretty good job. I get a decent salary for the cost of living in Pittsburgh. I have a great benefits package, and I only work about 50% of the total days in a year. I have a large amount of autonomy in the workplace. My career choice is almost universally considered to be a "noble profession". And my job is not all that vulnerable to the arbitrary sways of the economy. When I start ruminating over alternatives, I don't come up with too many realistic options. Yet I don't think I was born for it, like many in the profession do. I don't even know if I believe in that kind of "calling". When I do dream big, I picture myself taking photography, drawing, and writing for a living. The difficulty is that I would want to choose my own subject matter, and this is where the fantasy usually breaks down.

Anyway, I can make a list of things I don't like about my job. My commute adds up to over an hour and a half every day. I have to get up at 6:10 AM, and I am decidedly NOT a morning person. I have very little in common (politically, socially, culturally, or interests-wise) with the people I work with, and around. I am confronted with a perpetually evolving set of onerous regulations and requirements that dictate my choices at work. And every day I must deal with a complex and sometimes difficult mix of personalities, while trying to stimulate the personal growth of all involved. No matter my mood, it's simply not an option to keep to myself on any given day. Like it or not, I am a role model.

While on balance I am guardedly happy about my situation, I couldn't honestly say with any confidence that I will spend another 24 years in my current position. When contemplating my furture, I am more likely to consider it over a few years, rather than decades. Life is unpredictable and I have always wanted to experience a broad range within the possible. But unlike those who are never satisfied, I usually don't ponder what could be better. I more often imagine how things could be worse. This trait usually keeps me grounded, and probably explains why I have held my current job for six years.

There are many jobs that I would never want to be stuck with. Some in this category are jobs I I have already held. For instance- I hope I never find myself working in the corporate world again. My two years working for a public relations firm, for loathsome clients I would have never chosen to srvice, were some of the most empty years of my worklife. Similiarly, although I think I would be pretty good at sales, I don't think I would enjoy the constant pressure of having to meet quotas. Plus, I think I would end up with an even lower regard for humanity than I have now.

I have never applied myself to the arts of the handyman, so it looks like any type of craftsmanship profession is out. I believe that I could find some facility in working with my hands, but it seems a little bit late in the game to switch directions. And I have no desire to get back into the service industry. That was the story of my twenties. It was in bars and coffeehouses that I first developed signs of an incipient misanthropy. I'm simply not capable of putting up the kind of front required to make the average consumer comfortable for the length of his/her stay. Maybe if I owned the business I would be motivated to do well in the service field, but otherwise I can't see myself going back to that kind of life.

Perhaps I could find fulfillment in some type of civil service or human services job. I think I could prove to be a very competent administrator. But compared to my current job, the benefits of that sector would be minimal. And so this is how it usually goes when I engage in this train of thought. None of the other possibilities seem very attractive. I've never had a job as good as I have now. That certainly doesn't mean that there isn't one coming to me down the line. But for now, I am apt to draw the easy conclusion... and to appreciate what I have.


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