Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Road Less Traveled...

In a world of fugitives the person taking the opposite direction will appear to run away.
~~T.S. Eliot

Everyday we make choices. Some of them take us in directions we never thought we'd go. And sometimes, it appears that the choices are made for us. That we just show up and are taken along for the ride. It is difficult to go against the flow of the mainstream, to be true to yourself, to honor your own unique nature. But what is the cost of doing otherwise?

I was offered a job recently. Back in the fashion industry I once loved so much. It would require me to work on commission, something I was interested in trying, but it soon became obvious that the sales target was going to be the end all and be all of my daily experience. I saw myself having an enjoyable conversation with a customer and then watching as another "big money" customer enters my department. I saw myself pondering for a moment ditching the first customer in order to go over to the guaranteed sale. And that was it. I knew I couldn't take this job.

Integrity is no longer a luxury. I can barely spend a day now doing something I don't feel connected with. If it doesn't jive with who I am, with my core values, I just can't do it. Perhaps that is what happens when you've lived a life of compromise, when you've sacrificed your soul on someone else's altar. It's no longer acceptable.

So, here I am, once more, living the simple life, enjoying my low-paying bookstore job. And still never been happier. One day, I will find my way into work that both pays well and nurtures my soul. It's only a matter of time. All things are.

tall penguin

8 comments:

Flonkbob said...

"This above all..."

I was offered a job a few years ago that would have had me at my current pay level much sooner, would have given me prestige, position, and (what is vital in tech jobs) stability. My client would have been a government entity. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Problem is, another division of this entity designed things that kill people. Now I don't like most people, but that's because they refuse to think. If we kill them all then they sort of lose that chance all together, yes? So I'm not real keen on the killing thing. I was pressured to make the move and I finally had to say "No, I can't in good faith work for this customer. Sorry. I'll stay where I am...unless you're irritated enough to fire me."

I was soon transferred to a client doing work I can get behind, and work I feel good supporting. The wheel turns and eventually things even out. Not because some Sky Fairy says so, but because that's the way the universe rolls.

I can live with that.

tall penguin said...

"Now I don't like most people, but that's because they refuse to think. If we kill them all then they sort of lose that chance all together, yes?"

At least you're honest. Your story is a valuable one. It shows the humanity of your reaction above. It shows integrity. And it shows that in time, things do come around. "Not because some Sky Fairy says so, but because that's the way the universe rolls."

Yup.

Anonymous said...

"And still never been happier."

There is alot to be said about having a job you enjoy. With higher pay, often comes longer hours and more disruption of your life. Sounds to me like a good opportunity to write your book.

I look forward to the day when, as the latest addition of Awake! arrives at my door, I will have a wonderful book to give them in return.

Ged said...

For a good many years I worked writing and commissioning business software for the night club industry. It paid ok but it wasn't all that interesting and I didn't feel it was going anyplace I wanted to be. But I didn't see anything more attractive that I thought I could do. There was also the benefit of free tickets to clubs and live music events (which I like a lot). At that time my partner worked for a local charity that provided childcare information to parents and one day she mentioned that they were having problems maintaining their information and they couldn't afford to commission a computerised solution. So I spent six months of my spare time writing a database for them for free and, in doing so, I learned quite a bit about what was going in in children's services in the region. After that they asked me to become a trustee of the charity and advise on IT and business issues (which I still do). Some time later a job came up in the local authority project managing a whole raft of IT stuff within children's services and it seems I was ideally experienced for the role. Two years on I'm having a great time. People who work with children are generally a good bunch - whether they're nursery staff, teachers, special needs workers or child protection officers. They seriously don't do IT and are very appreciative of any help they can get.

So to the point:

I think you shouldn't feel pressured into pursuing a career until something comes along that really takes your interest. By making yourself available to others in an area where you have some enthusiasm and knowledge you create opportunities for yourself as well as helping other people.

I'd say this blog and what may come of it could do that for you. Trick is - not just to recognise an opportunity when it comes along - but also to have the effrontery to go for it.

matt said...

I agree with you ged, it seems that biggest opportunity job is the same job you will never expect.

In the same sense, your job at the bookstore gives you time to express yourself freely.

I have never liked the idea of taking the white-collar route in life. Perhaps if it was my own company, but I'm no professional. :)

Currently I can only take jobs that do not benefit me towards my education or goals -- but they still help me get to my goals in the sense that I require money to get there. Defense contractors are funny things, they can build weapons, and they can build the anti-weapon for said weapons -- sell it to either side of a war -- and still feel no guilt. :)

Personally I believe your skill at writing may be a route worth taking!
Einstein bided his time at a patent office.
You bide your time at a bookstore. I see the similarities. :D

I keep trying to get a job at Borders too. Would be fun to work there. I buy enough books as it is, it would be scary to know what kind of benefits Borders would have on books for employees!

tall penguin said...

"I look forward to the day when, as the latest addition of Awake! arrives at my door, I will have a wonderful book to give them in return."

I'll have you know this had me in tears and I ended up late for work. This really touched me. Thank you.

tall penguin said...

Thanks for sharing that story ged. Reminds me of the unexpected opportunities that come our way; sometimes the most amazing things that happen in life are the ones we didn't plan for.

"Trick is - not just to recognise an opportunity when it comes along - but also to have the effrontery to go for it."

I'm currently struggling with my effrontery chip. May need to get a new one. They sell those on ebay?

As many leaps as I've made in this life, and as courageous as I take myself to be, there's still this voice in my head that says I can't do stuff. And each time I enter new territory, it gets louder. I'll get there though. Eventually I always do.

tall penguin said...

"I keep trying to get a job at Borders too. Would be fun to work there. I buy enough books as it is, it would be scary to know what kind of benefits Borders would have on books for employees!"

I always dreamed of working in a bookstore. Pretty simple dream but one I'm so glad I was able to fulfill. It has changed my life in ways I'm not even sure I fully understand yet.

It is my hope to still be working there when my book hits the shelves. Can you imagine? Gives me goosebumps!