Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The World of Work

Driving to my early morning water aerobics class has been a revelation.  You might recall that I looked forward to the peaceful, meandering ride down Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., savoring the delicious calm of morning.  Ahhhhhhhh.

Wrong.  So wrong.  You might also recall that I mentioned this "rush hour" thingie that they hold down on MLK every weekday.  This morning I was ten minutes late for class.  Again, this had its advantages because I would probably have died of natural causes or drowned myself had the class been longer, but I don't like to be late.

Rush Hour:  So many cars.  So little time.

But what I was musing about today as I inched my way down MLK (that's like a poem, but entirely unintended) doing what amounts to an early-morning, stop-and-go commute, is how it transported me back, as it were, to The World of Work.  To the days when I had a "real job."

Here's what I'd say about that.  Regardless of how you left your job -- if you had a job to leave and you left it without having made arrangements for a fabulous new one -- whether you pushed the eject button on purpose, or someone pushed it for you, or you ran, dancing and leaping through fields of flowers to embrace retirement -- regardless of how deeply and profoundly your life has improved in the days, months or years that have intervened -- leaving a job that you had in The World of Work is a very big deal.

Even the "take this job and shove it" Grim Satisfaction Scenario must still leave a gaping hole.  Because your job takes up a big chunk of your day, your mind, your heart, your life.  And when it's over, it's shockingly ... done.

And something in your soul still leans in, still yearns just a little or maybe a whole lot, to the empty space in your life where your job used to live.

When you had that job, you had a schedule, a time to be somewhere, a route or routes you drove to get there, a stop for coffee or your portable coffee cup you brought from home.  You had music you listened to, a familiar station, or some talk that lifted your spirits or hacked you off and got your blood circulating. You had landmarks you passed and thought about as you passed them. You marked changes, revolving seasons, street repairs, orange cones, construction projects that started as cleared lots and soared many stories high.

You had a parking spot, or a parking lot or garage in which you needed to find a spot.  Maybe finding the spot consumed your strategic attention all the way to work. Or you rode the bus and looked out the window.  Or commuted with friends and listened to their familiar complaints.

You had people who greeted you.  A receptionist, maybe.  The guy in the cube or the office next to yours.  You had acquaintances.  You had friends.  You had people you spent more time with, day-to-day, than you did with your spouse, your lover, your kids, your dog.

You had assignments or had an assignment to give people assignments.  You had a project.  A timeline.  A hole to dig.  A hole to dig yourself out of.  A problem.  A crisis.  A workload.  You had worries.  A mentor.  A nemesis.  An idiot.  A pain in the butt.  Dreams.  Goals.  Income.

You had a chair, a desk, a truck, a photograph of loved ones that you displayed or didn't, depending on the culture of the place you worked.  You had a computer, a notepad, a pencil, a shovel -- if you were really cool, in my opinion, you had an earthmover thingie with a giant claw that looks like a dinosaur and eats rocks.  You had a window.  Or you didn't.  And you had a plan to get a chair, a cube, an office with a window, a better title. Or you'd settled in and given up on that one.  

All in all, you had deep grooves in your brain that had been carved there by the routine of your work.  And when it all stopped and your life changed direction, the grooves stayed.  They seem to persist for a very long time.  Maybe forever.

It helps to put a new job in the old place or fill it with new challenges and dreams.  But those grooves are yours.  You earned them. 

So this morning as I halted my way down MLK (Not a poem.  Seriously.) it all came back.  The people.  The challenge of the assignments.  The satisfaction.  The disappointments. The commitment.  The plans.  The goals.  The love.  The loss.  The rush hour.

Like the dude said, "Love is never gone."  The life you spent on your work has its own integrity, its own power, its own value.  It may have vanished like everything In Time does,  but it was never "for nothing."  It meant something important, if only to you.  So, take my advice and don't regret "what you did for love."  For sure, I don't.

The World of Work.

Gone.  But not forgotten.

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