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Aug
18
2011
My Parachute is the Color of Apathy*

What’s My Motivation?

Tomorrow I will celebrate 15 years with my employer.

The good news: this milestone brings increased vacation time.

The bad news: after 15 years I need more vacation time like you wouldn’t believe. My enthusiasm for most of my tasks has waned considerably. And don’t even get me started on my soul-sucking commute.

I’m a good employee (so ixnay on the iringfay), but over time my motivation has come less and less from interest in the substance of the work itself. I’m a perfectionist. It’s simply not my way to do anything but a good job.

So what would I have said I wanted to be when I grew up?

Independently wealthy? Big picture questions have always baffled me. It was easier for me to identify what I didn’t want to be. My Mom was a nurse, and people would always ask me if I wanted to be a nurse too. The more people asked me that, the more annoyed I got. Soon my “I don’t think so” turned into “I would not be a nurse if it were the last profession on Earth.” Dealing with people, sick people at that, and blood. Please, sign me up.

If pressed, I probably would’ve said I wanted to be a singer. I also went through an astronomy phase prior to knowing it required an understanding of physics. Too bad I was never able to find a single celestial object through the telescope I got one Christmas. Dude, it was hard.

My Parents’ Generation Was Not So Concerned with the Color of the Parachute

My parents were born during the tail end of the Great Depression. The message I received from them was informed by their own parents’ quest for financial security, with additional stress on the importance of education from my Mom.

Work hard, do well in school, go to college. All of this was for the purpose of getting a good job, where good job = secure, decent pay, good benefits.

My older brother took an aptitude test in high school. The results pointed to farming, which amused us greatly. He did not become a farmer. Ironically, working in his garden is one of his favorite things to do now.

I received no career guidance. I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do when I chose my major. I still had no dream job in mind when I entered graduate school.

Generation Y Wants to Own the Parachute

I’ve recently come across a number of “lifestyle design” blogs advocating against the traditional 9 to 5, and for taking risks to follow one’s dreams. They take many of the arguments I have used for staying put and rebut them passionately. Most of them I’ve seen are about a decade younger than me. These 20-somethings are the young, the fearless, the entrepreneurial. Their blogs scream: Quit your job and start an online business! Free yourself! Live the life you want! Get paid to do what you love! 

Stuck in the Middle (Stuck Being the Operative Word)

I feel stuck in the middle of these two generations and neither way of thinking resonates with me completely.

When I complain about my job to my Mother on the phone, I can almost hear her eyes rolling. She worked her ass off for over 40 years and earned the retirement she’s enjoying so much right now. She knows how much I make, and really does not feel bad about my lack of “passion.” She thinks I’m ridiculously lucky and should shut it.

I’m not sure she’s wrong. I do earn a good living. My job is in my field. Although I sort of fell into “my field,” it’s a good fit for my personality and I’m really quite good at it. As far as 9 to 5 jobs go, I have a pretty flexible schedule, great benefits, a fair and supportive boss, and great coworkers.

I feel pretty guilty complaining actually. Yet…am I going to be satisfied doing this day-in and day-out for 5, or 10, or 19 (but who’s counting?) more years?

Do I have to answer that? I’m the first to admit my not-really-ironic goal of retirement as a 37-year old is sort of lame. As my father-in-law says, “Don’t look forward to retirement, because that’s looking forward to being old.” Well, I’m hoping to retire early, but still. He has a point.

It Comes Down to This

Some of the lifestyle design bloggers I read are still in the process of breaking free from the 9 to 5. Others have already done so and earn a living at least partially helping others do it too. The bulk of what I’ve read is about encouraging people to take risks and laying out the steps to making the dream a reality. The having a dream part seems to be assumed.

But presumably the first step is identifying your dream, so let’s take a moment for me to get in touch with that, shall we?

Once again, it’s easier for me to identify things that are not my dream. And the entrepreneurial calling eludes me.

Being an entrepreneur sounds horrifying. Assuming I could identify something marketable, which is a big if, I would still have to market it. I am decidedly not a people person, not exactly a good trait for running a business.

Also after 15 years, I’m also wondering if I’m not just getting a little tired of working. Starting my own business sounds like more work. I would love to have more freedom and flexibility to spend my time how I want, and thus I think I’m looking to do less work.

Perhaps most importantly, I’d be the boss from hell. I would be extremely demanding, and as we’ve already seen, I have no vision. What a great combination.

Now What?

As I see it, I have a couple of options worth pursuing in the coming weeks and months. I plan to write about both in more detail in future posts.

1.  Design Something New.

Maybe there’s a dream, besides early retirement, lurking deep inside somewhere waiting to be uncovered with enough thought. I read a suggestion somewhere to think about what you would be willing to do even if you didn’t get paid for it. This made me laugh out loud because none of the first ten things that came to mind seemed to be marketable in the least. I’ll probably share my list of these ideas in the next few days, so you can laugh at me.

2.  Remodel the Old Place.

This runs the gamut from sprucing up my attitude, which is pretty poor at present, to making other changes around the edges of the current job, like exploring more telework.

How are you feeling about your job at the moment? 

*I would say the most accurate description for the color of my parachute at the moment is sepia, which according to Crayola is “not at all frivolous, dependable, and comfortable.” 15 years, people.