What’s a Real Job?

“Are you going to get a real job?”

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked this question. I believe most people define a “real job” as one that requires reporting to an office at a designated time each day to participate in the rituals we all recognize from Office Space.

I’m don’t know how to answer the question because I don’t know what a real job is anymore.

But whenever I’m asked the question, I’m reminded how much time I’ve spent sleep-walking through life. I don’t know if it has to do with how I was raised or the church with which I’m affiliated or my natural inclinations. It’s probably a combination of each. But I feel as though many of my friends and family are supportive of my decisions as long as I color within the lines when it comes to managing my career.

And not just my career but many of the major decisions I’ve made over the past 40+ years. When faced with a decision, I’ve often selected the path of least resistance because, well, explaining a desire do otherwise leads to confused looks and far too many questions. Only later do I kick myself.

I’m not saying that many decisions didn’t turn out well. Just that some were made giving no consideration to alternatives. Some of these feelings come from being raised in a Mormon family where members are taught to fall in line, turn the other cheek and don’t do anything outsiders could consider batsh*t crazy.

Despite all that, I’m happy with how how my family is evolving. It’s not always smooth, but I like what I see in my children day to day. Until a few months ago, 60 hours of my week was spent outside our home. At best,  I was a part of their lives for a few hours each weekday. Now I see them more in a day than I did in a week.

Kim and I walked around the track at our local middle school last night. Our kids played on the football field as we walked. Every few minutes one of them would run over to us, tell us something in their out-of-breath voice, then run off to play again.

Other than Luca begging for ice cream,I don’t remember much of what they said. But I enjoyed how they kept us involved in their conversations.

We walked a few miles before loading the kids in the van and driving home. When I pulled into our driveway and turned off the car, my 3-year old son began yelling, “Get me out, Dad, get me out!” 

I know the feeling. Wear, say, and behave this way. Get me out!

I want to raise children who color outside the lines like Anna who twirled her way around the football field last night.  I want to encourage them to respectfully question the status quo. I want them to do well in school but not at the expense of suffocating an inquisitive soul. I want them to be as mindful of how they treat others as they are about their assignments and grades.

I want each of them to figure out what brings them joy and pursue that. I don’t want them to be like me at 43 years old and say, “I wish I had become a teacher.”

But that would put a stop to the “real job” questions.

Comments

  1. Great post Brett – nothing makes me happier to see my kids exhibiting the inquisitiveness and curiosity that so many of our ‘age-peers’ seem to have lost along the way.

    • Brett Nordquist says:

      Thanks, Chris. I hope my kids keep their curiosity for far longer than I did. I know some do keep it forever.

  2. So true. I’m working to further establish my own business. I get funny looks and odd questions from my circle of family and friends. I think there is a strong culture of “get a job, work, be happy” instead of supporting something out of the ordinary.

    It might be an age thing. Once one has kids and less hair, their world is supposed to be stable and defined, paved before us until retirement. My desire to leave the pavement and create new trails is out of character for a 40+ year old with kids in college.

    But I can’t help it.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Brett Nordquist says:

      Alan, I think you nailed with your comment on the culture of work. It’s easy for others to support careers and lines of work with which they are familiar. It’s difficult for some to understand why anyone would pay me to help them create a website or logo or blog.

  3. This post couldn’t come at a better time for me. I’ve been so afraid to leave the safe zone of coloring within the lines.

    • Brett Nordquist says:

      I’m such a chicken. I only made the choice when I had no other choices. I really should have done this five years ago. But it’s better than waiting another five, right?

  4. I think you would be an awesome teacher, and you’ll also do well in this new venture. This will give you the opportunity to touch many lives even though it’s just for a brief time. I think what counts is how we touch those lives.

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