The switch happened shortly after graduating from college. Until then, jobs I held were centered on completing tasks. I cleaned pools, entered data into computers, and delivered janitorial supplies around the Salt Lake valley.
But at some point, if you’re good at getting things done, someone in management notices and you’re promoted to a position where you’re no longer directly involved in getting things done. I don’t recall anyone telling me that’s what earning a college degree was about but it was certainly implied.
My uncle is one of those guys you see when boarding a plane who’s tossing suitcases onto the cargo chute. As fun as it might be to zip around the tarmac playing tag with 747s, I didn’t like the idea of schlepping luggage in the sweltering summers or frigid winters of Salt Lake.
I told myself over and over that, I would skip right past the demanding labor of my uncle and head right into a job with an office, computer, and brass name plate.
As if going to college would magically activate a switch in my brain that would allow me to earn a living using it instead of my legs, hands, and back. Yet now, as my no-longer-21-year-old body is beginning to feel its share of aches and pains, I find myself drawn to challenging and unpredictable work.
My current job feels like work. But it’s challenging and frustrating and rewarding. Not every day, but most days, and that’s a change for the better. I’m learning and being pushed into uncomfortable situations I’ve not experienced in my career. I’m alert instead of checking ESPN during a recurring all-hands. Most of all, I actually care about our customers because they aren’t buried beneath a dozen layers or corporate insulation.
The corporate world is full of planning, off-sites, 1x1s, status reports, budgeting, and brainstorming sessions. I feel like that’s all I’ve done for the past fifteen years. When I worked for Microsoft, it wasn’t uncommon to spend 20 to 25 hours a week in meetings. When I’d arrive home and Kim asked me what I did that day, I had no answer. Not all meetings are a waste of time. Just most of them.
The notion that working with your mind instead of your hands is a more important contribution to society is incorrect. I’m starting to doubt my own education given how long it’s taken me to realize that.
At least now I return home from work each day I have an answer when Kim asks what I did.