It has been creating delightful occasions of frisson. After putting in a full work week, one enjoys the weekend, a bit of time off before returning to work. Except that this weekend lasts forever. This is not time off before returning to the grindstone, because that grindstone no longer hangs around my neck!
I promise to stop going on (and on and on) about this Real Soon Now. Quite a number of friends have expressed their jealousy (in mild jest, I hope). Just keep in mind that I jumped ship pretty early pension-wise, so how well this works out for me remains to be seen.
And you’ll have to bear with me if I blather on about work (or retirement) a bit longer. It’s a pretty major life change!
I’ve been thinking about how there are really two major relationships in your life: marriage and work. Of course, upon reflection, that’s not right: there are more. We all have a major relationship with our parents (and, in many cases, siblings). And many (perhaps most) have major relationships with their children, which is the flip side of parental one.
Now, you don’t choose your parents, and your parents don’t choose you. (In some cases, they didn’t even choose to have a you.) But you do, generally, choose your work, and I would hope most choose their spouse (although I know in some cultures that is still less common).
Which is not to say those choices always prove out. My spouse choice turned out to be a disaster. My work choice turned out okay. It certainly provided for me for over three decades, even if that relationship was at times a bit rocky.
So perhaps there is something that does stand out about our work and marriage relationships, because we have more choice in those. There are other relationships we choose. As the cute old saying goes, “You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but generally speaking you can’t pick your friends’ noses.” (So your choices are limited is the point.)
As something of a loner who’s never been as close to his family as some, and who is picky about his friends (and their noses), and who has no kids (or even step-kids anymore), I’ve been thinking a lot about the two really major relationships in my life: my marriage and my career.
[I don’t mean to give the impression my family relationships aren’t close at all. They certainly are, but when I compare the entire spectrum of families I see we’re not as close-knit as some. Norwegian reserve might account for some of that. The family networks of my Spanish- and Italian-origin friends make for an interesting comparison. Huge family gatherings overflowing with joyful familial love. And totally awesome food! Norwegians got lutefisk and maybe a very sedate game of charades.]
What’s very interesting to me (in a sad kind of way) about both my marriage and my career is how the perception of the other party differed so from my perception of myself. In both cases, it very much seemed to me (and other bystanders) that they used an unfair yardstick to measure me with.
My wife had certain issues with aspects of my personality and background that she ultimately decided were deal-breakers for her. These things, to her, outweighed everything else on the good side. (Classic Barrel of Wine, Barrel of Sewage thinking.) And by even her account, there was plenty on the good side. She had a complete picture going in—nothing changed, I was exactly the man she married—but ultimately what she perceived as sewage ruined the wine.
Likewise, at The Company, they all pretty much had to agree my work was awesome. (In fact, I was hired because of how well I did on the entrance exam. At the time, they didn’t have a position, but they made one just so they could offer me a job before I walked out the door. Good thing, since I was headed for another interview that day.)
But my lack of “corporate spirit” just makes their heads explode. It’s the willingness to be critical, I think, that really gets to them. Sorry, I’m just not the Cheerleader type. In fact, what I am is an Engineer, and it’s our job to be critical, to find flaws. That kind of expertise is (supposedly) why you hired me in the first place!
What’s so ironic is that the exact traits the other parties find so objectionable are foundational and central to the traits they find so admirable. What made me the man my wife loved so much is everything that I am, including the path that lies behind me. Take away any of the foundation, and I’m not the same guy (way more boring, for one thing). Same with work: what made me so valuable is also what made me so annoying.
Well, this isn’t the first time I’ve recognized my old friend, Irony, as a driving force in my life! A scorched pair of pants, indeed.
Ultimately, while my career and my marriage were wonderful in so many regards, there will always be parts of them best left forgotten (least my head explode… or my heart break). Fortunately for my spirit, I’m pretty good at looking forward. I’ve never been much prone to nostalgia. I have friends who revel in the TV shows and music of the 60s (our youth). I tend to just find them… rather outdated.
I’ve long said, “My past doesn’t make me bitter. More bemused and bewildered.” That’s not to say I don’t have a good measure of bitterness, but it’s not due to my past. (In my best Charles Heston, “It’s people! [My bitterness] is people!”)
But for now there’s just a lot of ear-to-ear grinning (sorry, jealous friends). I have to keep remembering that this isn’t a few days off before returning to work. This isn’t even some vacation time. No, this is a whole new phase, and it’s one I haven’t truly experienced since I was an infant! Nowhere to have to be (unless I want to). No expectations (other than mine).
It’s quite a thing to behold!