Let me start this out with an apology. This discussion is going to go on for a while – probably all week. And there’s a whole lot more personal stuff in this one than normal. But, if you stick with me here, I think you’ll understand why I decided to indulge myself. If you don’t understand? Well, it probably wouldn’t be the first time. (In fact, did I just make any sense to me?)
It is a 50-degree Saturday morning in Phoenix and I am sitting at my back porch watching it rain, listening to Pandora (trademark, or copyright, or patent pending, or whatever little symbol should be next to that name), and writing, among other things, this blog. Now, for most of you, a drizzly day in January is an excuse to hide indoors. However, being born and raised here, the idea of the sun disappearing behind some kind of floating, dark substance while wet stuff falls from the sky is such an unusual event that I revel in it.
So I sit outside typing, drinking coffee, listening to Warren Zevon, and realizing, this is what all the work is for. No, let me rephrase that. That is what all the work was for. On Thursday, I am retiring after 30 years (and one month) of working for Farmers Insurance – six months in Accounting, all the rest in Internal Audit.
Twenty-nine and one-half years in the same profession. What leads any sane person to do that?
Skipping the whole concept of sanity, I would say that, in my case, it is because it was so much darn fun.
One thing I’ll tell anyone willing to listen (including my kids who, now that I think about it, probably weren’t listening those times either, so I guess I’ll tell anyone who isn’t listening, too) is do not work at what you cannot love. (Why “cannot love” versus “do not” love? Paraphrasing Stephen Stills – If you can’t be in the job you love, love the job you’re in. And that raises a whole discussion about finding something to love with any project and a bunch of follow-up thoughts on success and taking on the work no one else wants, but this post is going to take up way too much time as it is, so I won’t go down that road.)
Let me tell you about my work history.
My first job was at a local amusement park dishing out ice cream. I really liked the job. I came back the next season and, with different management and different bosses, abhorred the job. After about a month I walked into the offices at the end of my shift– ten pm – and told the girl behind the desk “Tell ‘em I quit.”
Next job: Doorman at a movie theater. Had a lot of fun. Saw Paper Moon more times than any human being should see any movie. Then the schedule started affecting aspects of my personal life. I quit. (This time with two-week’s notice – I was gaining a little bit of class.)
Next job: Fiddle player with the country-rock band Nitehawk Diner. Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker, Jackson Brown, Dan Fogelberg, Asleep at the Wheel. If you’re as old as me, you remember some of this kind of stuff from the 70s. That was a job I loved so much I still do it. Very part-time, but I still do it. (Come to think of it I’ve got to correct myself. My very first paid job – besides being paid by my parents to mow lawns, etc. – was playing fiddle in a square dance band in, I think, 7th grade. Sheesh. That music thing really does have a hold on me. Anyway…)
There was a stint where I worked at a print shop and, without going into various “Why’s”, I enjoyed it, also. Left that one to go back into playing music.
I finally graduated with an Accounting degree (that Archaeology degree I had gotten the first time through just didn’t seem to be paying off well) and went to work at Farmers Insurance. An Accounting degree meant starting out in the Accounting Department. In six months I did the same thing six times in a row. I was bored to tears. The auditors were having way too much fun behind me. I got the chance to join the Internal Audit team and never looked back.
I like to think all of this proves two things. First, I just don’t preach enjoy your job; I’ve tried to live it. Second, if you believe you should love your job, then the only reason you should have stuck with a profession (particularly with one company) is if you love it.
Now, what the heck could be so much fun about a profession – a profession that many perceive as boring (that is, if they even know what it is) – that would cause someone to stick around so long? That is what we’ll talk about the next time we get together as I head into this last week of steamrolling towards retirement.
Tune in tomorrow.