Eating the strawberry

Human beings are not known for our ability be present. Nor are we known for our ability to see details. We do not approach situations with beginner’s mind – that state of possibilities rather than knowledge.

We tend instead to cling an imagined, romanticized version of the past; we call this nostalgia. We tend to anticipate and extrapolate based on previous experiences which may have only the slightest bit in common with a situation in which we find ourselves. And it is these two actions – clinging and extrapolating – that often cause us to make the worst decisions.

For the past five and a half months I have been working at a job that I loathe. It’s not particularly onerous as jobs go: my life is never in jeopardy while working; my boss isn’t physically abusing me; and I am paid a decent wage for the hours I am expected to work. But other than money, which in this economy is not something to be rejected, this job provides absolutely no rewards:

  • The work is not interesting.
  • I have no autonomy or control over my work flow.
  • I’ve repeatedly asked to use a broader portion of my skill set even going so far as to volunteer to take on massive responsibilities only to be told no because the skills I want to use do not fit management’s narrow definition of my job duties.
  • The physical working conditions are inherently dismal with no privacy, no ventilation, and no access to natural light.
  • My expertise, that for which I was theoretically hired, is consistently disregarded in favor of decisions, when decisions are made at all, that risk nothing and benefit only the few.
  • My bosses’ management style is not management so much as a series of conflicting games with ever changing rules.
  • In the five and a half months I’ve been there five people have left for other jobs

Because of this not merely lack of reward but soul sucking despond, I have found myself lately looking back on my previous job with loving longing and good feelings something for which I have roundly slapped myself.

My previous job at FlounderingNonProfit was filled with conflict:

Once there was a monk being chased by a group of tigers. The monk ran and ran until he found himself at the edge of a cliff. When he looked over he saw a ledge but it held another group of tigers. Then the monk noticed a perfect, ripe strawberry growing in the grass. He reached down, picked it, and ate it.

I am a firm believer in the theory that my job is not my life but because I am so miserable for so many hours in the day my job is taking over my life substituting seething anger at Management’s audacity and SeniorManagement’s inability to see Management’s incompetence for relaxation and enjoyment of my hobbies. Creativity sailed out the window months ago as is clearly evidenced by the gaps between, and the one note theme of, these essays.

My last job was not perfect but it provided me with some intangible rewards I was unaware previously how much I value, and it is those rewards and that value that incline me to ignore its conflicts and to cloak that time in a haze of nostalgia.

The challenge is to see through that nostalgia and to figure out how to apply what I value – autonomy, broad range of tasks that allow me to solve problems creatively instead of just enforcing management’s whims, flexibility in my schedule along the order of “your job is something you do, not necessarily some place you go,” and access to natural light – to not only the job search but to the rest of my life.

The concurrent challenge is to figure out how to be present and eat the strawberry.

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