I Pretend to Hate My Job

I don’t know how I feel about work. Sometimes I like it, but I seem to try hard not to admit that, as if I don’t want to like it. It’s because I’ve always dreamt of doing something else. I originally intended it to be temporary, this career, I told myself that. And then it went on and on and I have always felt trapped, like I just couldn’t get out. Maybe I lied to myself. Maybe I always intended it to be permanent. I mean, there’s got to be a reason I didn’t do enough about changing anything.

This is the best place I ever worked now. People actually do enjoy it. I enjoy it. I work with nice funny people. They are like friends. 

Do I feel completely comfortable there, like it is home to me? Am I relaxed enough to just be myself? No, but I rarely feel like that anywhere I am among people. What would happen if I did? I’m not even sure I’d act any different, I just usually feel guarded. What is it I would admit, or show people about me that they don’t already know? Would it get me fired? I’m sure they’d give me a warning first.

“A. Lawrence.  You’d better start pretending again. We don’t like this new you.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry.”

But really, I’m already an open book. I probably admit way too much shit about myself, and yet I feel guarded. Like I’m scared they’ll see something I didn’t tell them.  What?

It’s probably worth it to think about this stuff. What do I really like about my career, job, life, and what could be better. I could like it if I admitted that I liked it, and that I don’t have to be scared of anybody.  What’s the worst that can happen? I could lose my job. But that’s pretty unlikely.  And if it happened, particularly because I was being myself, then it’s probably for the best.

I think I’ll try to like it. I want to like it. This is the best opportunity I’ve ever had to like it. It will help me to do a better job, which will in turn help me like the job even more.

Yup.  

I Don’t Want to Talk About Work

I wrote a poem this morning, inspired by the movie Paterson.  Ron Padgett, who actually wrote the poems for the movie anticipated this. In an interview with the PBS newshour he said, “Maybe a film like Paterson will help some people say, ‘huh, maybe I could write something like this too’.”

But I didn’t know that when I wrote it.

It’s 7AM.
Time to start the routine
The same routine every day

I take a shower
Shave
Brush my teeth

Put work clothes on
And torment myself
Over whether to eat breakfast

But I don’t want to talk about work
I get up at 5 or 6
I stretch or write

Who do I blame?
That’s what I want to know
That’s what I write about

Lately I’ve been having breakfast
And drinking coffee
And liking it

But I’m behind
Always behind
In my tasks

Maybe when I retire
I’ll keep a blog
And ride a bicycle

I can’t remember people’s names and I hate myself for it.

I am so impressed when people remember my name, or especially impressed when they remember the janitor’s name, or the guy that picks up the garbage in the office and stuff like that. I think it says so much about how much they care about people.

It may not actually say that, but it looks like it. It makes people feel good.

But I am not good at that at all. And I have this theory that it just comes naturally to some people, like the ones who always try to teach you how to do it, as if it’s easy.  Yeah, for them. I ought to invent an app.  

“Hi – I’m A. Lawrence, hold still for a second while I take your picture. Now say your name into the microphone. How do you spell that?  Let me type that in. Thanks.”

Then I can go home and study the pictures.

I met this guy in a meeting once. The next time I saw him he said, “How are you, A. Lawrence?” And I was like, man, I need to look at the list of who was in that meeting. So, I did, and none of the names rang a bell. That was because he goes by his middle name, Scott. But his name in meeting requests was William S. Foiledagain.

I met this guy from another department at some kind of corporate banquet. We had a good time, sitting at the same table laughing and talking. We still say hello. He comes by every once and awhile and we talk. I have no idea where he sits, but he has had the advantage of seeing my name where I sit, at least that’s what I tell myself. This goes on for years, and it’s way too late to ask him his name.  I’m like, “Hey, how’s it going.  How are you,” and stuff like that. I’m talking to him about his kids and all kinds of things. I am practically intimate with him. I see him talking to other people, he knows everybody, so I ask them, “hey what’s that guy’s name, I’ve known him for years but I don’t know his name.”

“Yeah, I’m in the same boat,” I’m told, again and again.

I finally find someone who knows. “His name is Bentley,” she tells me. But can that be real? Is anyone really named Bentley? I still haven’t been brave enough to call him Bentley.

I went to a wedding of a friend of my wife. I didn’t expect to see anybody I knew there, but I did. I saw a guy I used to work with, only I hadn’t seen him in a long time, didn’t expect him to be there, and was taken by surprise, so it was taking a minute for it all to come back to me and I understandably blanked on his name. Right? I remembered a lot of things, projects we’d worked on, practical jokes that we played on each other. This is stupid, I thought, a lot of people can’t remember names.  I decided to be forthright about it. “I’m sorry, I can’t remember your name,” I said. He went silent and vibed me from across the table the entire night. My wife had met him before and remembered his name (because she’s one of those) and could have told me, if I had just asked her. I haven’t seen him since, but I do remember his name, now. It’s Stan.

I was at a Christmas party talking to a woman that works in my office. I introduced myself, and told her, “It’s good to meet you, I always see you around, but I’ve never introduced myself.”

She said, “we had this same conversation last year.”

Now I say, “Hi Jennifer” every time I see her. It’s getting ridiculous.

So maybe I can remember names.   

But there’s a trick to it that the experts don’t tell you. You need to embarrass yourself.

I don’t know why I care. I guess I just want people to like me. What’s with that?

I’m Sure It Will Be Fine

I’m reading this book on creativity. It sounds personal, but it’s actually a work goal I set to read a book about being creative at work. A pervasive theme in it is that work can be your passion.

Like Robert Frost wrote in “Two Tramps in Mud Time.”

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.

In the book, the author talks about how someone he knew had a countdown to retirement even though it was an entire year away. That was supposed to be an indication that the person wasn’t enjoying his or her job. It was a real tragedy, counting down the final year of work instead of living in the moment.

Only I created a formula in excel probably a decade ago or more, where I could input my retirement age and it would tell me how many days I had until retirement. I’m still 2,686 days away.

I think a lot about retirement. I wish I had thought about it more seriously when I was younger, or that I had actually done more than create an app in excel that told me how long it would take to get there.

But I’m getting closer now, and I’m past the point where I think I will escape this working world by writing Star Trek episodes, or a screenplay or even a Kindle Single that goes viral and makes me millions (well, I actually still dream about that last one, but I’m not relying on it). I’m close enough to retirement that I can actually plan for the day when I will be a full time writer not because it makes me money, but because I don’t need the money.

But I didn’t plan early, so I’m playing catch up. I think I will be able to retire at sixty, eight years from now, or sixty-three at the latest. I’m worried that I will be too old, that I won’t have enough good years left. Because not everyone ages at the same pace and there are no guarantees, even though I’ve got some decent longevity in my family history. 

I’m sure it will be fine.

But if you can plan to retire at fifty do it. It’s a good age to retire at. I would have been retired for two years already and I can’t tell you how much fun it would have been. All you have to do is save the maximum allowed into any kind of deferred retirement plan (401k, IRA etc). Save some outside of the retirement plans for contingencies too, because you don’t know what, but something will come up. And live off of what’s left, no matter what you have to sacrifice to do it. 

You can enjoy life without a lot of shit, you might even enjoy it more. You can travel (or at least visit people, stay in hostels, etc). You can eat good food (you just might have to cook it). You have to do it the hard way, but that becomes easier with practice and in the meantime helps you collect stories of failure, which are the funniest kind, at least once you have some distance.

Trust me, it will be more fun than if you do things the expensive way.

The other advantage of learning to live off less is that you won’t need as much when you do retire. For example if you spend $120,000 every year, then it’s reasonable to think that in retirement, you’ll need the same amount every year and for the rest of your life.  If you’re fifty when you retire, that could be another fifty years. That’s $6,000,000.  And the amount you allow yourself to spend needs to grow because there can be a lot of inflation in fifty years. But if you can live off $30,000 a year (I’m just making up numbers here) you’ll only need enough in retirement to live off of $30,000 a year also!!  That’s 4,500,000 less. You might not actually need everything up front because whatever you have at retirement earns for you while you’re waiting to spend it, but you get the point, you need less. So every dollar you learn to not spend saves you a dollar now and every year in retirement.  

Another important thing to remember is that the money you save early grows for longer, and once you get to some kind of critical mass of savings, it earns for you, and your fund essentially contributes to itself.

And finally, the less you learn to live on, the more significant social security seems when you finally get it. I knew a guy, a bass player in a band I was in, who was working some shit job in I.T. support that he hated. It might have been a great job for someone, but he hated it. He probably wasn’t that good at it either, cause generally we’re not very good at jobs we hate (the book I’m reading confirms this), so his boss, some insensitive young know it all whipper snapper, no doubt, didn’t like him either. Anyway, the bass player had once done better, had a good paying job (not playing bass) but he got divorced and lost his career and had nothing for himself in the end except a modest house and this shitty job. He told me that when he was eligible for social security he was going to retire because social security would be as much as he was making working. And that ain’t much. social security really doesn’t pay much, but it pays something and it was as much as he had become used to. And he did that. He lives off of social security now (I’m guessing he had his house paid off at least) and the last time I saw him, he looked really happy. 

But he lives alone. For me, social security will help, but it won’t be enough. Because my wife likes to travel a lot, and she spends money without respect to what we have. She gets good deals on what she buys, shops for bargains, and isn’t particularly frivolous, but she still spends and doesn’t like to budget. I can expect that we will need a certain amount and maybe a little extra in case we have to adjust to the market by tightening our belts in a way that she just doesn’t do. I could have quit to write full time a long time ago, probably, if I had the freedom to stay in my “castle” by myself and eat nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Campbell’s soup and cereal. But then I’d probably have gastrointestinal problems, and I’d be lonely.

When I was twenty I drove cross country with my best friend and we were way under budget, but I didn’t eat peanut butter after that for twenty years. I was also lonely because I was missing my girlfriend at the time who I found out upon my return had already dumped me for someone else.

Hey, but I’m counting my blessings, because if I can retire at sixty, or even work part time at that point, then I am luckier than a lot of people. And time flies fast when you get old and start forgetting things. Last thing I remember my daughter was a baby, and now she’s twenty-one and I have two other kids, who I call kiddo and cupcake because I don’t know their real names. Sort of kidding. But time does seem to go by fast, and I don’t think it really does, so I must be forgetting stuff.

Bottom line, do as I say, not as I do. You won’t be sorry. It’s good advice. The best advice. I’m really good at giving advice.