There are only two people where I work who are over 50. I’m one of those two. The majority of my co-workers are mid-20s to early 30s. Fresh faced and energetic, with a work ethic their parents would be proud (and possibly surprised) to witness.
They come in early, stay late, go to work-related events in the evenings. They’re all about networking and developing relationships and growing their careers. They’re driven in a way that’s a bit intimidating.
Me? I’m not ladder-climbing-minded myself. I found what I’m good at and am comfortable there. Yet the pace of those around me affects me. I’m regularly swept into their current and pulled along, and by the time I get out at the end of the day, I am generally so exhausted there’s little left but to plop down on the couch before the TV.
Weekends are for living. Weekdays, I exist.
I alternate between feeling a bit proud of how much I give at the office and ashamed there’s so little left at the end of the day for what (and who) are most important to me.
I have job-related fantasies, but they tend to involve less, not more.
It was while inhaling a salad at my desk this week that I ran across a parable about a fisherman I’d seen before, long ago. In the story, a fisherman was rowing his boat to shore after having caught a bunch of big fish and a businessman noticed and asked how long it took him to catch so many.
“Not long,” the fisherman said.
“Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch even more?” The businessman asked. The fisherman said it was all he needed to feed his family.
“So, what do you do the rest of the day?” asked the businessman.
The fisherman said he would play with his kids, take a nap with his wife, and in the evening, he would join his buddies in the village for a drink, play guitar, and sing and dance into the night.
The businessman said he could help the fisherman become more successful.
“From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon, you can afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food, and a distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and set up headquarters where you can manage your other branches.”
The fisherman nodded. “And after that?”
The businessman said, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house. When the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
The fisherman asked, “And after that?”
The businessman said, “After that, you can finally retire, move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with your grandkids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife. When evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance into the night.”
I kept thinking about that parable all week, as I worked through lunch, stayed late, arrived early, answered emails from bed. Canceled plans because I was so tired. I’m ready for less of this.
Sometimes, I think it isn’t that I’m doing too much, but that I’m doing too little of what sparks my fire. I spent much of the weekend sanding down a trio of old theater seats and working on a few other refinishing projects. I’d do a little on this one, a little on that.
I don’t have a workshop, so I was outside, in the sun. With mosquitoes making liars of the promises that can of repellent had made me. When I checked the time, I was surprised by how long I’d been at it.
And by how much energy I still had when darkness forced me inside.
Now that I’ve determined what lights my fire, I just need to find a way to keep hold of the match.