I am reflecting on meeting up with one of my former military friends and literally 20 seconds into the conversation the question I always dread came up “What are you doing now?”
These words have a terrible effect on me; as I am not my job, I was never my job when I was in the army either. It is not that I fear being judged on what I do (I fear being judged on how good or bad I do my job but not by my friends but by my co-workers). Which is why for the sake of this story I shall call him Numbnuts.
This question really makes my teeth itch. I have a good friend, Paddy, who struggled for work when he retired from the army, he went through dozens of jobs before he found that actually, the job paying him wage gave him massive job satisfaction. He looks after disadvantaged / disabled people as a carer. Does this job define him? Does this make any less successful? I think not, what defines him is his sense of humour, his kindness and his astounding personality, he lights up any room when he walks in with his enthusiasm and he always listens really well to anything he is being told. Listening is a skill and he has buckets of it. He is also exceptional at telling a story and never lets the truth get in the way of a making it a funny story!
But back to meeting up with Numbnuts…
I had been looking forward to catching with him after he had sent me a friend request on Facebook as we have not seen each other since May 2003 so a brew and and an hour chewing the fat sounded like a right good plan, but 20 seconds into the conversation we were talking about work. Don’t get me wrong, I really do like my job but it is only that for me, something I do so that I can do other things I really enjoy like spending time with my family, eating out at nice restaurants, eating out at not so nice cafes. Even when I am in work our coffee breaks are all about football, rugby, Swansea City Football Club, Hull City Football Club, “insert footy team name” football club, hardly ever do we talk about any Statements of Work, contracts, etc. why would I then talk about them when I meet up with people socially?
I have been really very fortunate since I left the army, I have found employment (purely by accident I hasten to add – I have no “master plan”) that pays above the minimum wage with some really good responsibility and they have challenged me on a daily basis; although I must add that when I first left I had some low paid jobs that sucked the big one – picking potatoes springs to mind.
Others of my friends have not had the same good fortune, but again this does not define them. Numbnuts is now a Senior Project Manager with a large corporation in Cheltenham, he runs a department of 17 personnel and has a company car. He droned on for ages about the minutiae of his job and it was boring as a boring thing that had a good excuse to be boring. I was willing him to stop when I realised that he had not the slightest interest in catching up but was on a massive ego bragfest to show off to me, and hence onto all the others in the veterans group, how successful he had become.
He is under the impression that these things define how successful he is and obviously I would be massively impressed and would want to worship at his feet of greatness. I think it defines how much of a boring b******* he had become.
What Numbnuts needs to do is not try to impress people with what he does in the office and allow this to define who he is but realise what he does between 8 in the morning and 5 in the evening is what he does to earn the money to pay for the things he does that really do define who he is not what he is? Does that make sense? I do not care that he is a Senior Project Manager with a company car, I care that he is happy, not having nightmares, plays golf/football whatever and gets to spend time with his family, who gives a monkey’s arse what he does and how many people work for him? I don’t.
If I am honest I am embarrassed that I now work as an engineer, although I spent the last three years of my army career working directly towards that goal. I studied (and still study) really hard at Open University as I intend to get a degree. I sort of fell into it and my current employers took me on because of the other skills I had but they support me in getting the degree, but I am not ashamed of my job, but neither am I so proud that I will brag my brains out telling everyone wat I do, how many people work for me (none) or how much budget I get to spend.
I meet up with Paddy once a week for a coffee and a chat, I mentioned that I had met up with Numbnuts and Paddy groaned, they met up about a month ago and Numbnuts had judged Paddy 7 ways of Sunday belittled Paddy because of the job he did.
I told him that he should be proud that he has found the job that he is passionate about, I mean, he is absolutely brilliant at it and you can see that he really enjoys his job. The point is he is not defined by what he does nor is he so attached to his job that it is his main point of conversation when we meet, he treats his job exactly as it should be treated, something he is doing that he enjoys that pays his bills and keeps the wolf from the door.
He is not his job; I am not my job. I am far better than my job Paddy is far better than his job, I try to be better at my job in work, but when I meet up I like to talk about everything else other than my job.
As an after comment Numbnuts only asked about family and mutual friends as we were saying goodbye. I do not think that I will be having another brew and a chat with him for a while, but I will be meeting up with Paddy for a coffee and a chat again next week, after all we have a reunion to plan on how to get to where work talk is banned and only stories of daring do and alcohol are allowed.
The attached image was taken from http://www.freeimages.co.uk/