When I look back at my working life, I usually reflect on the negatives. I’m not purposefully a glass half-full kind of person, but it does seem that’s my default. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the positives, and there were a few surprises.
I was reading a golf psychology book, as I am wont to do, and there was a reference to the old nursery rhyme:
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream
I’m not the first to realize this could be a beautifully simple guide to happiness. As I reflected on the meaning behind these lyrics, it occurred to me I sometimes row hard in the other direction because that’s the way I want to go, damn it.
But wait! Is there a benefit to rowing with the current? Going with the flow? Imagine.
Here’s where we come back to my work experience. I was stuck in a nice but dead-end job and couldn’t seem to find a way out. When I wasn’t working, I spent all my time on the job search. I had a few memorable interviews but no offers.
Only one person at work knew I was on the hunt. I actually didn’t know her well but somehow decided she was the one to trust. That’s a little telling, isn’t it?
Anyway, one day I whined I couldn’t get a job. She said, “That’s because it wasn’t your job. When it’s your job, the doors will open.”
Indeed. After interviewing for a job in Minnesota because by that time I would go anywhere, the hiring manager called to tell me I didn’t get it, but they thought I would be a good fit for their company. He offered to shop my resume around, and that led to an interview in Texas.
When they offered me the job, Dale and I stopped to think it through. What if it didn’t come with relocation? The next day they emailed me a document outlining the relo assistance, and it was amazing. Then Dale said, what about my job? Within days, he was laid off and got a nice exit package. And that’s how it all rolled out.
I went from a local utility in South Carolina to a large multinational Fortune 100 company, and while I was quite competent in my field, this was the big show. Easier for some than others. Having been raised by wolves, I had limited social acumen and not a lot of workplace savvy.
But I needed this job, and I was hellbent on figuring it all out. In addition to some great mentoring, the company offered lots of training, especially on the soft skills such as ethics, diversity and interpersonal communications, and I absorbed all of it.
Yes, some might say it was all about being politically correct, but at least we weren’t punching out flight attendants. I have developed new appreciation for having both feet planted solidly on the high ground. Only recently did it occur to me some of those nuances of behavior I learned at work are worth preserving in retirement.
Kind of like the monster’s transformation in Young Frankenstein, it turns out I liked having a calmer brain and a more sophisticated way of expressing myself. Communicating to make someone else more comfortable. Listening rather than telling. Remembering to say and instead of but. You do it enough, and you sort of become the person you were trying to be.
Even though I’ve previously harbored resentment over some of my work experiences, I can now see how the flow took me to a place where I could explore this better version my myself. The wolves had their charms but didn’t exactly give us a good head start.
That’s what I’ve been up to lately. Still learning. Sciatica is nearly gone. I’m walking a lot, playing golf and swimming. Lots of deep breathing – in through the nose, out through the mouth. I’m as surprised as anyone I could spend quality blogging time on all this touchy-feely stuff, but pain changes you.
And strangely enough, it’s not all bad if you go with the flow.
Donna Pekar is an aging badass (for real) who lives in California and writes Retirement Confidential.