Last week, I devoted a post to considering some assumptions I carried around as I grew up and joined the world of work. If you want to check my earlier comments, click here – you may find some familiar thoughts: Still Waiting (Part 1)
Now to think about the expectations I created for myself based on those assumptions. Here’s the short list:
I expected to always be employed by someone else …
The concept of self-employment was foreign to me and to those who influenced me as I was growing up. Surprisingly, most of the people I knew were self-employed: Farmers or small business owners.
However, the message I received from most adults was simple: Prepare to work for someone else for a very long time, then retire. I guess this was the gold ring of working
I expected to always be working …
I don’t mean the idea of never retiring here, since the idea of being old enough to retire was so nebulous I did not consider it at all. I mean that I expected to always have a job (see “working for someone else”), because almost everyone I knew worked, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, or cultural background.
This might be a good time to note that most of the adults I knew worked and lived on family farms, and they worked every day doing farm chores, if nothing else. You do not really retire if you live on a farm … you just work at home.
Working was just what people did.
I expected challenging, but always doable work …
This came a little later, after my first attempts at working in part-time and temporary jobs in many places. I learned that one has to learn how to do a thing, but also that once I learned how to effectively do that one thing, life became very easy from a work perspective.
Early successes piled up and I developed the sense that I was so intelligent that I could handle anything. I was confusing the ability to understand a thing with being able to do that thing.
We think we are too cool to fail …
I expected the world to stay relatively consistent with my experiences …
While events occurred and shifts were felt, much of life, especially in my home town and surrounding area stayed much the same as it had been for decades. I found going home akin to taking a short jaunt in a time machine.
I was sensitive to the generations which coexisted, but did not yet connect the dots of change. Change was something that happened Out There somewhere … and that was where I thought I existed.
I expected to always be most up-to-date …
A conceit of youth is that we think we are always the “hip” ones, and have just invented thinking, enjoyment, and sex. Because we grow up with a technology, we consider ourselves as the benchmark for competency, even though we will lose this crown as soon as the next technological wave comes along.
Never understood then why my parents were visibly unimpressed with my latest and greatest technological wonders.
I expected to always be happy …
Being young is a time of exuberance and optimism for the most part … nicely combined with all those self-doubts and egocentric concerns that we try so hard to mask.
Maybe because when we are young, we want so desperately to be happy, we romanized the concept as the end-all and final solution to our life’s quest.
Later, we find out that happiness is elusive sometimes … and not necessarily the source of our greatest growth as people.
… Well, all my deeply held expectations did not work out like I had planned.
My current reality includes working for myself, with periods of “unemployment“, and a daily challenge to understand a rapidly and consistently changing workplace.
I struggle to stay relevant … which brings me to the third and last chapter of this little navel-gazing exercise.
Still Waiting Part III (What We Need to Learn Now) … coming soon to a computer screen near you.
Reflecting cautiously on old assumptions and false hopes in the Heartland ….
Inspiration: Life Reimagined (Leider and Webber, 2013)