Some things can make me feel so stupid. At work, I sometimes find myself in a situation where someone is asking me a question – and I have no idea what the answer is. Thing is, I should know the answer – but more likely than not I haven’t cared enough about it previously to learn it. I may have heard it a thousand times, but I just filter it right out. Thing is, I usually don’t learn until I’m burned. By that I mean I really only learn things that I don’t care about in one of two ways: by rote, or because I have to learn them. I don’t learn the answer to a question until I’m put on the spot and embarrassed for not knowing it. I don’t pick up on things unless I’m immersed in them every day. I ignore important details because I simply don’t care. It’s all about what I find interesting I guess. I am able retain knowledge I don’t care about – but if I do it’s either because I know it by heart and don’t have to commit brainspace to it or someone’s called me out for not knowing it before. It somewhat comes down to being selfish I think. I don’t want to be embarrassed, so the memory of feeling like a heel spurs me to commit something to memory.
If I care about, or am interested in, something – it sticks up there whether or not I will it. Even tho I didn’t intend for the derivation of the quadratic formula to be burned in my head, it’s there. I didn’t purposely memorize the lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” they just stuck. My dumb old head just works that way. I don’t care about stuff I don’t care about and I don’t like doing things I don’t like to do. My selfish head will bypass stuff I should know; or commit it to rote for the short-term so I can get by, then trash it when the immediate need to remember it is gone. I’ve always been about “just getting by” when it comes to learning stuff I have no interest in. However, when it comes to learning about something that intrigues me – I attack it with some kind of hunger. Devouring all I can find and retaining a surprising amount of it for the long term.
That’s one of the things that bugs me about work (not my specific job, but work in general). Ideally, my job would involve a knowledgebase that I enjoy having and knowing. I want to have a job where I want to learn more, where I want to know that extra tidbit that sets me apart from the other guy. My best example comes from working in the music store. I used to get so much respect for how much I knew about music. My recommendations were pretty much always lauded, and eventually I had a returning-customer base who asked for me because they knew and trusted me. I liked knowing what I knew, and what’s more, it fed my ego to know it.
A job where you’re respected and praised for your knowledge, that’s what I enjoy most. I have occasional burst of that now, but the thing is – I have to care about every bit of the material related to my job in order to gain enough expertise and win that respect. If I don’t care about it, I don’t learn it, and then I don’t get that respect. Bottom line?, gimme a job doing something I intensely enjoy: webpages, music, writing, etc., and maybe it won’t even seem like a job. I shouldn’t complain, I do like what I do right now – but I find myself saddled with that same attitude of “who cares” in way too many instances. So, like so much of my academic past, I fake my way through and buckle down when I have to – and somehow get good at it.
Back in gradeschool they used to tell me, “You just can’t fake your way through middle school David, it’s the real deal.” Then, as I was graduating from three years of faked-through middle school they’d say, “Mister, you better really buckle down come high school. You just can’t breeze your way through there, there’s no ‘faking it’ in high school. You’ll be swimming with the big fish there.” Shortly after I faked my way to 6th in class and a full scholarship, my guidance counselor said “This is it David, you’re an adult now and this is your life. You won’t be able to fake your way through a job, so you better get straight.” Screw ’em, I’ll keep on fakin’. Feigning interest in whatever it takes to keep a paycheck, but secretly (between you, and me, and the entire internet), not giving a damn about anything but what I want to. Bollocks to them all, this is one ne’er-do-well who will always work the system as much as possible.
I’m truly happy when I’m listening to music and writing or reading. I’m truly happy when I’m camping or hanging with my good friends. I’m truly happy every day when I come home to my wife. I’m truly happy when I’m working on our house or yard. I’m truly happy when I can wake up in the morning knowing I have no set plans for the day, even more happy if I know the same for the next day too. I’m truly happy when I can “get away” and spend time with family or even by myself. I wonder if, regardless of vocation, there will always be that need for release via “getting away” from whatever it is that becomes your “daily grind.” Maybe true happiness only comes with the autonomy that retirement or winning the lottery brings? Yeah right.
I’ve said it to Anthony many times. While drifting down the river on his boat, no destination, no time to be back, nothing on my mind but what a nice day it is and how comfortable I am: “Dude, this is why I work.” It’s true. I work not to “better myself,” or “get ahead,” or “make a name for” myself; I work so I can enjoy the times when I’m not working. So I can pay my bills and afford to buy Anthony a tank of gas for the favor of a day on his boat. So I can afford the gear I need to take three days off and climb Half Dome with my friends. So I can take Sharaun to a nice steak dinner and still afford her favorite candy at the movie. All those self help books that talk about getting ahead and getting noticed or whatnot, you can have that trash. I need surprisingly few things to make me truly happy, and work is not one of them. Unfortunately, by way of association – money is. Not money itself mind you, but money nonetheless. So, I work. And will continue to do so. Work is a (by and large unfulfilling) means to an end.
Wow, a semi-personal entry, a thing of blog lore. I admit to a bit of job dissatisfaction (in that it’s not my #1 dream job), I admit that my learning is largely selfishly motivated, and I admit that I need some ego stroking to make me truly happy.
In other news, I found this article quite relevant.