I’ve always had a job, sometimes more than one, and I’ve always worked hard and done my best. At some of them I failed miserably (I was a horrible waitress and a horrible business person), at others I performed well-enough to meet and occasionally exceed expectations. (I’ve always been pretty good of learning new things on the fly). Most of the time my work has been average, and not valued very highly.
It’s hard to accept being average, though most people are. We all think we’re special, and as individual human beings each of is certainly unique, and special in some way.
I’m talking more about being average talent-wise, and specifically at the jobs we do.
This includes most of the work I’ve done at my current gig at Acme Health Services, where I’ve been for 22 years. Most of my co-workers and the leadership here are medical professionals, and the work I do is not prioritized, not really on their radar, and not really valued in the same way as someone providing health services.
That’s okay. I get paid, and I’m comfortable with who I am and my level of expertise. I’m not the best at what I do. I’m probably not even the second best. I own that. what I lack in talent I make up for in commitment and effort. I try really hard and I take my work seriously. I do my best to meet the needs as they are described to me, and for 22 years, I think I’ve done a good job for an organization whose primary focus is elsewhere.
When I was young I was sure I had special talent. I imagine that we all do. We want to believe that we have something special to offer the world; that we will make an impact. It would be really cool if we could all be that person, but it simply is not the way the world works. Some people really stand out.
That’s okay. It’s great to have your ego stroked. It feels really good, and it affirms your efforts. It’s not fundamental to growth or a good life, however, and in some ways it can be detrimental. If you feel your value as a human is all wrapped up in one ability or attribute, what happens when/if you lose it? Then who are you? My current job is very important to me, but it is only one facet of my life and my history, even my work history. It’s not who I am in total, any more than having brown hair or being a good speller defines me. We’re all complex beings, and most of us work because we have to – primarily. Food is important, and having a place to live is nice, too. You don’t get those things usually unless you have a job. (Yes, sometimes having a job doesn’t guarantee either of those things. I understand that, but that’s a topic for another post.)
I’m struggling with this right now because I’m at the end of my career, and my abilities and my ideas are sometimes reflective of another time. Not always; sometimes I surprise myself and others. I’m willing to defer to younger minds with fresher skills and perspectives.
I really am.
What I’m running into, though, is feeling as though nothing I’ve ever done has been useful or even serviceable. The lovely young people I work with are very open with their opinions about what was happening before they came on the scene, and fairly condescending in the way they treat me due to their assessment of my previous work through the lens of a completely different time and world.
I’m sure this happens to most people as they age in their professions, and the world tries to move on without them, thinking they no longer can keep up. I want to believe that my years of experience and expertise is of value – not to mention that I am still here and there’s creative life in this old brain yet – but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Not new, I know, and I know I’m not alone in this. I know that, too. It’s the way of the world to move on to the next generation’s way of doing things – that’s how we progress as a society and as humans. I get that, and I applaud it. I’m all for change and I envy these young people their ability to effect it. (Having said that, I wouldn’t be young again, especially now, if you gave me all the money in the world!)
I wish I was in a financial position to step aside and let them have at it. As long as my mother is alive I’m not, however. I’m guessing I have to stick around for a couple more years, at least. So I want to be of use and I want to remain relevant, and I have to find a way to convince my new co-workers that I’m still both of those things.
Wish me luck!