Keeping ambitions in perspective
A powerful life lesson from a conversation with my father
I had a conversation with my dad. He works in a machine shop making parts for aerospace. The company seems ever on the verge of bankruptcy. His coworkers keep making wasteful mistakes. And he hasn't gotten a raise in years.
To me, that doesn't sound like a good job. It's not a bad job, he says.
My dad knows what it's like to have worked bad jobs. When he immigrated to the U.S. in the 70s, his first job was working in a textile mill in Georgia. He shared with me about the horrible working conditions: a hot and humid, dusty, fast-paced, hazardous environment. OSHA was barely a thing back then.
He didn't have many options. My dad didn't know much English. He didn't have a college degree. He also did janitorial work and odd jobs before driving cross-country and starting a new life in California.
Since then, he has worked for a number of companies large and small. The job he has now - to him in his late 60s - is his best option. He can retire now, but then my mom wouldn't have health insurance. So he plans to work a few more years or until the company doesn't need him anymore.
I appreciated the conversation. It was a good reminder to keep things in perspective. Check my privilege, I suppose.
Not everyone can walk away from their jobs. Not everyone can find a higher-paying, less stressful role. Based on their age or background, many people are indeed in their best option. And while a job may have its issues, that doesn't mean it's a bad job.
In the excitement of our career ambitions, of moving onto bigger and better things - higher salaries, remote positions, understanding bosses, genuine workplace cultures - let us be self-aware and sensitive in how we communicate.
We can seek all these things without minimizing the honest work of others.
We can recognize our earning potential without sounding entitled or out of touch.
We can change careers without acting superior to those in our old profession.
We can be grateful for what we have. We can pursue more. We can be mindful of those from other walks of life. All these things can be true at the same time.
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