my worth

I never talk about it but it’s always on my mind. I miss working. A lot.

I was always a guy whose identity, and unfortunately sense of self-worth were tied into my job. Not only that I have a respectable job, but also fulfilling and gratifying. I took this notion way too far, I was never able to leave my work at the door when I left. When work was good, I was happy and it spilled over into my home life. When it wasn’t, it affected my entire ability to function. I had heard the term “work to live, not live to work” but it just didn’t apply to me. I was a workaholic in that it permeated every aspect of my life, often with major ramifications.

I rode the roller coaster for years. It seemed to have started when I met my wife to be. I was working at a restaurant. I was merely a laborer making a meager living but I suppose I was happy. Shifting between dishwasher and part-time line cook in training I was recovering from a major motorcycle accident, trying not to think about having recently dropped out of college and making just enough money to drink myself to the point that I was unable and unwilling to think about my problems. Occasionally I reflected on my life just enough to recall my favorite line from Animal House:

But I only reflected on it long enough to get a little chuckle and then I resumed my ways. It wasn’t until I began dating my future wife that I realized, or was told that I could and should do better. It wasn’t until I got Testicular Cancer that I took my vocational career more seriously and as I was recovering from the surgery I filled out some applications. I landed a job at Enterprise Rent A Car. It would require that I work 7 days a week, 2 at the restaurant to keep my health insurance but I did it. The job sucked but they promised that any employer will jump at the name of Enterprise on a resume.

They were right. I landed a job at a Salvage Auto Auction. Everyone in my training class was from Enterprise. This job led me to the wholesale auction industry and it was there that I would stay for twenty years. Sales, Sales Mgmt., customer relations, budgets, administration, team-building and logistics appeared on my resume. By the time I met a guy at a cocktail party looking for everything on my resume I was ready for a amazing position for a change because everything to that point had sucked. My previous jobs had been good enough to keep me balanced at home and I liked them just enoughto keep my self-esteem balanced. But I wanted and deserved better.

The new job would prove to be the one that actually made me feel like an all-around success. I was good at it. Better than my new boss ever suspected I could be. My owner referred to me in front of his high-powered and very successful buddies as “the best in the industry”. I was an appraiser, a master at being a liaison between the higher-ups and my customer base. I solved problems. I saved money. I was busy…

my desk any given day…

I found solutions and implemented systems and just often enough to satisfy the soul…I actually helped someone occasionally. My work life and home life were in perfect balance (except for the fact that my wife was never happy and my marriage was going to hell).

I began to spend more time at work. It was my happy place. I was surrounded by people that made me happy and away from the yelling and the constant demands from wifey that I make more money. Perhaps one of my favorite things in my office was my shrine to my upbringing, the top shelves of my enormous bookcase that held my tribute to the amazing family members that kept me going, with a special nod to my father and grandfather.

The Opus doll, well that’s a no-brainer. Bloom County was always a favorite. The Charlie Brown and Looney Tunes mug, well that’s my childhood in a nutshell. The baseball, my son gave me the game ball after he lined his first double over an 11 year old’s head in Little League. The model cars never failed to make me smile as I am a shameless car lover. The model trucks were a makeshift shrine to my father. The license plate was from 1929 and was once on my grandfather’s first car.

While work was mostly good for me, I often found myself staring at one or more of those objects during the course of the day. They made me happy and provided a little slice of home when I couldn’t be there and a reminder of who I was and where I came from in moments of weakness.

When I lost my job due to illness, packing those items was the most difficult thing for me. I loved my shrine.

Those items now sit in cold storage along with my career and my self-worth. I no longer have my career to give me an identity. My value to society seems somehow less. I no longer make the same difference in people’s lives. Nobody, including my children, seem to need me anymore. Most of the advice I give my children seems unsolicited as they are older and finding their own way. Of course they come to me sometimes but I’m used to being a constant resource at work and home.

I need to find another way to evaluate what exactly on earth I am meant to do before I die of pure, abject boredom.