Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Being True

I’m writing this entry about my job plans a little earlier than expected due to a curve-ball I got at work today.

My department director called me in unexpectedly to ask if I would take on a special project, of indeterminate length with indeterminate duties. I would receive a temporary pay increase of 10% as long as the special assignment lasts. The job description is vague, but it entails things I’ve never done before: coordination among different agencies, networking, creating social service plans, managing politics and personalities. It is not something on my own that I would ever choose or seek out.

I have until tomorrow to decide.

My plan for this year has been to stay in my current position at least through October. The rationale for that decision is that in October I will be vested in my retirement plan, which means that if I left this organization anytime after that, the money could sit in the retirement account, earning interest, and when I turned 60, I could withdraw that money and the plan would match all contributions and interest at a 2:1 ratio.

Here are the numbers: if I stop making contributions in October that money plus interest would grow to an estimated $40,000 by the time I was 60. The system would match that amount at the ratio and I would have $120,000 available to me. I know that’s not a lot of money, and probably will be small change due to inflation in 30 years, but still, it would be some form of retirement, of security, if I decided to become a flunky and never pay into any kind of retirement plan every again, aside from Social Security.

I am not happy in my current job. I have found myself on an increasing basis feeling resentful, cynical and apathetic. But I decided I would stay at least 10 more months as part of a long-sighted vision for my own future. I did decide, however, that I would seek another position within the same organization, which I have done, and I even interviewed for a different position last week.

And now, out of the blue, I’ve been offered this special assignment. I’ve been a weepy wreck tonight, because I don’t think this is a job that would make me any happier than my current position. The truth is that I don’t really know, because the job description is so vague. I do know that it will be more hours, more stress and lots of frustration. I also know that as of this moment, I have no clue as to what sort of job --any kind of job -- would bring me satisfaction.

But I realized tonight that one reason this has brought forth such emotion is that whatever decision I make, I am still being an impersonator in my life, spending a great deal of my time doing work that feels duplicitous. I do good work and I know that I have the ability to do a good job with this special assignment. I have skills that I put to use in my work, but only because I have a work ethic and a sense of personal responsibility. Otherwise, I feel sometimes like I’m walking around with one of those carnival plywood cutouts – the one with the painted body of a character with your head superimposed on it. I’m not being true to myself, I’m marking time.

And yet, I think deciding to mark time in this case is a prudent, wise, rational, conservative, pragmatic, boring decision. I think I should look towards my future retirement. If this vestment issue were not a factor, I think I would be looking furiously for work outside of this current organization.

How do I make it through the next 10 months without feeling completely fraudulent? How can I feel that I am remaining true to at least some part of myself? How can I not feel like my daily life is akin to an out-of-body experience?

Everybody makes compromises in life, the question is, which compromise is too far? Which one will damage you? Is not our character, our moral fiber, made up of the daily decisions we make?

What will the decision I make tomorrow say about me?


At 5:52 AM, Blogger neca said...

Good luck. I don't know enough about you or the situation to make a very intelligent comment. Would I be doing my job if I won the lottery? Uh, no. But I enjoy it mostly, and it takes care of me & my family. And it is with a company that I think tries to do the right thing for its customers while earning a profit.

If you quit tomorrow, can you take your pension with you to reinvest in an IRA or something, or is it just gone? That would be a lot of give up since you put it in.

At 1:39 PM, Blogger Jank said...

As you said, you've got two choices - The first is a known: Marking time for another 10 months. Little risk involved, little additional reward. Kind of like a savings account.

The second - stepping out of a comfortable role into one that's uncomfortable, undefined, and slightly more risky. But, there is at least an immediate cash payoff.

With the second choice, there's also opportunity. The position is poorly defined, which means that you have an above average chance to define it to fit your talents and your interests. Which might further your opportunities at your current orginization beyond 10 months - you might create the job you want out of the job nobody else wants.

Even on the downside, you're only looking at sticking it out with the current employer for another 10 months. Provided you don't completely screw up the new assignment, worst case is that you go back to your old comfortable post (with perhaps your tail between your legs) and finish out the last 4-6 months.

I love using skiing as an analogy for life - carving gentle S curves on the wide greens is fun. But the real rush - endorphins by the gallon - is up there, picking a new line on a double black diamond, on the ragged edge of control, just a misstep from certain death from dashing your head on a tree, rock, or heading over the edge.

There's not a wrong decision here. Keep doing good work in either case. Focus on the level and type of discomfort at work you're willing to accept...

At 4:47 PM, Blogger jez said...

I may be even too late coming in on this. They didn't give you much time to mull it over did they? The thing that comes foremost in my mind to say is: read Joe Campbell. If you've already read him - read him again.

Blessings on ya,

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Lara said...

Sorry, jc was me :)

At 5:22 PM, Blogger brent said...

i'm late to reading this entry! booo. i hope your decision finds you well by the time you read this comment. i think that while some may trivialize work (its just a job etc), what we do as a way to earn a living has such a big impact on us even when we are not at "the office". i don't know what i'm trying to say but i hope you make the best decision for you! and nothing wrong with working a new assignment for another 10 months and checking out future opportunities at the same time. good luck, let us know what happens :)


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