I was giving my son advice about his job recently. He was struggling in the way working folks have since long before he or I accepted a job. A job that would make sense only part of the time. A job that would periodically seem like just keeping busy while the the people in offices make arbitrary decisions that affect hundreds if not thousands of employees. A job where the employees feel that distance between where they are and those in the offices making arbitrary decisions.
Why aren't they down here on the floor with us? The worker's lament.
Then I started compiling a list of jobs I have left. I quit Learning Tree Films, where I eventually tired of reboxing filmstrips and cassette tapes that were returned from school districts around the country. My burgeoning social life began to assert itself in ways that a high school senior can understand. My career at Arby's was terminated by yours truly after returning from a week's vacation and discovering that the new management had removed all of my cartoons from the back room and eliminated the clever name tags that were once a part of the reason slinging roast beef was tolerable. And they left me off the schedule. I got out the door just before it caught me on the backside.
I stuck with Target long enough to see my friend go out in a blaze of glory. I unloaded trucks with an everchanging night crew that looked to me for some sort of supervision. When I was offered a job at a video store by that same friend whose blaze of glory was commemorated by a hole in the wall that was bored by high pressure water from a broken sprinkler pipe, I jumped. I jumped and stayed put for a good long while. Long enough that visions of "career" danced in my head.
I didn't leave the video store. The video store left me. New management arrived and ran the business into the ground. I rode it to the end, boxing up all those tapes and preparing the dissolution of that particular empire. When I woke up, I was looking for a transition to something much easier in which to lose myself. After three years of installing steel office furniture, I was offered a transfer to the west coast. Not by the company, but by the woman who would become my wife. I quit installing steel furniture and moved to Oakland where I found a job schlepping books for a book wholesaler. I rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a warehouse manager and was elected to the Board of Directors. I was in management. It was at an employee-owned business, but I was now "the man."
And so I quit. Not because I was unhappy being "the man," but rather because I was offered an opportunity to become a teacher. This was a career. Not a job. That was twenty-six years ago, and even though there are still rumblings about my school quitting me, I am clinging to the notion of retirement. The big quit.
So as it turns out, I have no right to tell my son not to quit his job. It's all I've ever done.