“I’m in it for the challenge, not the money…”

There is not a day that goes by that I do not wonder if people have it all wrong when it comes to working. We are the only species that pays to live on Planet Earth. That’s insane. I get that we need inspirational sayings to get out of bed and justify life in general but to say that I work for the challenge is a stretch. It sounds like something a well trained Millennial thinks about Pokémon Go. Think about it, if they wouldn’t pay you would you still do what you do for a living? Many wouldn’t and it is a shame because we have lost that sense of pride in our work that shaped our grandparents’ generation. I can’t say the same for the Boomers. Most of them definitely work for the money and prestige. That’s the only reason they haven’t retired.

What do you do if you are stuck in that middle ground like me? Do you still claim to work for the challenge? The money is good, not great, and I really wish I had more of a stretch goal or challenge than just teaching and waiting for customer support calls. Yes, I am an engineer and I help other engineers but a call center by any other name is still a call center. I get the same irate and distraught customers Xfinity gets but with a more technical vocabulary. We are always at the receiving end of a dissatisfied and disgruntled customer.

I love having a job and a paycheck or at least I claim I do. It’s not easy to admit that I feel like I am on vacation most days and that I am not being used at a 100% capacity. Earning the paycheck almost feels like stealing candy from a baby. I sit and wait and get paid regardless. Maybe for people like me, the overachieving Type As, this is menial work. For us there is not a job too big to handle which makes it harder to work and live for the challenge; things can be daunting or difficult but not challenging per se. There’s a difference, albeit it trivial. Overcoming a challenge requires that we stretch or grow to find an agreeable outcome whereas addressing difficult situations, for which we already have experience and succeas rates, isn’t a stretch anymore. I feel like Liam Neeson’s character in Taken, happily retired but still capable of working at the higher potential but only doing so for the sake of those I love. To me, the real challenge is getting used to this new normal. Ironic isn’t it? My life is much more complex and entertaining than my job! (Is it the same for the rest of us?)

Nothing about my life is uneventful and I do face every day challenges for the opportunity to excel and not for the money. This provincial life doesn’t pay, it’s voluntary work and effort. As hard as it has been to get over the layoff and the miscarriage, nothing I have ever pulled off at work has had the intricate mix of emotional strain and stress as my real life. Going to work is my hobby, the place where I get a break from balancing multiple tasks at the same time. I get paid to get stuff done. Yay! Hopefully I am not the only one for which this is true. I have more fun at work than at home unless I am alone with my PS4 (until I start losing, grrr). My work life balance has more weight on family than work. I wish it was about level though.

I’m not asking for a harder life or a harder job role; I’m asking for better and wider opportunities to succeed or new directions to stretch into. After eleven years of pushing paper, I’d like to get down and dirty and become more hands on as a teacher and student of science and engineering. I need work environments that challenge my intellect and my business savvy with problems that can be solved, and will be solved, not passed on to the next generation. I want to build and fix it! Therein lies the real quest: To find a place where I can be constantly in quick growth mode. Life can be too slow for me and I get bored too hurriedly. Hence I call it provincial which is a bad problem to have when you are an introvert. All the free time becomes detrimental to my focus and drive allowing me to overthink every eventuality and become weary of the future.

Whenever I see a child, I think of all this wasted potential. They do anything for the challenge, for the recognition and for fun. I want to recapture that time where I was all curiosity and promise. I want to go back to the days when we all had positive thoughts about tomorrow and beyond. With all this talk of war, racism, discrimination and hate, one begins to wonder if we are up to the challenge as a society to sort the muck from the good. Will we ever be able to go back to doing things for the challenge and not the money? I hope so or this experiment we call civilization will crumble under the weight of its own fears and inadequacy. Let us hope and work for better days to come.

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