Its uncharted territory this. More than twenty years without a break in my employment and now here I sit without work. It was my choice to head down this path. I could have taken the new contract starting the day after the one that was ending. There is certain comfort in taking that next predictable step but there too lies boredom and the hollow silence of a challenge not faced. I chose instead a less certain but potentially more rewarding option.
Sometimes, however, the silence of the challenge is sweet, a rare peacefulness across the landscape. Facing a challenge and deciding against it can have its own satisfaction. As a younger man I faced a challenge that would have put my career in a higher gear than I had ever imagined possible but the conditions were perfect and I sat across the desk from vast opportunity. I was younger then but still old enough to understand that life has balance and steps down a given path preclude those of another.
It was a rare glimpse into my future that I didn’t understand at that time but through the corrected vision of nearly 20 years I see now that the message was written in 72 point bold that I can now read clearly across the years. Of course now I have become accustomed to holding things at a distance to read them, further proof that the eyes with which I view the world today are not the same as I had back then but that’s not really the point here.
I made the right choice back then and never looked back to question but it was the context of the challenge that I missed completely at the time. It is the context that is now so stark to me. That bold a move was unacceptable in my micro culture, the group of folks I chose to surround me. An “All Our Kin” type of servitude where individual success is perceived as a threat to the larger group. Failure would have been acceptable to the group, expected even, but it wasn’t an option for me and I knew I could meet the challenge of the career but not likely the obstacles placed by the group.
So here today I sit having faced the challenge and made the bold move but the funding fell through so the work didn’t materialize. I prepared for this option, age does provide at least some wisdom, but the fact is that I have much more to lose this time around. I should say materially I have more to lose but the micro culture in which I have successfully landed doesn’t define my value by my career success or failure. While my recent choice has left me thinner of wallet, my ongoing decision to more effectively manage my life has made me richer in friendship and more confident in my ability to make the right choices.
I’m less inclined to make decisions based on my fears of the outcome and more inclined to decide apodictically. Just this morning I consulted with a potential employer, dissected the issue they were proposing I resolve and helped them decide on a solution that didn’t include me. They had the funding and the will to proceed. I could have given them what they were asking for. It just wouldn’t have been the right solution to meet their business intention. Had my fear of unemployment directed my participation, I may well have won the contract. As it is I won their respect, kept my self-respect and likely won a place in the front of their Rolodex the next time a problem in my domain presents itself.
And then I will get to face the challenge of another choice...