Mentally re-framing my life

This blog has been silent for nearly two weeks, and during that time the standard drama of life has played on. An unexpected but quite welcome guest stayed longer due to recovery from surgery, which changed up the routine enough to add stress. Two less than perfectly scheduled work trips popped up. Other projects at work have ground on, and will grind on, and little by little I’m grinding or being ground down right along with them. I’ve found myself exhausted on a routine basis lately.

Recently I took a standard yellow Post-It note and wrote the words, “This is your reality, accept it. There is no alternative.” and placed it on the computer monitor bezel, as a reminder that I am where I am, doing the work that I’m tasked, and that there are no real alternatives left for me. For the previous three years I’ve been considered for promotion, obviously that hasn’t happened and this year has no indications of being any different, and so the potential options of different work in a different setting are equally minuscule.

Through reflection I discovered that it is easier to accept the fact that I have a job, but not a career. A career is something that has advancement up some sort of chain, while a job is something where the advancement is more in the level of skill you have to put into the work. A plumber is a plumber, a machinist is a machinist, and you will pay more for highly skilled plumbers or machinists than apprentices or entry level journeymen. A doctor, or lawyer, or military officer, can expect to advance away from being a grunt worker bee in an organizational hierarchy towards a position in administration, department leadership, or even transitioning to teaching/mentoring with pay reflective of an advancement (getting a master machinist or welder to teach is quite often a step down in pay). Recognizing that my work no longer has that possibility is rather liberating. I don’t have a career, despite wearing the same rank and uniform as people who do still have a career.

In short, the level of excellence I can bring to a job is dictated by me, while the level of excellence in anyone’s career includes a bunch of external factors. In terms of external factors that could change my situation, there is nothing left but false hope that needs to be ignored, and a pension that will come as I hit the mandatory retirement point provided that I don’t screw up royally between now and then.

There is now no avenue for me to really give back to the military community in any meaningful way, only show up each day and perform my tasks and duties with all the dedication and energy I can muster. And I will continue to do that, rowing as hard as I can for as long as I can, because whether or not I have a career or merely a job, I’m still a professional.

It was painful to abandon the image I held of myself as a career man, someone who invested into an organization and could continue to find value in that investment. I still wish that such possibilities remained, however wish in one hand and defecate into the other and it becomes clear which will fill up first.

So what to do now. Logically since I know when I will be separated, I should begin specific preparations for that transition and obtaining follow on employment. Unfortunately very few institutions have a hiring cycle years out. Putting that thorny little problem aside brings me right back to my current reality, and the necessity to embrace it.

I also need to get serious about a financial audit for the impending changes. With more than 24 months left to go now is the time to ensure the financial house is prepared for the transition.

No one said I needed to like my reality, and I certainly don’t. But even those who do have a real career eventually hit the point where they cannot stay any longer, and must transition out. I assume that they can look on their entire work history and feel that they had a successful career, which is something that I can no longer do. I can look on my work history and be proud, but the roller coaster ride I took is certainly not a successful career.

But for the next few short years I have a job, and it pays well enough to keep the wife happy. It isn’t what I wanted, but it is what I got myself into, and there is nothing left to do but drive forward.

Honestly all this navel gazing really isn’t useful, but somehow it has become necessary for me to go through it and find some level of zen or stoic acceptance to my situation. Since the internet is forever, maybe these words will help someone else in the future come to terms with the death of their career, and transitioning to having only a job.

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5 Responses to Mentally re-framing my life

  1. Dick B says:

    Forwarded to my son, who’s in a similar situation, in the Sheriff’s Office. I think he’ll find it useful
    and helpful. When you leave, you can do so knowing you did all you could. and the Army is
    better for your service. It’s disheartening to realize they don’t appreciate your efforts, but
    remember they are the immutable ‘They’; obtuse, oblivious, obsessed with their own magnificence.

    And as it is, it always was. Good folks get shit on.


  2. Anon Amos says:

    Thank you. The only thing I have seen that I can count on when it comes to wisdom is- I never know where I shall find it. You, sir, have passed along wisdom today- I needed to hear it, even if I no longer have my chosen work, through no fault of my own ( Acquired a disability with no “notice” given . Dark snark there ) and now struggle to perform formerly simple things, and must forgo entirely what had been the bulk of my life and livelihood. That, by the way, is the longest run-on sentence I’ve composed in some time, though it seems grammatically correct, and shorter than some put down by Faulkner.
    Again, thank you, sir.


  3. DW says:

    Wow, I have been on an extended work project for several weeks. Did not see this post coming. Self-reflection is a tough train to ride. Certainly when you’re deeply vested in something, there is definitely a mental component to overcome/readjust too. That said, the “politically correct” army is just throwing another dedicated and committed troop out the door. Their ( and our ) loss. Unfortunately from the limited contacts I have there, it’s a sad, ongoing trend.

    That said, based on what I know from your blogging and the 3 year time frame, I am confident in a good outcome. You’ve got a good window of time to test the waters on paths to take as it were. Certainly your experience managing folks is a valuable skill. Based on what I see at almost every client I visit is that managers don’t know or don’t want to manage people. Poor management is pervasive in current US businesses. Then there’s all your tactical knowledge, I am sure that there are avenues for that if you want to go that path – either PMC or just training orgs/gigs. And you have some serious skills with gunsmithing & reloading, so that’s also a possible path or side-gig.

    But what I really want to press upon you is that you have some real potential in two other areas. First your IT technical skills seem pretty good from what I have seen in the blog. No idea the reality, but like anything else, skills need to be used/exercised. Regardless, IT is a valuable skill-set that you can leverage in any business now.

    Finally your chops as a writer. All the short stories you have published have been really good. Obviously writing is a tough gig, but the short glimpses you have printed show promise. For a lot of reasons, I have a strong love/hate relationship with amazon, but I can’t deny that it has made the writing/publishing business available to anyone. Again, maybe it starts as a side gig/hustle, but with all your time in and experience/travel, I am sure you have seen some “things” putting it mildly. There’s a ton of “former operators” for lack of a better term, publishing all kinds of nonsense on amazon. With your background I am sure that there’s quite few stories in that head of yours.

    As a long-time blog reader, I am not trying to pump sunshine up your butt or minimize the impact of the separation reality and in reality I don’t know if any of the above things I mentioned are a realistic consideration, but the point is – you’ve got options – and I think some are pretty good options.

    Best of luck moving forward!


    • rthtgnbs says:

      Thanks! Sorry that your comment spent so long in the spam filter, for some reason my blog has been targeted by a lot of European and Russian spambots and for some reason wordpress didn’t auto-approve you.


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