Dying Daily #6: Working For Meaning (in meaningless work)

I have always been a marginal employee at best. My wife didn’t believe me when I said I’ve had 30+ jobs, but I was actually able to come up with 42 off the top of my head. I am pretty sure I’ve actually had closer to 60.

I worked at HEB for 4 hours, Schlotzky’s for an hour and a half, The Buckle for 5 minutes. I sold knives and vacuums door to door, but neither lasted a full day. My friend Jen and I were on track to become ballroom dance instructors for 2 whole days. I’ve been fired on my day off and, once, in the midst of a blackout. I often went to lunch and just never returned.

I’ve come to realize that every job has the potential to be meaningful if we let it though, and that much of my patchy employment history may just be my own fault.

Many of my employers were decent, and at the very least they offered me an opportunity to make my own meaning from my job. I first really learned this working at hotels. I could have just been an idiot behind a counter in a denim shirt and $7 tie, but for some reason I chose to be the friendly face that people got to see while they were away from home. I got to be nice to people who were stressed out from being on the road. I got to break up a fight between my manger and a giant ball of steroids who was angry because hotel employees kept walking in on him while he was in the bathroom with the door open. He came barreling out of his room on the second floor and pointed at my manager like Hulk Hogan used to do when he was making his big comeback.

It was awesome.

I got to talk to a meth dealer about his life choices after the girl he hooked up with the night before stole all of his aforementioned meth, and his portable DVD player. I got to help people try to find rooms when the town was sold out because of football games and graduation, and twice I had people stay at my house because they were in town for the hospital and there was nowhere to stay. I almost got into a fight with Ted Nugent. I still have a copy of his rider. He likes real goose down pillows and the Wall Street Journal outside his room in the morning. English language only.

I think he overestimated the level of service that the Lubbock Ramada offers.

Oh, and he lists all of his rooms under Ted Emporalis.

Yep, Emperor Ted.

Anyway, because I allowed myself to invest, I enjoyed my work, and they enjoyed having me there. I was a good employee, and I felt like I was doing more than just trading hours of my life for a set amount of dollars. I could have done this at any of my jobs if I had been living with any sort of consciousness.

Waiting tables could have been an opportunity to make people’s night a little more pleasant and to ensure a smooth meal for them, but instead I was the kid who “forgot” to turn in their order if they got on my nerves. Doing electrical work could have been an opportunity to have a positive impact on the people I worked with and learn a valuable trade, but instead I decided to drink on the job every day. Turns out, that will get you fired too. Even Walmart had opportunity. I could have been the knowledgeable and useful guy who helped you find what you were looking for in the hardware section and get out of Walmart just a little faster, which everyone is happy to do. Instead, I was the guy who mixed up all the weird paint colors to see what they looked like and left the lids on the cans loose so they would explode inside the shaking machine.

I think any job can offer us the opportunity to help others, to offer them something worthwhile if we are willing to step out and do a little more than required. It is definitely better than just passing time and watching the hours of our life drain away for nothing.