Job Satisfaction

I strongly dislike my job. Not an uncommon complaint, I realize. But it’s not just my job. It’s my career and the industry it serves. I question my rationale for ever getting in this field, really. 30 years doing the same thing, over and over. Different faces and different tasks, sure. But at its core, tedium.

Why did it takes me so long to come to this understanding? It didn’t. I found that out at least ten years ago. The better question? Why did I elect to remain in this livelihood? Short answer: fear of change. For more insight into this recurring theme, check out my previous post. It’s fun stuff!

For the reader, obvs. And I’d say for you also, Bitmoji. That is, if you could read. Which I strongly…

And you’re questioning my intelligence.😂😂

Fair enough, Bitmoji. But life isn’t that easy. There are several factors involved. Like having a mortgage. And kids. And material wants and needs. And the basic problem that I didn’t know what to do with my life. Check that. I didn’t know what to do for a living, not for my life. My identity is not defined by my employer.

Not to “my career doesn’t define me.” I’m referring to the implication that you knew what to do with your life. That’s BS. You stayed in a marriage for more than a decade, knowing the two of you weren’t soulmates. WTF, brah?! Seems to me that in addition to not knowing what to do for a living, you also didn’t know what to do with your life, either.

Again, fair point. I’m getting tired of agreeing with you, Bitmoji. So I didn’t know what to do with my career and my marriage, but I did know that I wanted to be a good father, friend, and person. I just didn’t know how to do it.🤷‍♂️

Getting ready to cry, Markie? Suck it up!!

I wish there was a better emoji to convey my feelings, Bitmoji. The🖕just doesn’t cut it with you. Let’s just ignore him, shall we, Dear Reader?

My feelings of inadequacy were deeply ingrained by my parents. Remember, I called my mom a cunt, reflecting on the past? But after college, I did have a period where I was truly proud of myself. The journey was long—and difficult—but I persevered. Along the way, I endured mocking condescension from family members about the six years required, but in the end, I graduated. I was just the second person in my entire extended who had ever accomplished that task. And I felt good.

The pride and confidence lasted through my first job. It was with the government, and not particularly challenging. That helped, knowing I was competent enough for the assignment. I stayed there 7 years, until we moved back north, reluctantly giving in to my former wife’s demands.

With my second job, the responsibility for metallurgical engineering rested entirely on my shoulders.

Time for a detour, for clarity:

For those of you not familiar with metallurgical engineering, or simply metallurgy, rest assured you are not alone. The amount of times I’ve had to explain my profession is easily in the hundreds. Wikipedia describes it as, “a domain of materials science and engineering that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their inter-metallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are known as alloys. Metallurgy encompasses both the science and the technology of metals; that is, the way in which science is applied to the production of metals, and the engineering of metal components used in products for both consumers and manufacturers.” My own personal definition has morphed a bit, over the years. Previously, I inelegantly described it in a long-winded fashion; now, I’ve settled on “chemical engineering, but restricted to the metallic portion of the periodic table.” Maybe not any more elegant, but certainly more direct and to the point. And it pushes the conversation along, since I’m exhausted with repeatedly describing my vocation.

Metallurgy Porn, back in the day.
Metallurgy Porn, present day. Molten steel is fucking hot: about 2500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Admittedly, there are some aspects of metallurgy that are indeed cool. There’s a certain romanticism associated with it: the fire; the drama; the quasi-alchemy; the history; the black magic; and the engineering marvels that would be lost without it. In our field, there’s a wide variety of alloys (a mixture of chemical elements, one of which is metallic). There’s aluminum, steel, titanium, and nickel-based alloys, to name a few. Each has their own idiosyncrasies, problems, and potential solutions. This diversity of materials is in and of itself, pretty cool. And there are so many different areas to explore in the profession: aircraft failure investigations; extracting ores from the earth; casting; smelting; and forging (or engineered blacksmithing, as some might say). Typing this out, it’s easy to see what attracted me during college (Not knowing my path in life, I enrolled in a History of Metals elective. I was immediately hooked.) Now though, it just doesn’t excite me. I feel like I was destined for something else. What that is? To be determined…

Back to my second job:

As I said before getting sidetracked, my second job placed the entire metallurgical weight on my shoulders. I was a one-man show; there wasn’t a backup, and there wasn’t anyone I could turn to for guidance.

Sigh. Deep breaths, Markie. Deep breaths. Anyway…my second job was waaaaaay more challenging. Plus, I didn’t have anyone to train me. Sink or swim, baby. I swam.

I had to immerse myself in my job. And, I liked it. I was conscientious and hard working; a real go-getter, imo. I still remember a coworker, who later turned out to be a friend, commenting that he’d never been around anyone that made such an immediate and significant contribution. I felt good; I felt proud.

Another detour:

That same friend/coworker recently passed: Turkey Day, 2020. I remember texting him to wish him Happy Thanksgiving and his wife responded, asking me to call. He died in his sleep, she told me. After we hung up, I broke down, weeping. And then I felt like a tool for letting our relationship deteriorate, for not investing the time, for ignoring his calls, for blowing off lunch outings, for not checking in on his health concerns, and for generally being a shitty “friend.” Just another in my long list of life regrets.

With his passing, I also reflected back on happier moments with that same friend. like the time we went on a road trip and passed a guy squatting on the side of the shoulder, pooping 💩. He was literally exposed to the world, with no cars or anything blocking him, not bothering to move the extra three feet to go behind the tree line. There are other moments with him, of course—I knew the dude for over twenty years. But that specific memory always makes me smile. And it makes me realize the importance of investing in friendships, learning from my mistakes in this relationship with him, so I don’t miss out on more memories with others in my life. I do not want to have more regrets of this same variety.

Random photo. In this case, at least he had some sort of coverage form the hedges and tree. In my scenario, nothing. Zero shit-shielding.😀🤷‍♂️

Agreed, Bitmoji. Back to my story, as we need to speed this thing up:

Even with having sole responsibility of all things metallurgical, I excelled. Soon, the job became easy and I coasted, not bothering to learn, not bothering to grow. My daily tasks complete, I’d fuck-off on the internet all day.

After several years of stagnation, I woke up. I pushed myself to obtain a professional engineering license. And that shit was hard. Next, I rapidly carved my own upward path in the company, absorbing new responsibilities until ultimately, I managed the entire facility. Everything was good, when the company was financially healthy. But then, the bottom dropped out. I had to layoff close to twenty people. Firing people was not that difficult, as the individual’s performance was the cause. But with layoffs? Hard as fuck. You’re screwing up someone’s life as a result of the company’s failures, not through any fault of their own. It weighed it my tremendously. I felt like a dick.

Speeding things up even more:

  • Stress mounted, becoming untenable.
  • I was surrounded by more and more assholes. Smarmy, unethical, untrustworthy car salesmen.
  • More $$$ problems resulted in the bank taking over our company. I feared I’d lose my job.
  • I bailed, moving to another company two hours away. With a failing marriage, my family elected to stay behind.
  • The new—and current—company has a long and storied history. With that, they have a wealth of knowledge and vastly superior metallurgists.
  • I immediately developed a inferiority complex. Right now, I feel like a fraud.
  • I discovered I no longer enjoy anything about my career. I want out, and I will be making that happen.

The point? Things happen for a reason. You might not know why, at the time. But with the perspective of time, you obtain the lesson. I stayed in a marriage for far too long, with a person that I just wasn’t compatible with. But through that, I ultimately became a better person. With lots of self-help, I’m more patient, more mindful, less insecure, and I’m…kinder. I have better habits and I’m more empathetic. Without my previous experiences, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And I wouldn’t have met the love of my life, either. (And even if we did meet, we wouldn’t have fallen for each other—I was a different person, with traits that my now-wife wouldn’t have liked.) So for my past—all of it—I thank you.

And my career? So what if it’s taken me this long to realize my purpose lies elsewhere. Time has forged me, molded me, created me. I’m still finding myself. But at least now, I’m looking. I’m no longer living to meet other’s expectations, I’m no longer living someone else’s life.

I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not sure what the future will bring. But I do know what it won’t bring: an unsatisfying career in an industry that does not align with my dharma, my calling in life. For now, I’ll take that as a win.😊

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