Hands Holding Up Heart Sign

The Weird Question


It was a Wednesday and I was finishing up a cup of coffee at the coffee shop. One of the guys who is a regular was heading out, too. I asked if he was looking forward to enjoying some great fall weather.

“Nah, not this week,” he said. “I’m closing up at the store for the rest of the week. I won’t get done ‘til 10:30 at the earliest.”

I asked what he did for a living and he told me he was a bookkeeper for a big box store.

“Do you like it?” I said.

He paused, as though the question was one he hadn’t thought of before. “Well, I’ve been doing it for 18 years.”

“And do you like it?”

He repeated the 18-year part, like I hadn’t heard him. Then, to clarify his answer, as if he might be talking to a small child, he added, “I’ll be 40. I just got into the 401K program. Eighteen years is a long time.”

I was going to ask the question again but decided not to.

On the way out to my car, I saw another regular heading in to coffee. I think his name is Tim. He’s a likeable guy, always with a smile. I asked what he had planned for the day.

“Working… for a little while, anyway. I got two months ‘til they force me out.”

It turns out he is a restaurant manager. But the company was sold and the new owners are looking to make some changes, especially among the higher paid employees.

“What will you do?” I asked.

He shrugged, “Try to find the same thing, I guess.”

“Do you like it?”

He paused too, like the first guy, “Well, I started in 1974.”

“And do you like it?”

He gave me a strange look, and again like the first guy repeated the 1974 part. He then added what seemed obvious to him: “What else would I do?”

Isn’t that strange? We are open about whether we like the weather, the meal we just ate at a restaurant, the car we own, the neighborhood we live in, the movies we see, or the music we listen to—but when we are asked about work, where we spend a third of our lives, we are stumped, perhaps even uncomfortable.

We grill new graduates almost daily about the importance of finding a job they love, a career of passion, but then we studiously avoid the question for the rest of our lives.

Now, I’m not saying you need to have a job you love. I am saying you need to have a life you love, and it’s perfectly okay to stop and ask yourself if there are some ways to improve it.

It’s your life. Why not figure out how to make it the best possible one?

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