Thursday, October 13, 2011

Working Hard Or Hardly Working?

I used to think that hard work would lead to bigger and better things in my life. I practice a strong work ethic whenever I do work. I give the best effort I can when I'm working. At times this hard work and enthusiasm seemed to pay off. For instance I landed a contract position as a computer programmer while I was still in college. I impressed the man who made the contract with me. I went to work every day and school at night. It seemed to be working.

Then suddenly the money dried up. The man said there was none. I kept working, though, in hopes of impressing this man into hiring me full-time. The man who financed the company offered me a rent-free apartment, which certainly helped. But I could no longer afford to go to school.

I kept that up for a year and a half, working for almost nothing, just a few bucks every now and then to tide me over. The man who hired me bought a new Trans Am. I had a beat up old Ford Maverick that needed a lot of work, and of course, gasoline that I could not afford, even back in those days. Then the manager of the apartments told me I had to start paying rent or get kicked out.

I read the writing on the wall and left, moving from Tallahassee, FL, to Tampa. I found temporary work and worked that job to death. I got a call from my old boss who wanted me to come do some work for him, over a weekend. We negotiated what I felt was a fair deal (boy was I naive.) And I came back for a weekend. My transmission failed on my car on the way up. An unexpected expense that hurt my profits for that deal. Later on I found out he was bad-mouthing me when people called for references. Some boss he was!

But I was still working full-time, even if it was for a temporary agency. It was clerical work. I made a few friends and even played softball with them.

Then I got sick, coughing up phlegm to the point where my supervisor was concerned about the safety of the rest of the people in our office. I did not have insurance. I did go to a doctor, but the damage had been done, my supervisor arranged for the temporary service to find someone else. Hard work wasted. I often wonder if maybe I worked too hard, making myself sick in the process.

Flash forward a few years, and I'm in  Denver, working as a data entry clerk for US West. I worked hard, got noticed, and then the office closed, and I was offered a transfer to Omaha. I worked hard there too, got noticed, but the supervisor there didn't seem to like me much, possibly because she had no say in my coming there. I don't know.

But in the end my hard work landed me a programmer position, working with COBOL. I thought I had it made! I got to stay in Seattle in a hotel while I trained. When I got back, though, I found that the people I worked with did not share my enthusiasm. They had a set way of doing things. I accidentally stepped on toes. I did my best to work hard, even spent some time updating their documentation.

But in the end I stepped on the wrong toes too many times, and that job ended.

More recently I worked as a customer service rep for a local call center that handled multiple clients. I was coming off a stint with homelessness, and grateful to have any job. I worked that job hard, got briefly laid off, then called back again to work for a different client. I worked that client hard, got noticed, got promoted, pissed some people off because they thought someone else deserved to be promoted, and that led to increased pressure on me.

Stress and me don't get along well. It can manifest itself in becoming sick, migraine headaches, coughing, or becoming irritable. I don't go looking for it. It just happens. The promotion didn't work out the way I'd hoped, and I stepped down. My health was more important than the promotion. Life was hard enough.

Since then, I've taken a different look at what I want out of a job. I've worked other call centers, no supervisory positions, though. I've quit one job because I lost my apartment. I quit another because stress reared its ugly head again.

Ideally, I'd like my writing to be my source of income, but I'm realistic enough to know that it probably won't happen. I find writing to be relaxing. I find the sharing of ideas through this blog to be very soothing. I'd like it continue, to be an outlet when I need it.. I've thought about what I can do that will decrease the amount of stress in my life, but sad to say, one of those things is to not work as hard as I used to. I need to blend into the crowd more, in order to save my health.

But I don't want to do that. I want to make Project Five-Star work. I know there will be stress, but if I have more control over the situation, I hope the stress level won't be excessive. And for those that say get a job, well I've already put in hundreds of hours on Project Five-Star, and haven't seen a penny from it. I'm starting to feel like I did when I was a contract programmer. Unappreciated. Spinning my wheels, going full throttle and going nowhere. I'm trying to make a difference here, to impress people with hard work, and it's not working. Something has to give, and soon.

So which am I? Working hard? Hardly working? Something in-between?