We knew a 35-year-old man who hated his job. He’d worked there already 10 years but sadly admitted that he numbered his days until retirement. He ACTUALLY counted the days until retirement (it seems the total was 19,000 workdays- not including vacation, holiday, and weekends). This man had to tell me twice for I couldn’t wrap my head around the thought. He felt stuck in a job and too fearful or weary or numb to hunt for an equal (or better) paying, more enjoyable job. It would require time, tenacity, and possible rejection on the path to look for new employment, but it could have had an awesome outcome!
Years ago, Sam and I were living/working on his family farm and dairy, he concluded that his life should not be spent out in the wheatfield, driving a tractor or combine in circles. I understood what he meant. Although there are countless farmers gifted in that talent, including his brother who delighted in farming tasks, raising/ milking cattle, sowing the seed, and harvesting. Even though farming had its great moments like when our daughters would bundle up and ride on the hay truck to feed the cattle. But overall, for Sam, it was living a life on autopilot, much like his distaste/impatience driving slowly in heavy traffic. We took on the life-change challenge, prayed for direction, and pivoted right away- no reason to waste time.
This pivot was a huge life’s work change, but with determination, we left the wheat and dairy farm life. Sam found joy in building things with his hands- we detoured straight into the construction field. As a boy on the farm, before harvest time his weeks were spent constructing metal machine sheds, hay barns, and grain bins on the family property. Walking a high beam, laying concrete, and operating heavy machinery were his found passion.
We knew a local general contractor in our small farming community. John delivered truckloads of concrete to the farm over the years. He wore an English golf hat, for some odd reason. His sentences were salted heavily (very heavily) with expletives and no remorse. For what John lacked in height and style, he compensated with expert building skills and concrete work. Sam honed his craft by working for the short, salty contractor until his moment to ignite our own construction company.
We got licensed, hired employees, and started our business from scratch- I mean the absolute bottom of the barrel scratch. That began the bone-tired, dirt-caked, scrape-by, bills to pay, early morning and late-night years. Yes, certainly a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstrap, slap a smile on your face and hope you don’t get that “I quit!” feeling through the day, time of life that felt much like a lifetime. Then you hit the morning alarm clock and start over again. Sam always said, “If discouraged, I remind myself, anything is better than dairying.” But, truly, he found creativity in the craft and, it turned out we eventually bought salty John’s concrete plant and business. Note that interest was 10% at the time.
Looking back at those trying years, we questioned if it was worth the effort and determined we are no worse for the wear. The work was overwhelmingly offset by the hands-on workmanship knowledge gained. This wealth of knowledge will not suddenly plop onto your lap while relaxed on the couch with a tv remote in hand. No, it’s gained by hands-on work (emphasis on WORK), listening to pros, and practice. This was a pencil-sharpening, calculator tapping, measuring tape snapping job that turned into a lifetime career.