I wish I had the same enthusiasm for the mundane that I did when I was in my 20s. It’s not that I was a boring person, rather, I was not challenged by the boring. I understood that some of these mundane tasks were part of a bigger picture in a way that I do not today.
When I had my first apartment, I cleaned it every week. Granted, it was smaller than the patio in our back yard, but I dusted, vacuumed, cleaned the kitchen, wiped down the bathroom every single week. And I enjoyed it. I was charged up by the idea of taking care of something that was my responsibility. I paid the rent. I earned the money to pay that rent. I found and interviewed for the job that paid me the money to pay the rent. It was all me – all my responsibility and completely my accomplishment. As small as it was, that apartment – and my ability to pay for it – was a major source of pride for me.
It’s the same thing with the boring work that I was given at the temp jobs I had over the summers during college. I liked temping because I often found myself in an air conditioned environment. The fact that I didn’t need to wear a uniform was a bonus too. Being a temp, I’d get “projects” like typing written lists into a document on the computer or filing huge stacks of purchase orders. I’m sure these were the kind of things the permanent assistant would put at the bottom of the To Do list. But, I would do these things gladly, accurately and quickly. My temp agency’s clients would be big fans of my work by the end of the day, and I’d be pumped from the praise. It didn’t matter that just two years prior I had graduated from high school in the top 10 percent of my class… I was proud of my temp work.
These days, I’m not so naïve… or maybe I am suffering from a kind of reverse naivite that affects people when they become so jaded almost nothing impresses them about themselves anymore. I often feel that way, sitting in my not-cleaned-weekly house with a back patio that is larger than my first apartment, avoiding transferring almost twelve months of photos from my computer to my online photo site. These things just don’t inspire me enough. Where has my sense of accomplishment gone?
Because I work only part-time, my professional life doesn’t provide when it comes to a steady stream of ego stroking. And, when I see my former colleagues from my office-with-a-window days, I can tell that their good work doesn’t give them the same boost it used to. And, I have no interest in making my children’s accomplishments mine. That is a slippery slope I hope to never go down.
Despite my four decades of living, it appears that I need a little more wisdom when it comes to having a sense of accomplishment. Maybe I need to take some risks. Maybe I need to admit that I have more to learn than I ever thought. Maybe others my age feel this way too. Maybe I should grab the vacuum or take care of that pile of filing that has been sitting on my desk for months… get back to the basics.