Motivation?

The photo below showed up yesterday. The Good X — whom I was dating at the time — took it in July 1982 behind my mom’s condo in Denver. I’d already taken the teaching job in China, so that was happening. I was determined to be a teacher.


Yesterday I was talking with a friend who is looking for a job — a career. He’s a vet tech who’s been a manager at a vet clinic. He has a masters degree in comparative literature. It’s been challenging for him all this time to figure out a direction. Losing his job and the market going bonkers finally brought push to shove financially. While he doesn’t realize it, that has helped him a lot to clarify his priorities. Yesterday he had to weigh two potential opportunities — one in the vet field the other at a supermarket. I said, “I guess it boils down to whether you want to work with animals or work in a supermarket.” He truly, truly, truly couldn’t understand that statement. I think he was hung up on the word “want.”

Wanting one thing more than another didn’t figure in his decision. I tried to explain, but it didn’t make sense to him at all. Now he has a job and he chose it based on his values.

We’ve known each other almost 30 years, and never encountered that basic fundamental difference between us because we never had to. I tried explaining that I wanted to teach so badly that I left a decent job as a paralegal, sold everything, and went to China. At that point of time in Denver unless you had teaching experience, there were no jobs. To me the choice was clear; 1) get teaching experience, 2) have an adventure, 3) come home (maybe!) and get a job. That’s how it worked out, more-or-less. To DO what I wanted, I had to accept that I wouldn’t make much money. My business major students reminded me of this all the time. “Why should I listen to you? When I get out of here I’m going to make 3 times what you make.”

Of course the answer to that was, “Not until you learn what I have to teach you. Yeah, it’s a paradox, but there it is. I want to teach. You want to make money. It’s a win-win, now sit down and learn.” 🙂

We all live in the little shell of our own self, I guess, and look out from it at everyone assuming that they are seeing the same things we are, motivated by the same things we are, It’s not like that. There’s no “better” in this scenario; there is only different. I can’t count how many times I’ve been reminded of that (and forgotten it).

Oh man, I forgot “Pillow.” I’m sorry. No way to cushion that failure. 😦

23 thoughts on “Motivation?

  1. When I was selecting a career in Veterinary Medicine, my mother was very dismayed at the earning potential. Her response was, “Well, at least you will be around lots of soon to be doctors and can marry one of them.” She was crushed to find out that the techs were NOT a dating pool for the vets students! We all went into the field knowing we wouldn’t become rich. My first year post graduation I made just over 5K. It was 1979 and I was so happy… Things didn’t change until there was an influx of male techs. Then the DVMs decided that they’d need to pay the guys more – because they were supporting families and all. Then they discovered that if they wanted a tech they needed to pay them (even if they were *gasp* female)! It was never about the money for me – the animals are everything. When it becomes about the money then you need to move on.

    • That’s funny. When there was a full time job at the international school where I was teaching one of my colleagues — hired the same day I was — told me he should get the job because he had a family to support. I thought, “That’s YOUR problem. You know NOTHING about my marriage which is NOT working and I’m looking at supporting myself pretty damned soon.” The entitlement of the male species… I agree with you that when it’s about the money, it’s a kind of vacuum, but maybe that’s just us. I have a nurse acquaintance to said, “I went into nursing because of the money. I could support my daughter, buy a house, travel. I don’t really care that much about caring for the patients. I do it, but…” I was stunned. It’s a LOT better to assume the nurse caring for you is in it for your well being…

  2. “Want” is a funny word in our culture. On the one hand it means “to desire” and on the other hand it means “to lack”. If we conflate these two meanings it becomes clear (?) that we can only desire what we lack. How much more freeing would it be to want (desire) what we have? Also, we go about doing lots of things we claim not to want to do and not doing things we claim to want to do. Clearly, if I did something, I chose it, and if I chose it, I desired that more than the alternative; but it’s a lot easier to claim not to be responsible for our lives and our choices and say we “had to” do something.

    • You can’t really “desire” what you have though you can desire to maintain it. You CAN be content with it. You can be fulfilled by it and challenged by it and rewarded by it. In the case of me and teaching, I wanted to continue doing it because it was fulfilling, challenging, and rewarding almost every single day, far more than the paychecks I got from other work. Those things can’t be bought with money, and I often forgot to pick up my pay check. Strange but true. Even when I wasn’t paid regularly, I never thought of changing my job. It wasn’t self-sacrifice; the rewards were worth the risks (and sometimes they were serious, like my house). I don’t know, I hope my friend is able to persist in his direction until he gets the financial security he is looking for. To me it’s a carrot on a stick, but maybe that’s not what it is to him.

      I’m not so sure we exactly choose what we end up doing for a living. I got out of college and the ONLY job was on the line at Head Ski. That was it. Job competition in Boulder at that time was (maybe is still) THAT intense. Other times, too, I had jobs that were based only on what I was able to do (type) and what was available in the job market.

  3. What’s that quote about choose the job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life? A little bs maybe, but if it’s all about the money–you’re screwed.

    • I never worked a day in my life except for the years I wasn’t teaching. 🙂 It’s not BS at all but I realized not everyone is motivated that way. It doesn’t even make sense to some people. 😀

        • Me too. She’s one of the egoistic people I’ve ever known, but when she made her career choice, I think she was pretty desperate. I think some of our early life experiences (like a kid on your own) define our life stragedies.

    • When I was growing up my father said “You’re not supposed to like it. Why do you think they call it work?” After he retired he said “Life’s too short to spend 8 hours a day doing something you don’t like.” It took him that long to realize it.

      • I think that happens a lot. My dad’s message was the opposite, I guess because of his MS and no longer being able to have any illusion that life was long and he could do what he loved later. His motto came from the Rubaiyatt “Take the cash and let the credit go.” I’m sure he influenced me.

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