“How are you going to make money for me today?” The CEO would stride imperiously through the office and drill each employee in turn with this sharp question. When she reached me, I would stutter my answer, but she and I both knew the awkward truth: I was poorly suited to my job and would not be making any money for her… ever!
Somehow, I had stumbled into a graduate role working in the marketing department of a software company. The job called for technical nous with computers and a flair for securing sales, neither of which I possessed in the slightest.
I blame my time at university.
I was so busy consuming curries and trying to impress girls with my guitar that I never really thought about what was next. Following my graduation, this job had presented itself and I gratefully grabbed at it as a chance to remain in my university town. But it soon became clear to me that it was a dead end. Life had been a sunny adventure up until this point; I’d loved school, sailed into the obligatory gap year and had taken full advantage of the social circus at uni. Suddenly, I was stuck in a working environment where I felt distinctly out of place and unfulfilled.
Naturally, I blamed God.
I do feel sorry for God, because we middle class Christians possess a definite, unofficial tick-list: happy childhood, school, university, marriage partner, house, family, great career. Often, when one or more of these dreams doesn’t materialise in the way we’d hoped, we round on God and complain. As my time at the software firm stretched on without any sign of escape, so my frustration with God grew. I felt that God had led me down a cul-de-sac into the ‘wrong job’ and it didn’t help that many of my friends from school and uni were marching onwards in what I viewed as the ‘right job’.
As it happens, God was typically kind to me. After five slow years, I did change careers and am now enjoying working as a primary school teacher. I teach three and four-year-olds, so I spend the working day playing with puppets, putting on silly voices and mopping up toiletry accidents. It couldn’t be more different and I can now say honestly that I love my job.
On face value then, my story supports the myth I’m meant to be de-bunking. It seems I was in the wrong job but then I quit and my problems ended. The experience, however, has not proved that simple. Although the move into teaching was the right one for me, many of the challenges I encountered at the software firm are still present in my day-to-day working life. There are still the difficult conversations with colleagues, battles with raging man ‘flu, misunderstandings, disappointments, the times I lose my temper and the days when I’d rather just stay in bed. Before I moved into teaching, I imagined it would provide a more compassionate, understanding working environment in comparison to the uncompromising, bullying world of sales and marketing. Sadly, this is not always the case. Although I am very well supported by my own employer, I’ve heard horror stories from other schools. One teacher friend complained to her boss that she was giving 90 per cent of her time to school and only 10 per cent to her young family. The head teacher replied: “I want 100 per cent or you can get out!”
I guess the reality remains that we live in a broken world where nothing is without fault. There is no such thing as ‘the perfect job’. Wherever you work and no matter how suited you are to the role, there will still be arduous days, weeks, months, perhaps even years when things are a slog and thoughts turn to the impossible dream of winning the lottery.
The older I get, the more I’m drawn to C S Lewis’s description of life as time spent in the “Shadowlands”. This side of heaven, there will always be times of frustration and difficulty where life is a struggle and God appears to be away on safari. As I look back on my time at the software firm, I’m tempted to view it as one such low point. But this would be ignoring the fact that the job paid the bills for those five years and allowed me to establish a home. There were good, solid reasons to stay put and had I walked out of the job with no alternative, I’d have been in trouble. I wish at the time that I’d counted my blessings and remained grateful for what God had given me, instead of focussing on what was still pending on my personal tick-list of happiness. However frustrating work might be, I know there will be signs of God’s benevolence if only I open my eyes.