I always thought that I would write fiction and perhaps that is what this is. It truly is fiction if the words only stay locked in your brain.
Thoughts this week about a contract with yourself/with others/ a different kind of employment contract. What if we wrote out our terms and conditions with our employers that went beyond the dollars/hour (week, month, year) and the usual blah blah blah about hours and roles and responsibilities. What if it described how it would feel to have success, recognition and satisfaction? What if it detailed your long term dreams and ambitions? What if the opportunity to have a nap on Tuesday afternoons was included?
Now, Google may have already had this brilliant idea and re-written the usual working agreement, but I suspect most of us are still signing work papers that look pretty much how they did 60 years ago. And yet this document and the implications for how you spend your time govern most of your waking hours for most of your adult life.
We have been told we now have the freedom to have multiple jobs, several careers, pursue our passions and not be stopped by reaching age 65. 60 is the new 30, right? You can carry on living (working) your dream until you die. How enlivening is that? How much does that make your blood pump faster and your breathing increase? I would bet that if it does, it is because you might feel a little panicked. Oh sh*^, I have to keep doing “this” for the rest of my days? Crap, I would like to go back to the fantasy of “Freedom 55” please.
But this idea of a contract or agreement that sets out much more than the bare bones of how you want it to be has expanded in my head. What if pre-nuptials took a different look at what the expectations are of that partnership? What if we re-wrote a contract with our children every year of their lives? What if we revisited our relationship with our elderly parents – reviewing how we want that to look on a regular basis? And our close friends? Could we be more clear on how friendship is described and circumvent some of the pitfalls there?
There are many places we fail to describe how we want it to go, especially when time goes by and we gain familiarity with each other. We live with discontent and sometimes downright anguish without a clear description of what would be perfect.
As I begin the journey of post graduate education – really at the early steps right now, application in, first on-line course, a recommended pre-requisite, started 2 weeks ago – I have come face to face with how little of my life has been described in sufficient detail to increase the likelihood of success. Even at this late stage (let’s just say the “Freedom 55” boat has left the harbour), I am extremely challenged by the necessity of a structured business plan for the next 15 years of life.
I am in the situation that at least some of my peers are in. We didn’t pursue careers, or in my case, even higher education. We just kept working the next job that came along, sometimes moving up the ladder, sometimes not lasting that long. Kids and all the endless hours of commitment to raising a family were along the way, as well as supporting a spouse in their pursuit of success or advancement. Speaking for myself, I came up for air at about 50, realized that I had no plans for retirement, no funds set aside for my golden years, no mortgage that was just about paid off to secure a home for the future and no idea what to do about all that. In fact, at that time, I was working with a group of fabulous people who averaged 15 – 20 years younger than me so I just kept working my fanny off to keep up.
When that job ended, another not quite 5 year engagement (pretty much the maximum time I spent in any one place), I had a patchwork resume, a little bit of self-directed education which thankfully left me with a certificate in professional coaching and some vague thoughts about a loosely described future doing what I loved, coaching others.
Not sure what else to do, I high tailed it into college, jumping into a 2 year program in Human Resource Management. It was fantastic and I adored the challenge of post-secondary education. For the first time, I was directed to think in a different way, dive deeply into a program that offered many pieces of education which I was interested in. Being a generalist course, it didn’t really prepare me for much and as I found out part way through, I couldn’t even join the professional HR organization because I didn’t hold an undergrad degree. Not well thought out. However, the love of higher learning was sparked and I committed to completing a Master’s program, eventually.
Fast forward a couple more years of scraps of part time work, occasional contracts, facilitating coach training and time to ponder a future that seems to be gaining speed in becoming the present. A friend’s recent death from cancer, three months after diagnosis - not the first friend I have lost, impacted me differently this time. The trite expression of realizing how precious life is and how little control we have over the eventual end of it actually stuck this time.
During a long awaited holiday with my husband in Mexico, I began to notice my resistance to saying yes to my dreams. How hop-scotching through the stages of my life without fully landing on any square has habituated me to a life that will be fulfilled one day – maybe, possibly, if the stars line up, if my kids or mother don’t need me to rescue them, if I can justify the money, or, or, or…. In other words, never.
I don’t have a terrible life, don’t get me wrong. I have few regrets and maintain a happy, optimistic view on the world. I am loved and deeply love others. I practice gratitude and appreciation every day and reap the rich rewards of that perspective on the world. The question remains about kicking it up a notch as our old friend Emeril would say. And that is going to take an elaborate, explicit blueprint; a new contract, if you will.