Working to Live

I remember the date clearly.  It was the day after my position was eliminated at a major university in Vancouver following a one year maternity leave and four months of bed rest.   I received a phone call from a colleague in the department where I used to work.  The division looking after surplus items wanted to know what they should do with the filing cabinet that contained all of my work documents.   During my maternity leave, management in my division decided to not replace me in my position. Instead the work I had done was either left alone or passed on to colleagues.  As a result, my files had been “deep sixed” in the back. Ultimately there was a turnover in management, a new business plan and I found myself out of a job.  This is not controversial or sensitive information.  This type of scenario happens in the workplace all the time.  Yes – even when someone is on maternity leave.  When I left for maternity leave I took all of the manuals I had compiled with me in case I came back to my job and could not relocate my papers.  So it was an easy decision when the call came in.   I told my former colleague to throw the papers out.

“Wow,” I thought.  “I haven’t been out of my job for a day and my filing cabinet and contents are already going into the garbage.  Talk about feeling redundant”.  Recently I received an E-mail from my former office which also revealed that when you leave a position your electronic documents are sent to a secondary server.  Basically they are sent out to pasture.  This came to light because the IT department wrote to tell me that my digital files were taking up ten times the space of the average user at the university.  All was sorted out and the files were sent on their way.

“Wow,” I thought.  “So much for all the effort you put  into setting up your files.  Once you’re gone, nobody needs them.  It’s virtually a case of delete all ’round.”

I mention these issues because I have felt recently that my experience post job-elimination is a good reminder to everybody to not take work too seriously.  Work to live.  Don’t live to work. Of course we should be professional in our career and hopefully we put out our best effort and enjoy our work.  The fact remains that once you leave an office, are asked to leave, or retire, new people come on board and life goes on without you.  The next time you are getting upset about how work is progressing, remind yourself that in five years, or possibly less, what you are doing right now might not even be relevant.  Even the most sophisticated procedures can be considered clunky and out of date over time.  Some might argue that this is a terrible perspective.  Is it?  What you are doing matters for the moment and for the near future and of course it can be the foundation for future efforts and gains.  On the other hand, it is possible that someone new will come in and will gut all the procedures and policies in your department.  Life as you know it at the office in which you worked might be completely unrecognizable five or ten years from now.

In my case my experience  has reminded me to focus on the positive experiences that I had in my job and the accomplishments that will survive beyond the work that was forgotten, discarded or sent to the secondary server.  More importantly these experiences have reminded me that whenever possible we should strive to put our efforts into jobs and careers that we enjoy because nobody can take away the pleasure that we have experienced working in a position and the related feeling of accomplishment.

A visual meme exercise focused on what I enjoy

Daily Dish Archives Pamela Chan/Publisher,

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