My husband, Bob, and I had lunch with a friend recently. I talked about Rotary International and what I do there. I mentioned that it's a rather low-status job, but I like the lighter workload and the people.
"And that's all right with you?" my husband's friend from work asked.
"The workload?" I asked.
"No, I mean that it's not a high-status job?"
"Oh, yeah. That's fine with me. I mean, sometimes I get tired of being a secretary AGAIN, but I totally don't mind having a low-pressure job where I never work overtime and I'm not in charge of anyone else. Yeah, that part's fine with me."
She said, "Really?"
I said, "Yeah, well I don't like for my job to take a lot of my energy and time because I put that energy into what I do outside of work. I have friends, we have dinner parties, I'm part of a creative writing group. Those are the things that are important to me."
Michelle seemed very surprised by this. She said, "I'm the opposite."
"What do you mean?"
"I was raised to go for it! In my family we take our jobs really seriously. I have just a few friends and that's really all I need."
"Oh. I thought you just said making friends was frustrating."
She then denied that the word "frustrating" had referred to her friend situation.
There were a few seconds of silence while I thought about this. Then I said, "Actually, my parents were very active outside of the their regular jobs. I mean, my dad was a government worker so you know he wasn't advancing or making lots of money. He pushed papers around a desk at the Veterans Administrative Hospital for 30 years, but outside of work my parents were very active in the Mexican American community. They worked to make sure Mexicans weren't being discriminated against in the schools or in housing or by the police. They wanted to make sure they were represented in local politics. And they did all of that outside of work. So, I guess I kind of am following in their footsteps in that way: in focusing on what I do outside of work rather than having the job be my main source of accomplishment."
"Yeah, you are," Bob nodded.
Michelle said, "Well, I've never met anyone like you before." But she didn't say it in an admiring way.