Focus on the issue and hone it down

My first job took me [via a winding route] to Plymouth. Plymouth is a nice city, although a little bit far away from everywhere else in the country. The town centre isn’t too busy, and the sea is only just over there. Good pubs but not enough decent restaurants, attractive long streets of townhouses, and Plymouth Hoe, where my #1 wedding photos were taken, is one of those places where I could just stand for hours looking at the view while the wind tangles up my hair.

But it wasn’t a nice job. I lived in the city centre and worked in the catering department of the hospital, right on the edge of town, nearly on Dartmoor. There were two significant things about the 20 minute drive to and from work. Firstly, there were 23 sets of traffic lights, and I never got more than one green light in a row. Never. Secondly, I had to adjust my mirror at the beginning of each journey, because on my way to work, I was so tense, crouched at the edge of my seat, driving with my teeth gritted; and on the way home, I would be slumped, exhausted, barely able to keep my eyes open, the pressure of the pedals too much for my aching feet. Hell, I hated that job.

Please never let me have to work shifts again. Please never land me in a job where I have to stand up all day, where I have to deal with members of the public face to face, where I have to manage a militantly unionised, terminally pissed off workforce, every member of which is older and more experienced than me.

I learned, in that job, that management theory is not useful in terms of helping people with serious operational difficulties. When you report to your line manager that you simply don’t have enough staff to cover a shift, a response like well you must focus on the issue and hone it down is unhelpful in the extreme. Now I am lucky enough to have the autonomy and the authority to do whatever is needed to solve the operational difficulties, and thank god, I don’t work in that horrible industry anymore.

The reason I started writing this was to explain to myself why I don’t feel the need to take my career onwards and upwards. Right now, I’m the second-biggest fish in a pond the size of a large glass of water. This place is so laid-back that our five o’clock routine involves waking half the staff from their afternoon nap. I earn enough to live the life I want to live [now that I am in control of my own finances, that is]; the work is interesting enough, and there’s always the internet; and I almost never take the job home with me.

I just don’t want sore feet and two mirror positions ever again.

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