What did you want to be when you grew up?

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I can remember wanting to be a fireman, a doctor, Batman, an actor, a teacher and an architect. At some point I also wanted to be a famous radio disk jockey and/or a TV weatherman. I became none of those things.

I got into facilities management by accident. I was a receptionist at a publishing company with delusions of becoming a magazine editor, in spite of possessing supremely mediocre editing skills when, out of utter boredom, I asked if I could pitch in with the big project my department was working on – namely, moving out of the offices the company had inhabited for over 30 years into a brand new building with room to grow into. From there I kept taking on more and more and more responsibility until I outgrew the place a bit.

Three or four times I’ve thought about doing something else, but what I always conclude is that I’m pretty good at what I do, I make a decent living doing it and what I do is respectable.

That last bit is sort of important to me.

There are a lot of professions that have much, much greater earning potential than facilities management. Like, there are tons of them. For the most part though, they make me cringe. As a matter of fact most of the companies I’ve worked for have, as their core businesses, done things the world would likely be better off without, or at least better off without in the way my employers chose to run their businesses. By contrast, when people ask me what I do I can proudly say I keep the lights on, the water out and the spaces people work in safe ones to spend their time in.

That said, I could be a lot more “successful” in my profession. I’ve got close to 27 years of experience in this field and a lot of knowledge of industry best practices that could be pretty valuable to an organization looking for a senior leader of their real estate and facilities group. The thing is, I don’t like working long hours.

See, when someone asks me what I “do” I have to remind myself they’re asking me about my job. As long as I’ve spent in this profession I’ve never seen it as my identity. When you ask me what I do my first impulse is to tell you I play guitar, or that I write, or that I’m married to a lovely woman with two great kids and a pretty cool (although tragically stupid) dog.

When I was a kid I imagined what I was going to do when I grew up to be my mission. Like the starship Enterprise I was going to commit to one well defined role in the universe. That’s not what happened. That’s not me.

If you want to know me, I’m a dad, a husband and a guy who hacks and slashes at the guitar and wishes he was a lot better at it. I’m a guy who watches my friends post their plans to write a novel for Nanowrimo and thinks, “Gee, I wish I had the kind of brain that could focus on one idea long enough to write a novel.”

“What do you do?” is such a weird question. When I find myself asking it on meeting someone new I immediately want to start qualifying it. I don’t actually care how you sell your time to buy your life. I want to know what sort of life you live that makes doing that worth it to you.

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