Here we are. It’s another day on Project Earth. The sun is out after two days of steady rain. The leaves have changed and many have fallen from the trees and lay wet on the ground. This is time-appropriate for my place in New York. The winds are much cooler now which, again, is appropriate for my side of the hemisphere.
There are a little more than 19 million people that live in New York. About half of them live in New York City, which is a place that I have come to call my home away from home. I have been in and out of the City for more than half of my life. My career life is a lot older than my recreational life. What I mean is I’ve been working for a living for more than half of my years. And as it stands, I have more years to go, which I face without regret or complaint. After all, this is life. This is what it takes to have a life and earn a living. Right?
For example, I have been working a full-time job and living in a grown man’s world for 29 years. This comes out to 10,585 days, which 6,952 of them have been spent working at a job of some kind. This does not include overtime days or the days I’ve taken off; however, this excludes holidays and weekends but does not include second jobs or side jobs, which I have taken to make ends meet. I figure it safe to say that I’ve worked a little more than 70% of the 10,585 days in the last 29 years which, again, I believe this number might be low because of the extra shifts and the side jobs. My calculations did not include second jobs and hours I’ve spent looking to build my lifestyle. Either way, it’s safe to say that I’ve worked more than my fair share of days.
I don’t know if I ever thought about life this way when I was much younger. I’m not sure if I ever thought I would work this much or if I would ever look back at me as a young man on my first day. I can say that I remember the first day I showed up for a shift at my union job. I can say that I remember thinking, “I’ll just do this for now until I figure out what I want to do with my life.”
There was an afternoon I recall a few years back. A friend of mine asked me a simple question. He asked “Where do you see yourself in three years?”
I remember thinking to myself, “Here, I guess.”
I figured this would be me. I would be working for a living and working at a building. Doing what I do but there was no zest in my answer. There was no desire. There was no thrill. I had no vision for anything because I assumed life would be just more of the same, which was mediocre at best. I figured “This is it” which means that I settled for what I had instead of shooting for what I wanted.
I didn’t have any real business goals. I didn’t have a plan or a vision for my future. Instead, I figured I would work until I retire, which seems like it is so far away. Then again, I figured 22 years is a long time as well. This is how long I’ve been a union member. I’ve been showing up at my shift and punching a time clock for this long. And keep in mind, the day I arrived for my first shift is the day I figured, “I’ll just do this until I figure out what I want to do with my life.”
So, you might be asking, “What’s your point?”
It’s funny, I never thought much about my future. I never looked further than what was in front of me at the time. I lacked vision, yes, but more than anything; I lacked a sense of purpose.
And I go back to that question. I go back to the idea of where I see myself in the future. I go back to this because the future is real to me now. I go back to this because I want my life to add up to more than just an accumulation of workdays and hours on the clock. I want to feel as if “I’m doing something” rather than just working until retirement. This is not to say that my union status is shameful or something I regret. Quite the contrary. This has opened doors for me and led me to a very important and (for me) an inspirational position.
The future can change whenever we choose. I believe this. However, the windows of opportunity will only stay open for so long. The ideas that I’ll get another shot are not sufficient to me anymore. The ideas of mediocrity and settling for less than my aspirations are unattractive. But more, I don’t ever want to feel the way I did that afternoon when someone asked me, “Where do you see yourself in three years.”
The truth is I’m not sure what my life will look like in the next three years. The truth is I’m not sure if I’ll have the chance to pull off my trick. I don’t know if my plans to build will come through.
I do know that I am working towards something instead of simply working for a living. I have to live this way; otherwise, I will find myself, 20 years from now, tallying the days that I’ve worked with a zestless feel and thinking about the opportunities I missed because I lacked the vision to find my purpose.
I see these kids at work. I see them at their new jobs or their first jobs. I see them and I hope the best for them. I watch them and I wonder if they know how quickly the future comes.
There are millions of people in my city. All of them are searching for something. All of them have a purpose and only some of them understand what this means. I know that I understand. And for the record, I don’t believe I’ve come to the party late. I believe that awareness comes in time. I believe that our fate finds us somehow. It is up to us to grab this and hold on as tightly as we can.
Since the time I was asked where I see myself, I have earned seven different certifications. I have built my resume. I’ve built programs. I’ve had my share of ups and downs but above all, I have built the foundation to create better options for my future. This way, I can see that every day of my life has led me up to here, which is exactly where I’m supposed to be and proud of what I’ve achieved.
It’s an interesting question really.
Where do you see yourself?
What do you want to be doing?
More importantly, what do you have to do to make this so?
Those are good questions.. They require a lot of difficult and honest personal reflection. And optimism. Without optimism, one would be better off not answering them.