In the weeks since I announced my new job to the clients I serve at the position I hold for just a few countable hours, there’s been a theme in the responses: They’re sad to see me go, but glad I’m going to be “doing what I actually love.”
Friday, I’ll end my time working at a recreation center for senior citizens. Some of them have treated me as their grandson. Others I could call friends but the age gap and authority I’m paid to enforce limit us from being total equals.
I’ve picked up ping pong, regularly losing to men in their seventies. I’ve hosted trivia competitions where I mispronounced names as familiar to the seniors as Rihanna or Bob Costas are to me. I’ve gorged on the home-cooked casseroles and indulgent desserts native to potlucks catered by five dozen Southern grandparents.
Surely, I’ll miss these folks. After all, in the course of life, it’s very possible I’ll never see these people again, at least on this side of heaven. But I’m “moving on to bigger and better things,” my elders have told me.
No, I think. I’m not doing “what’s best for me and my family.” I’m doing what appears to be the next right thing. God has made the decision certain to me. His desire for my actions is abundantly clear.
But I don’t say this out loud, because their well-wishes aren’t intended to prompt a theological discussion of predestination. The adieus are bittersweet moments of closure, more for the senior than me since I’m supposedly “excited to get out of here.”
They speak as if I’ve never enjoyed working at the center, as if they had always thought themselves as my stepping stone the same way I hoped they were when I started three years ago.
But I no longer consider jobs stepping stones; they’re patio decks.
With each job, we are invited to our neighbor’s backyard party. The hosts are happy to have us, assuming we’ll contribute to the conversation and buffet. But at some point, they get tired of us or we tire of them and the next neighbor, perhaps with greener grass, invites us to their shindig. We stay there for as long as we are welcome or care to and find another garden party, maybe in another neighborhood. This is essentially the millennial’s career path.
We twenty – and thirty – somethings were modeled “living for the weekend” and “working to retire.” We view that as a sorrowful waste of time, so we’ve aimed to spend our working hours and years doing something we care about or love.
This value leads us young professionals to doggedly choose passion over stability. Eventually, the corporate ladder will be replaced with stints at neighbors’ barbecues.
So, on Friday, it’ll be a full farewell from me, but I won’t be fleeing the site as if emancipated. My smile will be for the work I’ve enjoyed at this three-year dinner party. I’ll carry that same smile to my next office on Monday where it’ll be in appreciation of the invitation to this next backyard event.