I am an individual who loves and cherishes his moments of solitude and isolation where I immerse myself in knowledge gleaned from books and the Internet and where I attempt to reproduce in my own way equally beneficial knowledge for others, yet it is my encounters with others that are the basis of my true education.
Sometimes I learn more in one half-day of work at Starbucks than I might learn in one week at home or on the road.
There is something about the interaction between my co-workers and the clients we encounter that is an endless source of imagination and inspiration for me.
It is these encounters I will miss when the day ever comes to leave SBs behind and it is the reason I remain there for now regardless of other reasons that might compel me to leave.
It was a rare day for me, as I worked at both the SBs at the Marktplatz (See Rooster in the Henhouse.)and at my customary post at the Bahnhof.
It never ceases to amaze me how much conversation can occur in the lull between customers.
Two conversational themes dominated the day of discussions, neither initiated by me but both I found myself deeply engaged in: the questions of marriage and work.
Two separate conversations were about the wisdom of being in a marriage.
In the first discussion, one person was “throwing in the towel” (ending the marriage) because she was tired of the endless fighting in her dealings with her spouse.
The other person in the second discussion held the opposite view, feeling that if a couple had already survived so much together and if a marriage has value it must be fought for.
Now a common theme amongst my co-workers usually revolves around the unpleasantness of working for an (dis)organisation like SBs, the sheer drudgery of repetitive duties, the inevitable politics and complexity that a group of separate individuals bring to any workplace and the annoying tendencies of some ungrateful customers we encounter from time to time.
Normally I hear individual co-workers briefly bellyache in the midst of the hurly burly of the workday about how they hate working at SBs, but rarely are there moments where we gather together and exchange views outside this hectic hullabaloo.
Such dissatisfaction was expressed in conversation yesterday that one might almost suggest to a king in this scenario to “double the guard, because the natives are restless”!
Still despite how divergent a topic work is from marriage, the theme again was one of “Should I stay or should I go now?” – fight or flight.
Is it better to stay in a situation and fight for its improvement?
Or is it better to cut one’s losses and escape to a different environment with its own special demands and challenges?
Should one work on making progress where one is, or is change always better than stagnation?
As I listen to these discussions, I, of course, reflect upon my own life as regarding my work life and married life.
Am I perfectly happy with my work life?
Yes and no.
I am torn between enjoying not working a 40-hour week, whether teaching, Starbucks or writing, but I also feel responsibility to both my marriage as well as to my society to make a more substantial contribution than I currently am.
I love teaching, but my last two years of teaching have not been so pleasant for me, with sheer bad luck of finding employers who cared more about the bottom line of their balance sheets than the welfare of the employees working for them.
As unsuited as I often feel myself to be at SBs I do enjoy the interactions with my co-workers and customers, but I can’t deny that the SB philosophy of producing and selling more product in less time regardless of the emotional cost to the worker (unfortunately a common theme in many a company) at times somewhat difficult to accept.
How often does the average worker feel pressure to produce profits yet how often does he see profits cascade down from higher up?
As for making profit from my writing, I feel that I am not totally incompetent when it comes to putting words to print, but I lack, at present, both savvy and courage to take what is essentially an enjoyable hobby and make it into a real career.
I refuse to give up on this, but I can’t deny feeling somewhat frustrated with myself at the same time.
Am I happy with my married life?
Again, yes and no.
My wife is truly a wonderful woman, and I believe as a husband I ain’t half bad either!
But is a marriage always easy?
Of course not.
Is it worth fighting for?
Sometimes I am absolutely convinced that it is.
Other times I long for a more carefree independent existence, back on the open road despite its insecurities and innate loneliness.
Carl Franz, the author of one of my favourite travel guides, The People’s Guide to Mexico, coined a great little phrase that I think to be appropo in this situation:
“Wherever you go, there you are.”
Whatever problems I have now won’t necessarily dissolve by changing locations, and even if they do dissolve this does not mean that new problems and challenges won’t present themselves in the new environment, because the commonality between here and there will always remain: myself.
If I want a change, I need to start with the man in the mirror, for no matter how I may want others to change, they will only change when and if they so choose.
If I honestly believe that I can make a difference where I am at present, then remaining where I am is best.
If I am simply running against the wind but still getting nowhere, then it is time to go.
I wish I felt as confident as I sound.