Monday, March 08, 2004

"I've Worked For The State Of Colorado For Thirty Years..."

Security is a kind of death.
-Tennessee Williams

When I was 25 years old I hit the employment jackpot. I got a civil service job with the Colorado State government. It was everything anyone could want in a job; security, regular holidays, yearly vacations, two raises a year (one on the anniversary of when I was hired and one for merit), and a pension when I retired. After five years I felt I was in hell.

When I started I loved my job but with each passing year I loved it less and less. When I first started working the week would pass quickly and before I knew it was Friday. My second year I would look forward to the weekend and enjoy my yearly week long vacation. By the third year I would start each week thinking, "If I can make it to Friday I will be all right." My vacation week would pass all to quickly and I would dread going back to work. My fourth year I would dread each day and think, "If I can make it through the day I will be all right." I lived for the weekends and the thought of coming back after my vacation would depress the hell out of me. At this point I was burning through sick days almost as quickly as I was earning them.

The last year, the last year was the worst. I was now doing prison time. My days were split up into two hour segments. I would think, "If I can make it to morning break I will be all right." Then, "If I can make it to lunch I will be all right." Then, "If I can make it to afternoon break I will be all right." Finally, "If I can make it to 5:00 PM I will be all right." At the end of each day I would mentally cross it off the calendar. By this time I hated my job so much I was subconscious trying to get fired. I would come in late and sometimes take hour-and-a-half lunches. I no longer listened at staff meetings and once when my boss asked me what I thought of what he had just said I replied, "I don't know, I wasn't listening."

Now, the thing about a state job is it hard to get fired. Even with all the crap I was giving my boss he was trying to find ways to keep me engaged in my work by moving me around and giving me new assignments but none of it helped. At that point I did not even know why I was behaving the way I was. What was my problem? I had a job other people envied, I made good money, I was up to two weeks vacation a year, and I had job security for the rest of my life.

Then that fifth year I attended the retirement party of one of my co-workers. At his party the man got up to make a speech and said, "I've worked for the state of Colorado for thirty years and liked fifteen of them."
He had spent fifteen years of his life being somewhere he did not want to be doing something he did not want to do. I thought, "My God, I'm doing that already."
I gave my two weeks notice the next day.

Quitting was scary. No, making the decision to quit was scary, I had people (co-workers) tell me I was crazy to quit because if I did I would loose all that money the state had put into my retirement account. That I should remember that while I was working for the state I was not eligible for Social Security credit. If I quit now I would get less money when I reached retirement age and started drawing Social Security. At first this talk worried me but then I realized I could not live my life hampered by what may or may not happen in the future. Not quitting would be the crazy thing. So I picked up my share of my retirement account (less my car loan) and walked away. I knew I had make the right decision because as I left the credit union with my check I felt like a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

No comments: